Meet the roughly $85,350 e-Camper, an electric camper van for those who “want to both protect and enjoy the outdoor environment,” according to a press release.
“The campervan market is growing rapidly and, despite these vehicles being used for coastal and countryside adventures which often include national parks and protected areas, they are still powered by petrol or diesel engines,” Joerg Hofmann, CEO of LEVC, said in the press release. “This is a major conflict; we can see a shift in consumer attitudes, with demand for greener mobility solutions to help to protect and improve air quality.”
The tiny home on wheels will be built on LEVC’s VN5 electric van, which has an electric range of 60 miles, and a hybrid range of 304 miles with help from a 1.3-liter gasoline engine, Rachel Cormack reported for Robb Report. But if you’re only interested in zero-emissions camping trips, you’ll have to rely on the van’s 31-kilowatt-hour battery.
The tiny home on wheels can sleep four people with the help of its pop-top roof, which creates additional sleeping and standing room inside the van. Besides the pop-top, like other camper vans, the second row of seats can transform into an additional double bed.
The first row of seats can’t turn into a slumber space, but it can swivel 180-degrees. This – when used in conjunction with the dining table and another row of seats – creates a small living and dining room within the camper van.
There’s also an electric kitchen for meals on the road and storage racks to hold onto outdoor toys, such as surfboards and bicycles.
So far, the company predicts “huge potential across the UK and Europe,” and will begin delivering its electric campers in Q4 2021.
RV and camper van makers have seen extraordinary sales during the COVID-19 pandemic as other travel options were seen as unsafe.
Now, Wingamm, an Italian luxury RV maker, is looking to capitalize on this trend by bringing its camper van model to the US …
… and the compact motorhome is already booming in popularity ahead of its debut.
Meet Wingamm’s Oasi 540, one of “Europe’s most sought after motorhomes,” according to the press release.
“It has taken persistence and innovation from our team of engineers and consultants in both Italy and the US to create a Wingamm Oasi 540 for the US market,” Lorena Turri, CEO of Wingamm, said in the press release.
The Oasi 540’s popularity isn’t just a European trend.
For the past three or four years. Wingamm has been receiving inquiries from US-based customers interested in the compact RV, Turri told Insider.
Wingamm’s RVs are currently available in 15 European and Asian countries, but the US market has always been a goal for the company.
Upon its arrival to the states, the camper van will be distributed by TM Motorhome Sales.
Sales will begin in Los Angeles and New Jersey in 2022 before a full nationwide rollout in 2023, Tony Diamond, co-owner of TM Motorhome Sales, told Insider.
Luckily for the two companies, demand is already high ahead of its debut, in part because of media coverage in early June, Diamond said, citing Gear Patrol’s article about the camper van.
After the Gear Patrol article was published on June 3, the company began receiving “nonstop” calls and emails about the van (we’re talking an inquiry every minute).
“We didn’t know what was going on,” Diamond said. “There was a stream of emails coming in and we were like, ‘Oh my god, what’s going on here?’ The phone was just ringing, ringing, ringing, and it was a magical moment because we’ve believed in this.”
Demand has since tapered off a bit, but Diamond says the team is still receiving an email or call about the van every roughly 20 minutes.
And all of this happened despite not having any marketing campaigns in the US yet, according to Turri.
“[The US] is a huge market that could be immediately bigger than our European market because we are receiving many inquiries,” Turri said.
The company now has a waitlist of over 550 customers, according to the press release.
Over 30 RV dealers, including “some of the biggest dealers around the country,” have also contacted TM Motorhome Sales about becoming a dealer, according to Diamond.
Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the features that have made the Oasi 540 so successful.
The camper van is based on a Promaster, but it has its own custom one-piece monocoque fiberglass shell.
This shell prevents leaks, improves sound insulation, and allows for a customizable floor plan.
RV makers like Thor, Winnebago, and Airstream often build camper vans and floor plans within existing Ford Transit, Ram Promaster, and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans. But according to Diamond, this method is “very limited.”
“Because of the custom fiberglass monocoque shell, Wingamm is basically able to design whatever floor plan it wants,” Diamond said.
The camper is 17 feet, 9 inches long, which should fit in most standard US parking spots.
This size means the van can operate in both national parks and cities.
Diamond calls the camper van an “alternative to an apartment,” and it’s easy to see why given all of its home-like amenities.
Despite being pint-sized, the tiny home on wheels still has several key rooms, including a bedroom, bathroom, closets, and kitchen.
The kitchen and living room are towards the front of the van, while the bathroom and additional closet storage fall towards the back.
