These days, recreational vehicle sales — RVs, camper vans, camping trailers and so forth — are booming. It could be the freedom for many to work from anywhere. It could be the desire to escape from the pandemic, politics and the persistent pressure and fatigue of digital life. But regardless of the reasoning, many people are looking to escape in their vehicles. And now, an innovation in camping vehicle technology will allow them to do so for much longer.
Xponent Power has just unveiled their new Xpanse solar awning, which they're calling the first commercially available retractable solar awning for RVs. It performs the normal function of an awning, of course: providing shade for additional outdoor living space at the push of a button. But it also uses high-efficiency, rigid solar panels to provide up to 1.2 kW of electricity. It's not the holy grail of powering appliances and A/C simultaneously without burning fuel, but it still delivers a lot of power.
The standard version requires two side arms to be placed 16 feet apart — and, of course, a vehicle that can accommodate that. That said, if yours doesn't fit the bill, don't sweat: Xponent Power founder Rohini Raghunathan told Car and Driver the company is working on a next-generation version without sidearms that will work with smaller "Sprinter-like" camper vans.
The Xpanse can mount on either side of a vehicle, and it's designed to work with existing RV battery and rooftop solar systems. The Xpanse should also be relatively robust in bad weather; gaps between the solar panels allow it to withstand wind better than a traditional awning. The Xpanse uses machine learning to detect adverse weather conditions itself and retract within its protective shell.
As you might have anticipated, the Xpanse will be pricey, even by camping trailer standards. If you get a $100 pre-order deposit to them by October 30th, you can get one for $7,500. After that, the price will be $10,000, which will be substantially more than a traditional awning or a generator. Xponent Power says Xpanse deliveries will start in 2022.