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AEONrv developed an all-season, electric cabin, off-road capable, 4-person recreational vehicle
Steven Loeb speaks with Jim Ritchie, CEO and founder of AEONrv, developer of an all-season, electric cabin, off-road capable, 4-person recreational vehicle.
Highlights from the interview:
- Ritchie’s background is in Silicon Valley: he spent 30 years there working in various roles, starting out as an engineer, then going into sales and general management. He also started a few different companies. But he’s been an outdoor person his entire life; he grew up skiing, camping, backpacking, and cycling. He’d been looking at what adventure vans, or an overlanding style RV, meaning an RV that you can take off road and off grid, for many years, but he really didn't find anything on the market that he liked so he designed his own RV at night while running another software company in Silicon Valley in the blockchain space, and that's where AEONrv came from.
- The RV space is an old school industry, like the automotive industry maybe 10 or 15 years ago before Tesla helped jumpstart some other ways of thinking. 80% of the RVs in the United States are built in Elkhart, Indiana and it’s an industry that's dominated by three big players, including two public companies, one owned by Berkshire Hathaway. And so, there hasn't been a lot of different ways of thinking on how to build something in this space, but AEON's approach is very different, using materials that no one else is using, and not building in the traditional way.
- Because of their backgrounds in the software space, AEON is innovating on the technology side as well. Like Tesla, where you can kind of control and monitor the vehicle remotely, you can do the same thing with Aeon. It has developed quite a bit of software integration so you can remotely monitor things like the state of the battery, the temperature, even the fridge temperature. All of this is saved up to a portal so you can look at the data over time.
- The “e” in AEONrv stands for “electric cabin.” While most RVs use propane for heating, cooking, heating water, things like that, AEON is all electric and is has a much more efficient way of air conditioning the space and that's a big differentiator as well. So, part of its vision is eventually trying to go to an all electric chassis but right now the technology does not make sense to build an off grid, off road RV that's all electric because there's no charging stations out in the woods or in the desert.
- The other innovation that AEON is providing this space, which Tesla also brought, is a direct to consumer sales and support model. Traditionally, the RV space has been through sold and supported through dealers, and they don't have the highest customer net promoter scores. So, the company is really trying to control the customer experience and provide a higher level of service and customer experience by going direct to consumer.
- The overall size of the RV market in North America is about $25 billion and vehicle shipments last year were around 600,000 units, the largest year for shipments in the history of the industry, which it got a pretty big bump from COVID. The segment that AEON plays in, the Class B space, continues to grow dramatically because of the van life, and that young people are getting into the camping and going off grid. Its vehicle is designed so that not only can you live in it full time, but it's actually designed for working off grid as well: it has enough battery in place to actually sit with a full computer monitor and they designed an area where you can have a stand up desk if you want. The company has also been working with Starlink so you can get a much faster internet while you're working off grid.
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