Our Solar Electric Trailer Journey Begins

The Sale of Our Home Launches Our Journey After 6 Months of Planning


Note: we’re not entirely sure what this newsletter will become. We hope it will be interesting to people as we struggle to do something that has not been done before. We will probably record some videos and podcasts along the way to complement the words on the page. We invite you to join the list, to comment and share to help us on our journey.

Our adventure begins. Two weeks ago, we put our home (a condo in downtown Salt Lake City) up for sale. It is now under contract. We’ve even picked a place to live in Jacksonville, Florida. So, for us, this just got real.

About six months ago, Gail and I started talking about buying an electric pickup truck to tow a trailer with solar panels—and no propane for heating water, air or for generating electricity—to help push the limits of zero-emission living.

Gail and I have loved travel throughout our marriage of almost 34 years. Much of our travel has been international, meaning that there is a lot of America we haven’t explored. Although Oklahoma is the only state I haven’t visited, there are many states where we haven’t spent a night.

The first decision we had to make was which truck to order. In May, it seemed we had three options: Ford F-150 Lightning, Rivian R1T [disclosure: we own exactly 1 share of Rivian stock] or the Tesla Cybertruck. While others had been announced, one of our criteria was to get one as soon as possible.

Among these three options, we determined that the Tesla’s announced features were the best, with a bigger battery, longer range and more towing capacity. Gail wasn’t a fan of the appearance at first but as the reality of charging less on long trips began to appeal to her, the look of the truck grew on her. We recognized that given our desire to build on our reputation as environmentalists, the Tesla truck would be the most instantly recognizable. So, we plunked down $100 to join about 1 million other people in the queue.

Within 30 days, however, Tesla announced that production would not begin in 2021 as previously announced but in 2022. Then the news got worse. Production would not begin until late 2022. So far down in the queue, we recognized that our Tesla might not arrive until 2024.

Enter the Rivian. The truck is quite a bit smaller than the Tesla, something Gail and I both appreciate. The biggest battery option is smaller than the Tesla with about 400 miles of range per charge (compared to the Tesla’s 500 miles). It will tow about 11,000 pounds (compared to the Tesla’s 14,000). But in June, Rivian confirmed plans to begin production in September—which happened right on schedule. So, we plunked down $1,000 to hop into Rivian’s mounting production queue.

At this point, we don’t have any good information from Rivian about when to expect the truck, but we’re hoping for next summer. In the meantime, we’ll be working to find the best trailer for our plans. (We haven’t canceled our Tesla reservation.)

It is worth mentioning, that Gail and I eagerly watched the Ford F-150 Lightning launch announcement which was streamed live. We both loved the truck. It has some of the best features, especially for working at a job site. The truck could power a home construction site that lacked power for the entire workday. The battery, though smaller than either the Rivian or Tesla, would be sufficient to power a home for days and is built with that in the design.

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Ultimately, the Ford’s max range of just 250 miles would likely be cut nearly in half towing a trailer (as would the Tesla’s and Rivian’s), meaning that the functional range would be just 125 miles. While that would work in many places, we didn’t want to have to manage that constraint. The Ford was never a serious consideration for us.

Our closing date for the sale of our condo is December 22, 2021. We plan to hit the road in a loaded U-Haul towing our electric Chevy Bolt the next day. Christmas will be celebrated in a random motel somewhere in the South on our way to Jacksonville. We expect to be moved in before the end of the year.

We’re looking forward to the big Florida RV Supershow in Tampa on January 21st.

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