- rvs are incredibly popular right now, and anything that allows you to spend more time off-grid certainly has an audience waiting to check it out.
- the latest such accessory is the xpanse solar awning, which can provide up to 1.2 kw of solar power to power up an rv full of appliances while it shades your comfy seats below.
- xponent power will take your pre-order $100 deposit and is offering the awning at an initial price of $7500 through october 30, but buyers after that will pay $10,000. deliveries should happen sometime next year.
update 10/26/21, 1 p.m.: a company spokesman responded to our question as to whether rv users might prefer roof-mounted solar panels to this retractable awning on their rvs. the response has been added to the story.
there's been an unmistakable boom in rv sales during the pandemic. according to the rv industry association (rvia), there were just over 55,000 rv shipments in the u.s. in september 2021, a 32.2 percent increase over the same month in 2020. september 2021 was also the highest month for rv sales that the rvia has ever tracked, which helped 2021's third quarter (july to september) become the highest sales quarter ever, with 152,370 rvs shipped. in other words, if you're getting ready to launch the "first commercially available retractable solar awning for rvs," now's the perfect time.
xponent power, which is coming out of stealth mode today, is right on time with its new xpanse solar awning. instead of a fabric awning to provide shade near the camper, the xpanse awning is made up of thin, high-efficiency solar panels that fold together in a zigzag fashion and hide inside a protective shell on the top of the rv when not in use. xponent said it takes 30 seconds to extend or retract the awning, which in standard form is about 16 feet long and can be mounted anywhere there is space available to mount two side arms 16 feet apart, company founder rohini raghunathan told car and driver, adding that xponent is working on designing other sizes and ways of attaching it to an rv.
"the xpanse solar awning can be sized anywhere from three feet to 16 feet," raghunathan said. "we are in the process of designing the next-generation product that will not require side arms and hence will be compatible with a broader base of models, including sprinter-type vehicles."
a company spokesperson told car and driver that the company has sought rv owner feedback about their experiences trying other means of adding solar power to an rv, such as by installing solar panels on the roof. the spokesperson said users told them it has been "challenging to get enough power on the roof of an rv because there [is] not adequate space due to the many features located on the roof. you could really only fit in 500 to 800 w on most rvs, and the power needs far exceeded the possible generation from the limited roof area."
in contrast, xponent claims he xpanse awning can provide up to 1.2 kw of solar power to run onboard appliances and is unsurprisingly compatible with the kinds of electrical components used in traditional rv solar installations, including charge controllers, batteries, and inverters, plus rv appliances such as refrigerators, lights, and microwaves, the company said. it can be installed on either side of an rv, so if you like the shade awning you already have but want an additional power source, that's not a problem.
xponent said it designed the xpanse so it doesn't cause problems when the wind picks up. for one thing, the solar panels are separated from each other to let air pass through and thus stay stable "even at relatively high wind speeds," the company said in a statement. at higher speeds, the awning uses built-in sensors detect wins speed and automatically retract when needed. the awning decides when to retract using what xponent calls "extensive machine learning" that has helped the company identify situations when it is no longer safe to have the awning out.
there are still some details pending. for example, raghunathan said xponent is currently in discussion with manufacturing and assembly partners in the u.s. and hasn't yet finalized the assembly location. "we are also in discussions with solar cell manufacturers for sourcing and final decisions have not yet been made about where these cells will be sourced from," she said. even more interesting, the company said it is also in talks with automotive and rv manufacturers to offer the xpanse as a pre-installed option on new vehicles.
xponent power plans to charge $10,000 for this solar awning system but initially is offering it for $7500 for those who order by october 30. the company will start taking $100 refundable pre-order deposits today even though the first product deliveries won't happen until 2022.