A glimpse into the future of motorized recreation vehicles.
By Janet Groene, F47166
This story isn’t about the latest equipment and accessories found in model-year 2010 motorhomes. This is a peek into the future, thanks to technology insiders who answered my call for a look into the crystal ball. Although there are plenty of exciting possibilities on the horizon, remember that basic physical principles will remain the same. So, don’t expect to see motorhomes capable of hauling 50 tons of payload while getting 100 mpg. Nevertheless, here are some predictions as to how full-timing will be safer, greener, and more fun in future years.
A significant advancement that is just now beginning to be implemented is the use of noncombustion fuel sources. Brynne M. Ward, communications coordinator with Fuel Cells 2000 (www.fuelcells.org), said, “[Hydrogen fuel cells] are being developed for every size and power load. They have low-to-zero emissions depending on the fuel source, and they don’t have to be attached to the electric grid.
“Fuel cells are rugged, able to withstand harsh weather and cold temperatures, and they’re quiet. Besides eliminating smoky emissions, they greatly reduce noise pollution. Since they are extremely reliable and provide a longer run-time than batteries, fuel cells are also ideal for emergency backup power.
“Several companies are researching and developing fuel cells for use in RVs and for auxiliary power for onboard electronics and gear (usually ranging in size) from less than 1 kilowatt to 3 to 5 kilowatts, depending on the item’s purpose. They run on a number of clean fuels. There are even small, portable accessories like hydrogen fuel cell flashlights and bike lights.”
While this technology is relatively new, Ms. Ward said many European RV manufacturers are making it available in one form or another in their products, and it soon could be showing up in North American-made motorhomes.
“SFC Smart Fuel Cell AG (a German company) has been on the market for a while with consumer options in Concorde, Dethleffs Corporation, and Niesmann+Bischoff motorhomes. Eura-Mobil has chosen Smart Fuel Cell’s EFOY Plug and Play Kit as standard on its Activa, Contura, and Integra models. Westfalia will offer the EFOY range of fuel cells as an accessory on its James Cook model, while Bí¼rstner is offering fuel cells as an accessory in its motorhomes. Another company, Protonex, is partnering with Cummins Onan to test fuel cell power systems specifically for RVs.”
KVH Industries Inc., a leading provider of in-motion satellite TV and communications, is now adding Africa to its broadband coverage. Entertainment and communications are expanding into ever more corners of the globe, allowing full-timers to stay in touch with family, friends, or a business from, literally, Timbuktu.
GPS navigation systems are increasingly easy to use thanks to touch-pad technology, voice commands, and intuitive programming. Plus, with so many people owning iPhones, Blackberrys, and personal digital assistants (PDAs), navigation applications for these devices have become more readily available and reliable. For future GPS shoppers, that’s good news, indicating more innovation in this hot field and more brands competing for your attention.
Few features are more important to full-timers than good lighting for reading in bed, peeling potatoes over the sink, and rummaging around in the basement storage areas. Task lighting is called for when playing cards at the table. Subdued lighting is needed for watching TV or looking at a computer screen. Mood lighting enhances a romantic evening or listening to a live opera broadcast on satellite radio.
The fast-moving lighting revolution brought us from the incandescent era into halogen. Then came compact fluorescent lights, which are now being edged out by cool, efficient LED lighting. Once known best for flashlights and night-lights, LEDs are coming into the mainstream for all types of fixtures.
Best of all, a new do-it-yourself installation system called Connexx (www.tapelight.com) allows almost anyone to install a strip of LED lights almost anywhere. These thin light strips with on-off switches have a peel-off adhesive on the back. Just stick them up where you want them and plug them into a 12-volt-DC connector, or use the transformer to run them off 110-volt-AC power. The strips can be strung together to create a run of up to six fixtures.
Full-timers want furnishings that look and feel plush and homey, yet they also have to be practical for the road. Trevira CS is a new fabric that is flame-retardant without an additional finishing agent. Ideal for draperies and wall coverings, it’s colorfast, hard-wearing, and resistant to damage from dampness. Esthec is a new flooring that looks like teak. 3Form is a new, eco-resin paneling material that gives a translucent effect.
Lighter and stronger are the buzzwords. New generations of wall art in the form of removable, reusable decor allow you to add a mural, points of light, collages, and other art at minimum cost with no repainting or scarring. Change your motorhome’s look as often as you like. Choices range from custom pieces made by artists or blowups of your photos, to small stick-ups you can cluster to create a custom look. Just a few of the many companies offering wall decals are www.walldecorshops.com, www.berlinwallpaper.com, and www.flair4all.com.
Thanks to new composite materials, your next canoe or kayak may have a see-through bottom that is even stronger than today’s traditional hulls. New, roto-molded carbon fiber materials will allow full-timers to carry boats that are twice as strong for half the weight.
All of our toys, from bicycles to archery bows, are becoming stronger and lighter. Thanks to more efficient rechargeable batteries, soon we will be able to carry a lightweight electric motor that can be used on a featherweight kayak or an electric scooter that can be lifted with one hand.
Galley and bath
In addition to technological progress, designs are getting more user-friendly. Designers know we need at least one high-arching gooseneck faucet to fill large pots plus a pull-out sprayer for washing down the sink (which we may want with one, two, or three sections). Pull-out shelves that can hold up to 100 pounds are now being offered for do-it-yourself retrofitting, allowing RVers to turn any shelf into a slideout (motorhome weight capacity permitting). Standard sizes are seen in home improvement centers; custom sizes can be ordered online.
Conveniences are getting more sophisticated, but so are more primitive but energy-saving gear such as solar ovens, clothes dryers, and food dryers. Even nonelectric floor and upholstery cleaners work better these days thanks to new materials that pick up and grip dirt.
Granite and tile countertops, bamboo everything, twinkle lighting, and wood flooring will wane. Lighter materials will replace heavy, brittle stone and glass. Flooring that is less sensitive to the effects of light will replace wood floors that bleach in spots where sunlight hits them. More built-in appliances will be seen, such as wine cellars, extra ice makers, and sophisticated espresso machines. Already on the market is a pull-out microwave oven drawer at a convenient working height. Full-timers who carry laundry machines on board will find lighter units that get clothes cleaner using less water.
Everything will be digital, including a thermostat that can be operated from a cell phone when the owners are out shopping and want the motorhome to be at a comfortable temperature when they return. Built-in vacuum and water systems will filter out minute pollutants and then treat the air or water with a high-tech sanitizer. Jalousie windows are making a comeback, and this time they are in efficient acrylics that control temperature and light.
Will your next motorhome be amphibious? Have a retractable propeller on top for vertical takeoff? Stay tuned. The best is yet to come.