If you’re wondering where the bedroom is, well, it’s in the ceiling.
Unlike most camper vans that have a pop-top bed or a dedicated bedroom space, Oasi 540’s bed is stored in the ceiling.
The memory foam bed can then be pulled down over the driver’s area, living room, and kitchen when it’s time for a cat nap or a night’s sleep.
Hiding the bed in the wall makes space for a larger kitchen, bathroom, and living room.
The living and dining room is equipped with an L-shaped seating system and a movable oval-shaped table, perfect for dining or remote work.
These seats, plus the swivel driver and passenger seats, can accommodate up to six guests, according to a YouTube video tour of the Oasi 540.
Now, onto the kitchen, which is right across from the living room.
The kitchen has a two-burner gas stove, a countertop, several soft-close cabinets …
… a sink with a cutting board cover, and a refrigerator-freezer.
If you think the kitchen seems home-like, wait until you see the bathroom. Diamond compares the van’s bathroom to that of a hotel room bathroom (but smaller, of course).
There’s a shower, sink, ceramic toilet, vanity, and cabinets, all within the compact space.
The van also uses a cassette sewage structure that breaks down all of the unwanted sewage. The suitcase-like cassette can then be removed from the van and emptied into a toilet at any rest stop or establishment.
Worried about wintertime? The heated floors will help keep the already insulated camper even warmer.
Besides the closet and cabinets, there are also storage spaces hidden around the exterior of the van, including a storage unit that’s accessible from the inside of the van, according to the YouTube video tour.
When you need to brighten up the tiny home on wheels during a remote workday, just use the overhead LED lights, which are both dimmable and color-changing.
“We look at the Wingamm Oasi 540 as being to other Class B motorhomes as what the iPhone was to the flip phone, or what Peloton was to Nordic track, or what Tesla is to other electric vehicles,” Diamond said. “This is truly an innovative motorhome in so many ways … from its size to the sewage system, to the bathroom, to the bed.”
Wingamm plans to produce about 150 to 200 camper vans for its debut US season. This number of builds will grow to about 500 vehicles per season in the future, according to Turri.
“I suppose we’ll have more demand than products for the first season,” Turri said.
To address this, the company is already looking to grow production by investing in a new manufacturing plant.
The vans are currently being built in Italy, but Wingamm’s next steps could include moving production to the US depending on the success of the camper van’s overseas introduction.
To market the vehicle upon its US debut, Wingamm and TM Motorhome Sales will display the Oasi 540 at malls across the US, which could help attract customers that are new to the RV world.
The final price isn’t set yet, but Turri estimates the camper van – with all of its sleek luxuries, multipurpose spaces, and compact size – could range between $135,000 to $145,000
Turri and Diamond believe that the rise in big city living costs, #VanLife, remote work, and “experiential living” makes the Oasi 540 “an enticing value proposition,” according to the press release.
It’s no secret the COVID-19 pandemic gave the RV industry a major boost in sales during 2020. Popularity was so high, RV maker Thor Industries now has a $14.32 billion order backlog, the company said in its 2021 third-quarter earnings report on Tuesday.
Thor Industries – which owns RV brands like Jayco and Airstream – first began seeing a boost in sales in May and June of 2020, especially with RV newcomers, Thor Industries’ president and CEO Bob Martin told Insider in May 2020. This boom in popularity only continued to grow: Thor achieved $3.46 billion in net sales in Q3 2021, the strongest in the company’s history, Martin said in the earnings report. This is a 105.7% increase compared to Q3 2020.
And now, this boost in sales has grown into an over $14 billion order backlog, which is an almost 550% increase compared to the same time in 2020. Taking a closer look, Thor’s backlog for towables and motorized RVs by the end of April in North America increased 766% and 548%, respectively, compared to the same time in 2020.
And now, the company is “pretty much sold out for the next year,” Martin told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on “Mad Money.” Many of Thor’s dealers also have “virtually no” inventory, but because a large portion of its backlog consists of pre-sold orders, Thor currently won’t be able to increase its dealers’ inventories, Martin told Cramer.
“Since a significant number of units in our backlog have already been retail sold, we currently believe the restocking cycle will extend well into calendar 2022,” Martin said in the earnings report.
To combat this pileup of orders, Thor has and will continue to boost production, according to the company.
Many of us remember exactly where we were when we first realized COVID-19 was about to jarringly disrupt our lives.
