If you don’t want to unhitch or hoof it … what’s the best way to get around the campground and the local area?
When people get set up at their campsite and need to make a short trip, most of the time they drive. Even though it might be a hassle to unhitch the tow vehicle, or disconnect the motorhome from utilities, driving is what you’ve got to do sometimes.
But for a short trip to the Visitor Center, campground office, or to a neighborhood store—isn’t there a better solution?
That’s called “the last mile problem”. For years the answer for Airstreamers was bicycles. Those are still a great way to go for many people. But bicycles aren’t perfect. They’re bulky so carrying them can be a hassle even with a bike rack, and many people don’t enjoy pumping the pedals.
Lately new electric vehicles have been popping up that take the hassle out of short trips, and some of them are perfect for road travelers. If you think about it, the ideal “last mile” solution for an Airstreamer is lightweight, easy to stow, affordable, fast, and easy to ride.
Among all the electric options, the ones that fit those criteria best are electric bikes and electric kick scooters.
Today’s e-bikes aren’t like the models of the olden days. No longer heavy and slow, the latest crop can carry an adult up to 60 miles without pedaling at all, at speeds of up to 20 MPH. That’s like having a Tour De France rider doing the pedaling for you.
The major downside of e-bikes is their cost, over $2,000 for good ones. While you can find cheaper rides, we wouldn’t recommend them. Cheap electric bikes may have drastically limited range, questionable batteries, low speed, and limited after-sale support. Of course, unless it’s a folding e-bike you’ll also need a bike rack or truck bed carrier, which can be a limiting factor for some folks.
Electric kick scooters are a much less expensive and more portable “last mile” alternative for Airstreamers than an e-bike. These look like the kick scooters that kids often ride, but they are entirely self-propelled by an electric motor. The good ones are definitely not kid toys; the model carried by the Airstream Life Store is a little rocket sled that can propel an adult for up to 25 miles at speeds up to 15.5 MPH.
E-scooters have a lot to offer for a price of about $700: plenty of range, speeds up to 15.5 MPH, easy to ride, and they fold down to fit in a small space (so they can be stored in many places). You just unfold it, stand on it, and press the button to get going.
Buy the best you can whether you’re shopping for an e-scooter or e-bike. Cheap ones really aren’t a bargain. In particular, be aware that manufacturers often claim highly optimistic range estimates for their products. Comparing the size of the battery packs (measured in watt-hours, Wh) will give you a better feel for how the different models compare.
Also take a look at the details and features. Check features like the vehicle’s weight, folded size, gauges, suspension, and maximum rider weight. Many e-vehicles even come with smartphone apps that allow you to track your trips, lock/unlock, and meet other riders!
In some national parks the “last mile problem” is becoming a big issue. Visitors like to drive everywhere and parks are becoming more crowded. Zion National Park went to a shuttle bus system years ago and even that is getting mobbed during peak times. The south rim of Grand Canyon, Bryce, Great Smokey Mountains, Yellowstone, and other parks are facing similar congestion problems. In some of these situations an e-vehicle could be the perfect solution.
Urban exploration is another popular use for modern e-vehicles. You can park the car and ride the streets instead, silently and easily. However, be aware of local laws that may limit the use of powered bicycles or kick scooters on some trails, sidewalks, or roads, and consider wearing a bicycle helmet.
Perhaps the use you’ll appreciate most is at the end of a long day of towing, when you’re staying just one night. An e-bike or scooter allows you to zip away on short errands without hassle. Instead of driving, ride!
—By Rich Luhr
Pedego will be at Alumapalooza 8 this year to show their e-bikes, including a new Airstream-branded model. Don DiCostanzo, CEO of the company, will be there in person and participants will be able to take test rides.