30 December 2021
30 December 2021, Comments Comments Off on Thor and ZF to develop eTrailer System (electric drive system) for towable RVs to help maintain range of electric vehicles when towing
Thor and ZF to develop eTrailer System (electric drive system) for towable RVs to help maintain range of electric vehicles when towing

THOR Industries, Inc. has entered a binding Memorandum of Understanding with ZF Friedrichshafen AG (“ZF”) to jointly develop a high voltage electric drive system for towable recreational vehicles (“eTrailer System”). The development driven by THOR and ZF is designed to maintain, and possibly extend, the nominal range of an electric vehicle when towing a trailer.

Electric vehicles experience a significant reduction in range when towing any load, including a trailer. Unlike an ordinary trailer, a trailer equipped with the eTrailer System would be capable of utilizing its own power. Through its sophisticated technology, components and sensors, the trailer’s drive moves the trailer at the same speed of the tow vehicle, allowing an electric tow vehicle to pull the trailer with minimal loss of range. 

The technology also has the potential to boost fuel efficiency of conventional tow vehicles with internal combustion engines or hybrid drivetrains. By reducing the load when pulled, conventional tow vehicles would burn less fuel and would also benefit from extended range.

In July 2021, THOR companies Erwin Hymer Group and Dethleffs demonstrated the capabilities of this technology by using an electric Audi etron Sportback to tow an eTrailer System-equipped travel trailer prototype from Germany to Italy, over the Alps. The eTrailer System enabled the tow vehicle to pull the trailer a distance of 386 km (approximately 240 miles) through the Alps on a single charge and with power still remaining in the eTrailer System, as well as in the electric tow vehicle. Audi’s stated range for the tow vehicle is 393 km. 

Joint development between THOR and ZF has led to a concept travel trailer equipped with a prototype eTrailer System. The concept vehicle will be on display at the Tampa RV Supershow from January 17-23, 2022.

“THOR is thrilled to enter into this partnership with ZF, a global technology company enabling next generation mobility. The eTrailer System, which THOR, Erwin Hymer Group (EHG), and ZF have jointly developed over the last several years, is the only high voltage solution available in the RV space,” stated Bob Martin, THOR President and Chief Executive Officer. “The significance of this technology, compared to other solutions in the space, is the dramatic effect it has on range and the potential for charge and power to both the tow vehicle and appliances in an RV. We believe that this technology is a game-changer, and through the work of our team, THOR is positioned to be the global leader of e-mobility solutions in the industry.”

“When we acquired EHG in 2019, there were many synergies which made the acquisition important to THOR. From our perspective, EHG was the global leader in electrification innovation in the RV space.  They had initiated this project with ZF in 2018, before we acquired the company. After the acquisition, THOR’s innovation team, led by our Chief Innovation Officer Josef Hjelmaker, helped lead the development and creation of the concept travel trailer. In addition to the concept trailer, powered by the eTrailer System, the innovation team will be unveiling an electric vehicle with range extension technology at the Tampa RV show,” offered Todd Woelfer, THOR’s Chief Operating Officer.

“Our relationship with ZF gives THOR the exclusive rights to this technology in the RV space for a certain period and perpetual rights in key aspects of the intellectual property supporting the development. Long term investment in innovation is a high priority in THOR’s strategic plan, which led to this outcome,” Woelfer continued. “Our commitment to continue long term investments in innovation should give our shareholders great confidence that THOR will maintain its position as the market leader, even as coming technologies disrupt our industry.”

THOR Industries is the sole owner of operating companies which, combined, represent the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational vehicles.