This week, we take an in depth look from prototype to production of Venture RV's Sonic X, the 2020 RV Business Magazine RV of the Year. And later, we'll join Mark and Dawn Polk from RV Education 101 and find out what they have in store for us this week.
Concept Vehicle for RVX
Concept vehicles or prototypes have always been a big part of the auto industry. And even if they didn't make it into production, which is usually the case, these prototypes often spin off ideas which later do show up in successful production models. Well, guess what? KZ RVs Venture RV division has hit a home-run by doing just that with its Sonic X.
We first spotted this wild looking black carbon fiber prototype at the RV industry show in Salt Lake City earlier last year and couldn't get enough of it. While at the show, we sat with Aram Koltookian, president of KZ RV, and learned how this whole prototype project came about.
Aram Koltookian: This is the Sonic X, and we were challenged to build something new and exciting for the RVX here in Salt Lake City, and we really kind of got the team together and I had a dream of let's build something that's going to work any time you want to go camping.
So, we saw some different samples, you know, a little while back of some carbon fiber from LAMILUX and I said, "Man, we've got to make this in carbon fiber." So, that's the most dramatic thing. When you walk up to this coach, the carbon fiber exterior is absolutely stunning. And it kind of morphed from there. We said, "How would you go camping or what do we want this coach to do?" When you say you want to go anywhere anytime, what does that mean? So, then that's when the wheel started spinning.
I'm an off-road enthusiast, I'm an outdoors person, and a lot of our team are. So, we just kind of got together and it just kept building it. The hardest thing about building this coach was saying no 'cause we pretty much said yes to everything. The outside of this coach is completely unique. From the ground up, obviously the carbon fiber is what you see first when you walk up to it, but you also see the real aggressive off-road stance. We put torsion axles on it with 30-inch tires, off-road tires to give it a nice high ground clearance. It also gives you a great entrance and departure angle. So, that was all part of the design that we said we want to go anywhere, we meant it.
As you look around the coach, there's actually nerf bars completely surrounding the coach, 360 degrees. With carbon fiber, you want to make sure that you protect, you know, a valuable asset like that, so we wanted the nerf bars to take the hit. As you kind of walk around the coaches a lot, a nice thing to take a look at upfront, we have a custom, fully adjustable BAL bike rack system that will carry four bikes upfront. And then on the back, we have not only place to carry wood or your coolers, but you can carry two kayaks on the back. So, four bikes and two kayaks plus extra coolers and gear on the coach, you immediately notice that right away.
One of the things that you don't really see right off the bat are the solar panels. We have 9 110-watt solar-- flexible solar panels up top feeding down into a completely controlled 9-lithium ion batteries in its own compartment. So, this thing has virtually endless power. So, if you want to go out at night, you want to keep your lights on, you got more than enough power to go days. Even in partial sunlight, the thing will keep charge. It'll charge whether you're pulling it down the road with your car, it'll charge if you'll plug it in, or into a generator.
The other thing you'll notice in the back is actually we did an infinite water system, which is kind of neat because what we wanted to do is, we put two 40-gallon holding tanks in it. Normally, a coach this size, you'll have a 40 or a 45, we wanted to have more than that. So, we're carrying nearly 100 gallons of water. And if you're dry camping for a week, 100 gallons sounds like a lot, but it's not that much. So, we put in an infinite water system that allows you to take a hose, put it into a stream, a lake, a bucket of water that you got from somewhere else, and refill your water tanks. And a lot of people are thinking, "From a stream?" Well, if you just want to fill your water tanks for flushing your toilets or anything like that, it actually has a water-- fiber micron water filter system that can be expanded to any type of water system filtration that you want. So, no matter where you are, you can find some water and get it back into your coach and refill your tank. So, that was a real important aspect of it.
As an outdoor person, you know, one of the things that you can be doing is you have gear with you, and sometimes gear breaks. So, on the front and on the back, each on the front, there's two 40-inch, and on the back there's two 40-inch LED lights that are producing over 64,000 lumens of light. So, we wanted to really light up the back or the front of the coach so that if your truck breaks down, if your bicycle breaks down, or if your fishing rod needs to be repaired, you've got enough light to sit out there under the stars and kind of get it done.
We had a lot of fun on the inside of the coach. Not only does it have a Murphy bed, which has been done, we do that in our current Sonic lineup, but all of the furniture is custom made. We worked with a boat furniture manufacturer to really make the furniture soft, custom density foams, but it's also very, very durable. You know, it's meant to be out on a pontoon boat that can just withstand sun and spills and everything, with midnight black accents which tie into the, you know, to the exterior. So, we want it to be really comfortable so that if you are a couple and then you got some friends out in a tent, you have a bad couple of days of rain, you can get in, you can watch a movie, you can watch a movie on the outside as well.
