Editor’s Note: The following is commentary from TheStreet.com authored by writer Kelsey Abbott outlining numerous areas where ‘going green’ is beginning to take hold in the RV industry.
If you love the idea of exploring the country in your own home but can’t handle the guilt of a massive carbon footprint – let alone the expense of a gas-guzzling standard recreational vehicle – green RVing may be for you.
Green RVing isn’t an oxymoron. A green RV is built with green building materials, uses renewable energy and is fuel- and energy-efficient. So if the open road beckons, consider choosing a greener RV – or retrofit your current RV to be as eco-friendly as possible. Here are tips on how to do it.
If you’re in the market for a new RV, look for a fuel-efficient model. Last summer, Damon Motor Coach introduced the Avanti, a Class A clean diesel motorhome that promises to get at least 14.5 miles per gallon. That may sound dismal, but it’s more than 80% better than the average motorhome, which gets just 8 mpg. (Several other manufacturers are also downsizing Class A’s while also building C’s on Sprinter chassis to achieve better mileage).
Sportsmobile offers Class B motorhomes, also known as camper vans. The company converts Ford, Dodge and Chevrolet/GM vans into custom RVs with fuel-efficiency ratings between 12 and 20 mpg. Base costs vary depending on the van model: A Sportsmobile 2009 Ford RB Van starts around $56,000, while the more fuel-efficient Sportsmobile 2009 Dodge Sprinter RB Van starts around $73,000.
If you’re willing to wait for your eco-friendly RV, reserve your Verdier. Modeled after the Volkswagen Westfalia camper van, the Verdier has a hybrid engine and solar panels that track the sun – and an HD home theater, LED lights and an on-board computer with Internet, Bluetooth and green energy software. Models start at $129,000. The only problem? The company has not yet set a delivery date for the “New Pioneers Edition,” as it’s dubbed the first 250 units it plan to make.
Until manufacturers catch up with the “Green RV” trend, you might be better off making your own green RV. Soltrekker, a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit, has created what it calls the “most eco-friendly motorhome in the universe.” The Soltrekker RV runs on biodiesel and uses six roof-mounted solar panels and two roof-mounted solar thermal collectors to provide all of its electricity and heating.
It’s also equipped with a rainwater catchment system, a dehydrating toilet and LED lights. And the Soltrekker’s interior is decked out in nontoxic sustainable materials ranging from recycled denim insulation to cork flooring and organic cotton upholstery.
You can hire Soltrekker to retrofit an RV for you at a base cost of $50,000 (for the same systems used in the Soltrekker) — or you can pimp your own eco-friendly ride.
Biofuel is also becoming more available. Any diesel vehicle can run on biodiesel, a cleaner-burning fuel than petroleum-based diesel. BioWillie, country star Willie Nelson’s brand of biodiesel, is a blend of petroleum-based diesel and foodstock-based biodiesel from American family farmers.
A solar system will convert energy from the sun to electricity for your RV, storing any extra electricity in your RV’s batteries. According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), at least 15% of RV owners are already using solar panels.
A 10-watt solar system will produce 0.6 amps of charge power for about $145. A 110-watt solar system ($683 from Alter Systems) typically produces about 275 amp hours per week. All RV solar systems are modular, so you can add new panels as you need them.
Increase your RV’s energy efficiency just as you would a stationary home. Seal drafts, beef up your insulation and use Energy Star appliances. And increase your RV’s fuel efficiency the same way you would with any vehicle: Make sure your tires are optimally inflated and drive the speed limit.