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Green RVing: Eco-Friendly RVs Hit the Market in 2010



RV’s Are Goin’ Green

From the pages of Camping Life Magazine



A number of RV companies go eco-friendly this year with lighter weight mainstream products, some unconventional towables, and models made of composite materials. If you're interested in green RVing, this article is great place to start.

This year, the most important factors to consumers when it comes to motorized or towable RVs is fuel consumption and weight, as the cost of fuel continues to fluctuate, and as consumers are downgrading to smaller, more fuel-efficient tow vehicles. As a result, many companies are adapting to the times, offering smaller, more aerodynamic ultra-light green RVs in the quest to shave off weight, and produce products that consume less fuel.

We’re seeing a big move on the part of motorhome builders to create more fuel-efficient RV coaches. Roadtrek and Winnebago have already been using the Dodge Sprinter chassis for years, but this year a number of companies will be offering mini motorhomes and van campers built on the high-fuel-mileage Dodge/Freightliner Sprinter chassis powered by a 154-horsepower, turbocharged Mercedes-Benz diesel engine, which is estimated to get between 16 and 19 mpg.

RV companies that have offered a lightweight towable line are creating more eco-friendly RVs by making them ultralight by utilizing different construction methods and materials, cutting down on heavier materials and appliances. Some eco-friendly RV companies are also heavily promoting their non-traditional towable models, but the common theme is to offer less weight so the trailer can be towed with a mid-sized SUV or one of the new crossover vehicles. Many of these vehicles have tow ratings in the 3500 to 5000-pound range, and many of the 2009 towables are within that range.

SLIM DOWN YOUR ECO-FRIENDLY RV

A number of new lighter weight towables have come on to the scene in 2009 to meet the demands of post-gas-crunch consumers. There’s Monaco’s McKenzie Ion and Coachmen, which is bringing out its M-Series travel trailers, starting in the 3000-pound range.

Dutchmen’s new Sport Lite line of travel trailers range from 17 to 27 feet in length, are all half-ton-towable, and some weigh around 4000 pounds. Fleetwood RV offers its new Backpack ultralite travel trailer line, with some models weighing in at less than 5000 pounds. And Northstar’s new truck camper tips the scales at less than 2000 pounds.

UNCONVENTIONAL ECO-FRIENDLY RVS

It’s no surprise the lightweight towable RV category is evolving, as companies are introducing non-conventional units that weigh less than 1000 pounds and can morph into a utility trailer, toy hauler, or a pop-up tent. These models represent a new generation of non-RVs.

The Coleman Switchback, made by FTCA Inc, is one example. This sport/utility camping trailer weighs about 850 pounds, and when in the camping mode, can sleep four or more people - perfect for green RVing. Once in Utility Mode, owners can haul 150 pounds on roof racks and 150 pounds on the front cargo platform and 200 pounds inside. Either way, the Switchback leaves a small carbon footprint, as does SylvanSport LLC’s SylvanSport Go, which was introduced last year. Similar to the Switchback, this 800-pound folding camping trailer can be towed by a number of smaller SUVs.

Also in this club is Dutchmen’s new 500-pound TOPO Crossover Basecamp folding tent trailer. The compact lightweight design is 6 feet wide and 10 feet long in the closed position. When the top folds open, a custom outdoor tent expands to a base camp measuring 15 feet wide and 18 feet long.

ECO-FRIENDLY RV COMPOSITE

While steel used to be the norm when constructing RVs, companies are shifting to lighter materials, such as aluminum, to avoid eliminating sought-after interior features or amenities. Aluminum is a weight reducer, about 35 to 40 percent lighter than steel, and one of the most recycled materials on earth. But some other companies have changed their manufacturing ways and are using composite materials, getting rid of wood products all together in an effort to build an environmentally friendly RV for green RVing. A significant reduction in weight is just one of the benefits.

A perfect example of that is the Quicksilver pop-up trailer line by Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles. The three-model line consists of all-aluminum and composite construction. The 5-foot model weighs 500 pounds; the 8-foot model weighs 800 pounds, and the 10-foot model weighs 1000 pounds. The 5-foot model sleeps four while the 8 and 10-foot models sleep six, and all models open to double their size.

This year, aside from its TOPO, Dutchmen is also launching its Eco-Logic line of travel trailers (starting at about 3500 pounds) made entirely from a thermoplastic fiber-reinforced composite called CosmoLite, made by TekModo of Elkhart, Indiana. The composite replaces all the plywood and luan traditionally used in the trailers’ laminated sidewalls, floors and roofs.

There is a buzz about CosmoLite for different reasons. First, it helps reduce the time it takes to manufacture an RV because the process becomes more streamlined. The material is available on continuous coils that are bonded together, so the company creates seamless substrate floors, sidewalls, roofs and end-caps for uni-body strength. There is no more need, for example, to have to join several 4x6-inch panels to create a sidewall.

The composite also eliminates the need to include any wood products in the manufacturing process. CosmoLite also makes these eco-friendly RVs completely recyclable. The material can be ground up and reused as with many plastic composites.

Komfort RV is another company introducing this year a new trailer series made entirely of CosmoLite, or what the company calls “Eco-composite.” The new Satellite line includes four travel trailers and two fifth-wheel models.

At presstime, we heard about a few other RV companies that are set to introduce new models made with CosmoLite or other composite materials. 2010 will be an interesting year for the green RVing lifestyle.



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