If Tesla made a telescopic caravan, it would probably look like this

New Lightship L1 promises to revolutionise road trips, with its unique telescoping design reducing range anxiety on the road and maximising space at the campsite

If you’re going to buy a car as head-turning as the Tesla Cybertruck, you can’t hitch it to some bland-looking blob of a caravan that could be mistaken for a portaloo. What it deserves to be paired with is a caravan as futuristic and technologically advanced as the very latest electric cars, and that’s exactly what the Lightship L1 is meant to be.

It might look like the L1 was designed by Tesla itself to be the perfect companion for the Cybertruck, but alas not. San Francisco-based start-up Lightship was founded by two former Tesla employees though, and much like the Cybertruck, the L1 was designed from the ground up, with a radically different approach in mind compared to what came before.

In the L1’s case, Lightship was focused on making the most aerodynamic caravan it could, optimising every element possible to reduce drag, including the tongue box and boat-tail rear end. Then there’s the unique telescopic design, which allows the L1 to measure around three metres tall in ‘Camp Mode’ or be collapsed down to just 2.1 metres in ‘Road Mode’ at the touch of a button. The end result is the L1 being three times more aerodynamic than a traditional caravan.

  • World's most advanced caravan makes towing with an electric car a breeze

The other goal for the L1 was a near zero range or mile-per-gallon efficiency loss for the tow vehicle. The aerodynamic design helps massively with that, but the L1 is available with a self-propulsion system, similar to the one in the Pebble Flow – another innovative caravan from Silicon Valley we recently took a look at. In the L1, a single electric motor drives the caravan’s own wheels to make towing effortless and reduce strain on the tow car.

In order to power the motor, the L1 is fitted with either a 40kWh or 80kWh battery, with the larger unit good for 300 miles of driving on a charge, or able to provide a week’s worth of off-grid power when you’re camping deep in the sticks. You’ll need to plug the L1 into a home wallbox to charge it in between trips, but there are solar panels integrated in the roof along with ‘quick-deploy solar awnings’ that can help add a little bit of extra juice. 

Inside, the Lightship L1 can sleep up to six people depending on the configuration, and features a flexible lounge space, dozens of windows to provide panoramic views and all-electric appliances, including a dishwasher which minimises water use.

However, before you add a Lightship L1 to your Christmas list, there are a few things you need to know. For starters, it weighs 3,400kg when fully loaded with gear so you’d need a car capable of towing something that hefty just to get it off your driveway – a Cybertruck would be ideal. The L1 is also over 8.2 metres long and starts from over £98,000 without the self-propulsion setup. Adding that brings the price up to nearly £120,000, in case you’re wondering. 

Finally, pre-orders for the Lightship L1 are only available in the US at the moment. But if you live across the pond, have a very healthy bank balance and a muscular tow car, then L1 production is expected to begin in late 2024.

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