Thor and Airstream have announced a new electric concept that fundamentally challenges our collective preconceptions about what a travel trailer should be. Rather than simply being a deadweight on the highway, the self-driving eStream takes some of the burden off its towing vehicle thanks to its independent electric powertrain. This is one of two electric motorhomes Thor has introduced today, but while the Thor Vision Vehicle is a Transit-based electric motorhome built in the same style as conventional ICE vans, the eStream concept is much wilder and more interesting.
Because the eStream helps you tow it, it improves efficiency whether it’s paired with an electric or gasoline-powered tow vehicle. The specs are thin, but Thor’s powertrain demonstration video shows dual independent motors and up to two battery packs. While the eStream is being towed, these motors can be powered, relieving some of the load on the towing vehicle. Of course, it also has to weigh more than a traditional trailer, so we wonder how much of the electric boost is negated by the presence of the electric boost in the first place.
Thanks to Thor’s advanced electrical architecture, their usefulness goes beyond just providing additional propulsion. The motors can be used to apply torque to the wheels in both directions, regeneratively absorbing braking energy for even more range. The motors can also be used to change the weight distribution on the tow hitch of a towing vehicle by braking or driving the wheels depending on the load, potentially eliminating the need for a weight distributing tow hitch in some applications.
Uncoupled from a vehicle, the trailer can be controlled remotely via an app. And we don’t just mean the lighting, refrigerator and HVAC. Thor lets you control the thing with your phone, like James Bond’s 7 series in “Tomorrow Never Dies”. You won’t get enough speed to launch this thing off a parking lot, but you can certainly move it within a campground or help align it for docking. And when you’ve finally settled in, it’s still a travel trailer like any other.