September 12th, 2018 by Tina Casey in Clean Technica
What could be more ironic than enticing small children to gather around your ice cream truck to breathe in lungfuls of diesel exhaust? Clustering people around a mobile lung clinic comes in close second, but it looks like the iconic RV company Winnebago has a solution for that, with the rollout of a new specialty EV called the eMLU.
The eMLU — short for electric mobile lung unit — is Winnebago’s first stab at breaking free from petroleum fuel, and it could signal a seismic shift in the RV field.
No EV RV For Winnebago…Yet
Winnebago set the Intertubes humming last spring when it announced its first foray into all-electric mobility in partnership with the company Motiv Power Systems.
At first glance the news seemed to suggest that a new breed of zero emission recreational vehicles was on the horizon:
Winnebago Industries’ all-electric/zero-emission commercial vehicle is based on a Class A RV platform utilizing Motiv’s Ford F53 based EPIC all-electric chassis and will be available in 33-foot and 38-foot lengths with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) up to 26,000 pounds.
That got some auto industry observers pretty excited about the potential for zero emission RV fun, especially considering a solar panel option announced for the new platform. However, at second glance, not so much.
Apparently Winnebago doesn’t foresee many RV enthusiasts loving an RV with relatively short range. According to the company, the batteries are good for a range of 85 to 125 miles.
In fact, the company was pretty clear on the market for its new EV:
The vehicle is suited for urban and semi-urban short range commercial applications like mobile medical clinics, bloodmobiles, mobile classrooms and mobile outreach vehicles.
Why EV Mobility For Mobile Clinics
That brings us to the eMLU. Aside to the zero emission benefit, which we’ll get to in a minute, the company cites a cost savings of $150,000 to $200,000, representing lower maintenance costs as well as savings on fuel.
The cost savings alone makes a good case for the new EV platform compared to diesel (Winnebago expects a payback period of about three years).
The emissions factor kicks in as more jurisdictions in the US adopt anti-idling laws. Here’s Winnebago VP for Strategic Planning and Development Ashis Bhattacharya with the explainer:
We are proud to help increase access to life-saving lung cancer screenings in the clean, quiet and emissions free environment of the first all-electric Mobile Lung Unit. As states provide incentives and broaden anti-idling laws, we expect the medical community to adopt the customizable all-electric community outreach vehicle for a variety of functions, such as lung cancer screening, asthma management and support, blood donation, dentistry or primary care.
Hmmmm. We’re guessing it’s no accident that Winnebago zeroed in on lung health for its first foray into the specialty EV field.
The eMLU itself is certainly an attention-getter in terms of connecting lung health with EVs. The wrapped body sports the Ad Council’s Saved By The Scan campaign in partnership with the American Lung Association.
Winnebago is leveraging publicity for the new EV to help encourage the 8 million people at high risk for lung cancer in the US to get themselves a screening (anyone can gauge their eligibility for screening online, check it out at SavedByTheScan.org).
The diagnostic equipment on board the eMLU also underscores the EV message. Developed by the company BodyTom, it’s billed as the “world’s first portable, battery-powered, full-body, 32-slice CT scanner.”
As for the electric innards, the strategic partnership with Motiv Power was announced earlier this year. If all goes according to plan, the eMLU could be the first in a series of all-electric specialty vehicles produced by Winnebago.
The All-Electric Future
Speaking of irony, routinely piling children into diesel-powered school buses is another oddity of modern life that could soon be headed to the dustbin of history.
Last year the company Trans Tek inked a deal with California to bring 13 electric buses to the Sacramento area, on a Motiv platform.
Motiv is also behind the new electric shuttle bus in the works with the company Champion Bus.
Perhaps the strongest indicator Motiv’s role in the all-electric mobility future is an endorsement by the California Air Resources Board. Last spring, CARB endorsed the company’s “Electric Powered Intelligent Chassis” series for Class 4-7 commercial vehicle applications.
As for the sparkling green RV of the future, CleanTechnica is reaching out to Winnebago for some insights, so stay tuned for more on that.
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Image: via Winnebago.