RV sales have never been stronger, and as COVID-19 cases continue to spike around the country, now seems like a great time to live off-grid on the road.
So it’s no wonder two former Silicon Valley executives have teamed up to create Aeonrv, a RV startup that specializes in 2021 Ford Transit-based tiny homes on wheels.
But unlike the everyday Transit camper van, Aeonrv is “bridging the gap” between camper vans and overlanding vehicles, Jim Ritchie, Aeonrv’s CEO and founder, Aeonrv, told Insider.
According to Ritchie, the startup’s RV has several overlander-like capabilities at a “lower” price: $194,500, to be exact.
Like any startup, the genesis of Aeonrv starts with its founder finding a hole in the market.
Ritchie, who’s had a decades-long tech career in Silicon Valley, was always interested in the outdoors and small offroading RVs.
Initially, he never had any intentions of starting a RV company.
But the more he searched for his ideal RV (specifically a larger van with four-wheel-drive, off-road capabilities), the more he realized there was nothing on the market that could fit his needs.
That’s when he decided to design his own custom fiberglass reinforced panel Transit van with the help of another company, Total Composites.
“A lot of people said, ‘hey that’s a great idea. I’d buy that,'” Ritchie said, prompting him to begin seriously designing and building a prototype in August 2020.
The first prototype was then assembled about seven months later, and the company brought its van to the market in October.
Along the way, he recruited another tech friend with a background in yachts and fiberglass to become the CTO of Aeonrv.
Together, since its debut, the company has hit over $3 million in pre-ordered vans, and has already begun building its first production units, Ritchie said.
It now plans to build 20 units by the end of 2022 in its Reno, Nevada factory, starting with the first seven units in the second-quarter of 2022.
Ritchie predicts the company will sell all 20 units shortly into 2022: “We’re two-thirds through that number already … and we’ve got multiple tens of other people that I would call ‘hot leads.'”
In 2023, it’ll then produce 50 to 150 builds, but as a startup, “anything out past a year is really pie in the sky,” Ritchie said.
COVID-19 may have spiked the public’s interest in RVing, but this wasn’t Aeonrv’s motivation for creating the company.
Aeonrv is looking to target consumers who would’ve either wanted a Winnebago Revel or Airstream Interstate 24X Touring Coach van, or an Earthcruiser overlander, all without the $200,000 to $750,000 price tag and potential “quality and design problems,” Ritchie said.
He believes Aeonrv’s biggest competitor is the Winnebago Ekko, but several of its early customers have been Winnebago Revel owners who wanted an “upgrade” …
… or overlanding enthusiasts who didn’t want to pay for an expensive RV or take the time to build their own.
“One of our jokes is we give you 80% of an Earthroamer for 20% of the cost,” Ritchie said.
So far, its customers include a man in his late-20s who’s working remotely and a family with three children.
Of course, there are other off-road capable camper vans available on the market.
But according to Ritchie, the fiberglass reinforced panels and extrusions and tech-forward amenities make the van stand out compared to its competitors.
“I reached out to analysts that cover this industry to figure out what was going on in the market, and they were very interested in what we’re doing because they agreed the industry needed more innovation and different thinking,” Ritchie said.
Let’s take a look inside Aeonrv’s build based on the 2021 Ford all-wheel-drive Transit chassis to see if it’s worth the six-digit price tag.
The interior is about 13.4 feet long and 6.7 feet tall and wide.
The first “room” you see when you open the tiny home’s door is the dual bathroom and mudroom.
This space has a medicine cabinet, a cassette toilet, a sink that can flip up to save room …
… and a shower that can be used both inside and outside the van, hence its location at the entryway.
The build can sleep two adults and two children using the skylight-lined queen bed in the rear of the van …
… and the convertible dinette bed.
This space also has an adjustable dinette table — which can turn into a standing desk — and outlets for remote workers who need to use it as a desk.
The kitchen sits across from this dining and workspace space, and has a refrigerator and freezer, a movable induction cooktop …
… a sink, a countertop, and plenty of storage, like the pull-out pantry.
Add-ons like an extra cooktop burner and a microwave come at an extra cost.
Camper vans can sometimes lack ample storage space, but the Aeonrv build has several hidden storage units …
… including closets, overhead storage, pull-out drawers, and a heated garage with enough room to store bicycles.
There are several LED lights, an air conditioner, and a heater to keep the interior of the tiny home comfortable.
Several of these features can also be controlled with an app …
… which even has a “dog mode” that keeps the RV’s interior environment pet friendly if the owners aren’t “home,” according to Ritchie.
All of this is powered with an electrical system that includes batteries, an inverter, solar panels, and more. All of the electrical system’s details — and the van’s other features — are available on Aeonrv’s website.
Let’s head outside to look at the exterior of the van, which is lined with add-ons that make it off-road friendly. This includes all-terrain tires, a lift kit, and a differential skid plate.
All of this starts at $194,500, but if you’re interested in the van at its current price point, beware.