For Seth and Scarlett Eskelund, the realization hit when they were in Sedona, Arizona, a 29-hour drive from home on the East Coast. The couple had just begun their full-time #VanLife journey two months prior, a goal they had been working towards since early 2019 when they first purchased a used van to turn into their own tiny home on wheels.
“It was pretty devastating for both of us,” Seth Eskelund told Insider in an interview. “It was a long time in the [car ride back home] to sit and think about it and go down Interstate 40 essentially the wrong way for what we had prepared for.”
However, a glimmer of hope came out of this disappointment. Along the drive back home, the couple decided to pursue their plans of buying another used van to convert into a camper, an idea they had already been toying around with.
“We wanted something that would keep us connected to the van life community,” Scarlett Eskelund told Insider in an interview. “We knew we wanted this in the long run. We figured we’d do something that kept us connected to the community as a whole.”
This decision then turned into Roah (pictured below), the couple’s first camper van conversion after returning home during COVID-19. The moment they completed and sold the van, the duo returned to the road and began heading up to Canada for the summer.
But as we all know now, the Canadian border closed, and the couple was again forced to return home. That was when they decided to convert another van, this time out of leased warehouse space. And as the cliche goes, the rest is history, and the couple has now built five vans, including the personal camper that’s been with them since the start of their van life journey.
“We joke that we’re just continually forced into this in the best way possible,” Scarlett Eskelund said.
Converting and selling vans is a necessity
“If we don’t sell these vans, it’s over, not just for the business, but … we would have no money to get back out on the road and travel,” Scarlett Eskelund said. “Luckily I don’t think either of us harped on that too much, because I think if we did, we definitely wouldn’t have gotten into this.”
The pair’s 12 to 18-hour workdays grant them a rapid turnaround time. The first van they built in the warehouse, pictured below, was completed in 20 days – partially because the couple needed the financial support – and sold in three weeks.
Ironically, that van was the longest it has ever taken the couple to sell a finished van. Their “list-to-sell” time normally sits at around two to three weeks, which Seth Eskelund says is “pretty quick.”
Relying on public interest after a van has been completed – instead of doing custom builds – may seem risky. But so far, this business decision has paid off with the help of the couple’s YouTube and Instagram presence, which have almost 70,000 subscribers and 21,000 followers, respectively. All of the couple’s buyers have found their vans through Instagram, where the Eskelund’s will do daily check-ins on their in-progress vans.
Within two to three weeks after a camper van sells, the pair will have another used van in the garage, ready to convert again.
Their pricing methods aren’t an industry-standard, but that’s the point
The Eskelund’s camper vans have been a hit with customers because of their prices, according to the couple. Their tiny homes on wheels can range from a weekend warrior van to a built-out unit with a shower and toilet. But no matter the amenities, the couple aims to price “very fairly” and below the current market rate, which can often run high.
Camper van conversion companies and RV makers have seen a boom in sales as more people have turned to road travel during COVID-19. But as a result, the camper van market has been price gouging, sometimes to the tune of an additional $60,000 to $70,000 compared to 2019 prices, according to Seth Eskelund. But when pricing their own vans, the couple doesn’t want to take this route, and instead opts for a price tag that’s less than the general market.
From the start, the couple’s goal was to convert vans to give them something to focus on during the coronavirus pandemic. The point was never to become wealthy from the business: instead, they wanted to break even or just make a small income.
“It’s a lot more than just a business and money for us,” Seth Eskelund said. “I would say we are as personally invested in the vans as we are in the business, and maybe that’s not smart from a business perspective on us, but that is who we are.”
There’s also the added bonus of ad revenue from their YouTube videos, which allows the couple to subsidize their prices while educating the public about how to DIY a camper van.
“Obviously there is demand and a lot of supply as well, but I think that’s been a factor in why we sell quickly because we really do try to price as fairly as we can,” Seth Eskelund said.
As Scarlett Eskelund describes it, this is both a lifestyle and a business, giving the couple fluid “accessibility.” When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, the pair will continue their business for as many months out of the year as they would like. For all the other months, they’ll resume their #VanLife dreams.
“It’s a means to an end,” Scarlett Eskelund said. “It allows us the ability to do what we really want to do.”
Harvest Hosts, an RV membership company that gives RVers access to “unique” overnight stays, has found success during COVID-19, and a new almost $40 million investment will allow the business to continue its fast growth ahead of the predicted summer travel boom.
Road travel vehicle manufacturers specializing in RVs, camper vans, and trailers saw a huge spike in sales during 2020 as COVID-19 stopped would-be travelers from flying and cruising. However, these makers weren’t the only travel-adjacent companies that benefited from the coronavirus pandemic: from May 2020 to December, Harvest Hosts’ membership base doubled in size, the company says.
