What began as a pet venture to affect meals vans within the San Francisco Bay space — an enterprise impressed by the cacophony of turbines that greeted Ben Parker day-after-day throughout his lunch break at Tesla — has developed right into a a lot bigger, complicated and probably extra profitable enterprise.
Parker and companion Toby Kraus have set their sights properly past meals vans and are aiming as a substitute to construct an all-electric RV firm that may upend the business.
“Each time that I’d inform individuals in regards to the meals truck venture, RVs would come up in dialog as a result of these (automobiles) have comparable wants for onboard energy,” stated Parker, a Tesla veteran who labored on the battery for the Mannequin 3.
He quickly found that the RV market, and particularly the towable journey trailer sector, was a lot bigger than he realized. It was additionally badly in want of a change to electrical. A 3-month, 6,000-mile RV street journey designed to provide Parker firsthand expertise in addition to an understanding of the client and market supplied the ultimate proof factors.
Lightship Energy, the startup the pair co-founded in Could 2021, was quickly charging ahead with a high-flying purpose.
Lightship just isn’t solely attempting to design and produce an electrical journey trailer that ditches the propane tanks and turbines that creates a “bummer RV tenting expertise” as Parker describes it, the corporate can be attempting to take away a barrier for homeowners of all-electric SUVs and vans who wish to haul a journey trailer on lengthy street journeys.
An EV truck with a 300-mile vary touring at 65 miles an hour with a standard journey trailer in tow turns into a 100-mile truck, defined Parker, who’s CEO. The crew at Lightship, which now numbers 20 individuals, skilled the vary loss first hand.
“We pulled essentially the most aerodynamic trailer we might hire behind a Tesla Mannequin X and we really needed to drop the trailer in the midst of an off ramp on an interstate as a result of we couldn’t pull it to the subsequent Supercharger,” stated Kraus, who’s chief working officer at Lightship. “It was depressing.”
The hassle guarantees to be complicated, however the pair contend the market dimension and alternative are just too giant to disregard.
In 2021, 600,240 leisure automobiles had been bought in North America, up from 430,412 models the yr earlier than, according to Thor Industries, the RV big that owns manufacturers Airstream, CrossRoads, Cruiser RV, Dutchmen, Jayco, Keystone, Tiffin and Erwin Hymer Group.
“Ninety % of the market is towable journey trailers,” Kraus stated, who’s an alum of Tesla and Proterra. “The market is big.”
Lightship continues to be creeping out of stealth and never but prepared to indicate its electrical journey trailer to the world. However the firm’s concept and its progress has attracted traders and contemporary capital.
Lightship, which beforehand raised $1 million in pre-seed and $3 million in seed funding, just lately closed a $23 million Sequence A spherical led by Victoria Beasley of Prelude Ventures. Current and new traders embrace Apparent Ventures, Congruent Ventures, My Local weather Journey, HyperGuap and Alumni Ventures.
Beasley, who has additionally joined the board, stated the mix of market alternative, the crew, which incorporates former Tesla, Proterra, Apple and Rivian staff, together with Lightship’s intention to create a pleasant buyer expertise led her to put money into the startup.
The funds will probably be used to double the crew by the top of the yr and develop an alpha prototype of Lightship.
“Our purpose is certainly to create a brilliant satisfying long-range, EV roadtripping expertise,” Parker stated. “As any good Tesla alum would work, we began with going again to the basics and asking, ‘what ought to a journey trailer be?’” The crew recognized that effectivity was an absolute necessity for it to exist sooner or later.
However the venture extends past designing a sleek-looking, aerodynamic trailer. Lightship can be creating the underlying EV skateboard structure.
The ultimate ingredient to Lightship’s secret sauce is the powertrain, which features a battery pack comparable to at least one in a Tesla Mannequin 3, that may propel the trailer as it’s being towed. Lightship can be exploring the combination of photo voltaic cells on the roof for passive charging.
“I feel the gravity of the issue round towing and towing vary is simply beginning to hit residence with individuals as extra EV vans are hitting the market,” Parker stated. “With an EV powertrain on board you should use that extra vitality for the trailer to propel itself, scale back the entire load on the tow car and get again to a spread loss zero expertise — now you’ve gotten a 300-mile trailer and a 300-mile truck.”