The outside has a TV and Bluetooth soundbar and a PlayStation 4, so you don't have to necessarily rough it without having your game system along with you. As you look around the coach, you got a custom butcher block dinette table, which is a little overkill, but looks absolutely fantastic designed by our own interior designer. Solid surface countertops, convection microwave are just a few of the examples in here. But we got a few trick features, too. Right when you walk in the entry door, there's a hidden panel that you can charge your phones and check your different supplies of power. You also have Bluetooth ready leveling system with a four-point leveling system. That's over by the entertainment center.
The bathroom has a custom vanity, that's a two-tier vanity to give you more room for your essentials. And then in the wardrobe closet, we've got a few more surprises. We built in a fully lockable wall safe and then a hidden large compartment for other larger gear, for guns, fishing poles, any of your larger gear that you want to keep out of sight, out of mind when you're out kayaking.
And Then What Happened?
And now....As we mentioned earlier in the show, usually prototype or concept vehicles are generally test beds for ideas and don't make it into production. But we were surprised when covering the 2019 RV Industry Open House when we saw the Sonic X again, but this time in full production mode. Sure, the black carbon fiber was gone, but overall Venture did a phenomenal job in keeping all those key prototype features intact.
Once again, we got to sit with Aram Koltookian in that same dining area we met in six months earlier. And he explained to us how they turned that prototype into a production model in such short time and what changes they had to make.
Aram: We're in the Sonic X, and we actually debuted a concept vehicle in Salk Lake City, Utah, which was the carbon fiber, upgraded interior, and off the road, off the grid package. And we're in the production version of it right now. The Sonic X is going to come standard with a lot of equipment. So, really it's a Sonic. This particular one, the 220. And it comes with an off-road axle system, which is the torsion axle system at a custom angle. It comes with skid plates, heavier frame, and also it has nerf bars around the entire outside of the coach to keep brush and debris from damaging your side walls.
So, when we built the Sonic X for Utah, when we came back, we had a lot of positive feedback from various automotive websites and blogs, as well as consumer blogs. And so, we decided to take a little different approach. We put everything we knew about the original carbon fiber Sonic X and put it out on the web and asked for support from the RV community. And we got a fantastic feedback of what to-- what they'd like to see, what they want us to, and what they didn't want us to do.
So, they really wanted us to, you know, ditch the black exterior and go with a white exterior. You want the coach to be as cool as possible. And we kind of thought that would happen.
But some of the features that they really liked, for example, was the hidden storage for rifles or shotguns for those outdoor enthusiasts for hunting, or fishing gear, or any of your larger gear. So, we actually had that hidden behind a panel. And they said, "Well, you know, if really I'm going to put a gun in there, it really should be lockable." So, for production models, we built a reinforced aluminum built-in locket lockbox so that you can put your guns or any other valuables in there and lock it. And it all ties into the key to light system. The same thing with the smaller lock box for jewelry or, you know, handheld items. We built that into the subassembly of that as well. So, we actually have two lockboxes for our consumers. These aren't necessarily light.
You know, when you're talking 250 amp batteries and skid plates that, you know, weigh 200 pounds, you know, this also has, you know, nearly 100 gallons of carrying capacity for just fresh water alone. So, you know, over 800, 900 pounds of water. These things are running in the 6,000 to 7,000 pound rage with the equipment that we're putting on it. And so really, you know, you're looking at your medium-size sport utility vehicles, lighter duty, 1500 pickup trucks, F150s, that kind of thing. So, it's designed to be pulled off road with the bigger and more aggressive tires. All those things add weight, but it's going to allow you to do a lot of interesting camping.nYou know, it is off the road, but it's also off the grid.
As people travel around the country, it's interesting talking to people, everybody from California up to the northwest, or from Maine down to Florida, some of the camping areas are changing, where states are providing, you know, public land where you can go camping on the out west, obviously the BLM land. But along the highways and along the coastlines, for example up in the UP of Michigan, or along Florida or California, there are pull-offs, you know, where people can pull off, park their camper for the day or overnight, and you're not going to have access to water or any type of hookups. Well, with a solar system such as this with four panels and big lithium ion batteries or extra water capacity, their availability to refill your tanks, this gives you a huge range of options, not just off-road in the woods, but right along the side of the highway next to the ocean is pretty fantastic camping.