Prior to this, the company had already been growing fast due to the millennial #VanLife boom and retirees interested road travel. But when COVID-19 hit the US, “everything went into hyper-speed,” Joel Holland, CEO of Harvest Hosts, told Insider in an interview.
Harvest Hosts’ expanding business eventually caught the attention of Stripes, leading to its $37 million investment in the RV membership company. Stripes previously invested in companies like GrubHub, Reformation, and Refinery29.
“We look to back ambitious entrepreneurs who are delivering amazing products, and it became clear as we spent more time in the space that Holland is building a really special product for RVers,” Chris Carey, a partner at Stripes, said in a press release. “His vision for the company is something we are excited to be part of.”
How it works
Harvest Hosts’ appeal is in its straightforward membership model. Members can tap into the company’s network of over 2,000 locations – known as “hosts” – across the US for overnight RV stays. The company’s hosts encompass a wide range of destinations, including breweries, farms, golf courses, and wineries, the latter the most popular option.
There are several stipulations to the membership program. For one, members must have a “fully self-contained RV” with a toilet and wastewater tanks. RV travelers are also required to notify the hosts ahead of their arrivals and are discouraged from staying longer than the allotted 24-hour overnight stay.
Annual memberships start at $79 for the classic package. This price then jumps to $199 for the classic package plus access to golf and country clubs. Overnight stays don’t come at any additional cost, but Harvest Hosts encourages its members to spend money at their destinations in order to support the local hosts.
“We keep our membership costs low because we want to encourage people to take the money they’re saving and spend it with the local businesses,” Holland said. Currently, about 60% of its members are retired, and over half have a six-figure-plus disposable income, making them a “powerful buying force,” Holland explained.
Last year, Harvest Hosts’ members spent over $25 million at the visited locations. Holland projects this will grow to $30 million this year, which translates to an additional $15,000 for winery-based hosts specifically.
Harvest Hosts has grown quickly. This is how its new investment will help
The company’s rapid growth has been a constant for several years now. From 2018 to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harvest Hosts’ membership base grew ten times, and this growth only continued to accelerate through 2020.
According to Holland, new members began flocking to the company through the summer – as expected – into the winter. Travel normally hits a lull during winter, but the inverse happened for Harvest Hosts: interest in January and February 2021 were so high, the number of members spiked 400% compared to last year.
“Everything in this industry seems to be moving fast,” Holland said. “We want to make sure we can keep up, and the funding will help us do that.”
According to Holland, this $37 million investment will help Harvest continue the growth of both its host and member communities, all with the goal of becoming “the trusted resource for RVers when they’re looking for a place to stay.”
To do this, Harvest Hosts is now using the money to boost its location catalog from a little over 2,000 hosts, to 3,000 hosts by the end of the year. Looking even further ahead, the company is “racing to 10,000,” Holland said.
Along with this host growth, the Harvest Hosts is also building out features like improved “route planning tools” and a new reservation system meant to ease the hosting process.
“The faster we can get more hosts onboard, the better for our members and these small businesses,” Holland said. “The more we scale, the better everyone does, so I’m excited to [do so] as quickly as possible, and that takes money. “
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Travel trailer maker Polydrops – which designs its tiny homes on wheels to look like spaceships – has taken a new approach to road travel vehicles by unveiling a trailer that can be towed by EVs, including Teslas.
The P17A has since been a hit with the public since before it was officially unveiled.
“We are getting an enormous amount of emails through our website,” Kyunghyun Lew, Polydrop’s founder, told Insider in an email interview. “We’ve sold to the local customers even before we officially launch the product, and one of them purchased it only with the 3D rendering images.”
Like other road travel vehicle makers, Polydrops saw a boom in popularity following coronavirus-related lockdown measures.
However, it closed its sales soon after to meet its orders and to create the P17A and the upcoming P21X, the latter a larger trailer model, according to Lew.
The trailer has reduced air drag, rolling resistance, and weight to make it more EV friendly, according to Lew.
During a test road trip from Los Angeles to Lone Pine, California, a 2018 Tesla 3 Long Range rear-wheel-drive towing the P17A logged 306 watt-hours-per-mile, according to Polydrop.
As a result, the 2018 Model 3 could travel 245 miles on one charge even while towing the P17A.
Of course, this range varies per electric vehicle and model year, but on average, an EV towing a P17A has an energy consumption of 298 watt-hours-per-mile and a range of 251 miles, according to Polydrops’ website.