Manufacturing  January 17, 2024

RV company to produce electrically assisted travel trailers

BROOMFIELD — In about two days, when the Wi-Fi is connected, a startup company from San Francisco will begin to produce a new line of electric travel trailers in a Broomfield facility.

Lightship Energy Inc. will build its one and only product at the plant, the Lightship L1, a travel trailer equipped with large capacity batteries capable of not only running the creature comforts of the trailer but also capable of propelling the trailer itself.

The idea: Travel trailers cause the towing vehicle, whether gasoline or electrically powered, to lose miles per gallon or travel range on a single charge. But if the trailer can assist in its propulsion, efficiency returns.

Company founders Toby Kraus and Ben Parker, both former Tesla workers, have built their company in anticipation of a massive market response.

“One in 10 Americans owns an RV,” Kraus said. “Three hundred thousand to 500,000 RVs are sold each year, 90% of them towable. That has to do with why pickups and SUVs are popular.”

With a trailer that provides an assist to its movement, the tow vehicle has no efficiency loss. “You get your fuel economy back with a gas vehicle and with an electric vehicle you get its 300-mile range back,” he said.

Parker said that most travel trailers come with a 12-volt, lead-based battery that is capable of running lighting. But the large-capacity batteries that Lightship installs “will run the home side and run the electric motor that will e-assist the tow vehicle.”

The roof of the 27-foot L1 is entirely solar so that it will run amenities and recharge the battery, even when it is assisting with its towing, Parker said.

“There’s a sensor in the hitch so that the trailer is never pushing the truck; the trailer floats behind the vehicle,” he said.

It’s billed as America’s first all-electric RV company. Today, it reported the completion of a $34 million Series B financing that will pave the way to begin production in Broomfield, first of test vehicles and later of market-ready products. The round was led by Obvious Ventures and Prelude Ventures and joined by Allegis Capital and global RV manufacturer Thor Industries and its investment partner TechNexus Venture Collaborative. Returning investors included Congruent Ventures, HyperGuap, and Alumni Ventures.

Kraus said the 32,000-square-foot Broomfield facility at 1765 W. 160th Ave., North Park Building 3, Suite 700, which he called a pilot manufacturing plant, will enable the company to staff up to build the product. The company has about 50 employees now between California and Colorado with about half of them in Colorado. Kraus anticipates about 100 employees within 12 months.

The company website lists 27 positions open, from production marketing managers, engineers, material handlers, accounting professionals and human resources staff. Salary ranges were listed at $75,000 to $155,000, depending on the position.  

“The electrification transformation doesn’t stop at passenger cars. What Ben, Toby and the team are bringing to life will revolutionize the road trip forever,” Andrew Beebe, managing director at Obvious Ventures, said in a press statement. “We’re thrilled to co-lead this round with Prelude Ventures and partner with Lightship to bring the L1 to campgrounds around the country.”

The L1 is built from the ground up for efficiency with a telescoping vehicle design that minimizes the trailer’s frontal area to create the most aerodynamic trailer of its size. The RV opened to rave reviews at SXSW, South by Southwest, with multiple people placed on a waiting list for products.

Kraus said that EVs “are in our DNA, and we both love the outdoors.” The genesis of the product came from that orientation. Colorado was selected for manufacturing because of its outdoor culture and because of other emerging industries that have made the state home, Parker said.

Numbers to be produced are yet undetermined, the partners said. “We’re focused not on the number but on building in a disciplined way, then scaling.” Additional products may come later but for now the L1 is top of mind.

“We’re really focused on a single thing and doing it really well,” Kraus said. “That doesn’t mean we won’t do a utility trailer or a horse trailer but not now; we’re content to stay focused.”

The Lightship L1 will have enough power to propel itself, making towing far more efficient. Courtesy Lightship

BROOMFIELD — In about two days, when the Wi-Fi is connected, a startup company from San Francisco will begin to produce a new line of electric travel trailers in a Broomfield facility.

Lightship Energy Inc. will build its one and only product at the plant, the Lightship L1, a travel trailer equipped with large capacity batteries capable of not only running the creature comforts of the trailer but also capable of propelling the trailer itself.

The idea: Travel trailers cause the towing vehicle, whether gasoline or electrically powered, to lose miles per gallon or travel range on a single charge. But if…

Ken Amundson
Ken Amundson is managing editor of BizWest. He has lived in Loveland and reported on issues in the region since 1987. Prior to Colorado, he reported and edited for news organizations in Minnesota and Iowa. He's a parent of two and grandparent of four, all of whom make their homes on the Front Range. A news junkie at heart, he also enjoys competitive sports, especially the Rapids.
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