This will be shipping to dealers in October and November of this year.
And Finally, THIS Happened!
As we followed the story of the new Sonic X, who would imagine it would end up like this?
It is finally time to announce our 2020 RV of the Year. And this year, the winner is the Venture RV Sonic X. Prototype or concept vehicles are rare when you're talking about RVs in the RV industry. So, when KZ RV's Venture RV subsidiary came out with the Sonic X concept vehicle for the RV X trade show this past March, it was never meant to go into production. Well, so much for that. Interest in the Sonic X was so overwhelming that the design team went to work to create a version which captures most of the features of the original prototype, while keeping the cost reasonable.
In staying with its truly off the grid capabilities, the Sonic X has a one of a kind water filtration system that will draw water up to 75 feet away from a 6-foot drop. The Sonic X is currently available in two floor plans, the rear bath 26'11 220 VRBX, and the 26'6 2011 VDBX. Both floor plans of course offer the popular murphy bed option, and both models come with a single street side slide-out.
Aram: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. We basically said once we decided we going to RV X and we had to, you know, come up with an idea, we said, "Let's just do something out of the box. Let's have some fun."
So we thought, you know, what if we take it and just post something on our website, ask our buyers what they really want? Are they really interested in this? Is this something we should be doing? And we did, and the response on the questionnaire was unbelievable. We were definitely not hitting this market at all, and no one in our industry was hitting the market, so we had something, you know, what do you do with it now, right?
People are just responding extremely well. And also the solar-- the solar package has been huge. We can actually-- we put an AC on there, where you can run your air conditioner off your battery for five hours. That's unheard of in our industry, and that's going to continue to improve also. So, by Aram allowing us to push the envelope, we were able to design something that no one else had in the market.
RV Education 101 - How to Maintain your RV Furnace
Mark Polk: Today, we're going to discuss your RV furnace and what we as RV owners can do to make sure the RV furnace will operate safely and properly when we use it. Let's start with how the RV furnace works. The majority of RV furnaces you see are direct spark forced air furnaces with a sealed combustion chamber that is vented outside. Some RV furnaces have two exterior vents like this one, and some have one exhaust vent with the mesh grill for the intake. The RV furnace operates on 12-volt DC power, either from a 12-volt battery or from the RV's converter when the RV is plugged in to electricity.
The theory of operation for a forced air furnace is a motor using an impeller wheel pulls air from outside for combustion. The exhaust gas created from the combustion of intake air and LP gas is then forced back outside. Internally, there's another fan that circulates room air across the hot furnace chamber. From there, a blower motor pushes the hot air into the RV's interior through a network of ducts. When you turn the heat on, the thermostat activates the furnace module board, which in turn starts the furnace blower motor.
Then the module board sends a signal to the gas valve and the direct spark ignition ignites a flame. If the burner lights and everything is operating properly, you will feel heat coming out of the ducts after a few seconds.
What preventive maintenance can RV owners do to ensure reliable and safe operation of the RV furnace? Some quick and easy preventive maintenance owners can do is to inspect the intake and exhaust vents on the furnace. Any type of obstruction in the vents can affect proper combustion. Some insects are attracted to the smell of propane and they build their nest in the RV furnace vents. If you notice any obstructions like this in or around the furnace vents, have it cleaned by an authorized RV service center.
Next, inspect the exhaust vent for any signs of incomplete combustion. One indication of incomplete combustion is black soot in the exhaust vent. When the vent is not hot, use your finger to check for signs of soot in the vent. Whenever incomplete combustion happens, you can be exposed to dangerous carbon monoxide gas. Do not operate the furnace if you see signs of black soot in the vent until it is checked out by a qualified RV service center. Typical causes for incomplete combustion are obstructions or restrictions in the vents and/or a dirty gas burner. It's a good idea to have the burner on the furnace cleaned at least once a year and, prior to operating the furnace, inspect the intake and exhaust vents for any obstructions or indications of soot.
It's not uncommon for owners not to use the RV for months at a time, so these inspections are important. And remember, if you see indications of black soot, have the furnace inspected by a professional prior to using it. Inspect the return grill for dust, dirt, or obstructions. You can clean the grill using the vacuum cleaner. Make sure nothing is blocking the fresh air return when using the RV furnace.
These are just some basics for maintaining your RV furnace, but always keep in mind if you can catch a problem early through preventive maintenance, it can be less costly to repair and, in the case of the furnace, less dangerous, too.
For more information on using and maintaining your RV, visit rvonlinetraining.com.