Back in January, Liberty Coach rolled out its latest high-tech breakthrough: an all-new energy system that stands as the first ever to meet the EPA’s stringent Tier 4 emissions standards. Now, at roughly the halfway point of Liberty’s 2017 model year, we asked managing partner Frank Konigseder Jr. for an update on the new system and where it fits in the energy future of the industry.
It’s been six months now since you introduced the new energy system, and it’s been installed in seven coaches. Have you seen enough to draw any conclusions?
Yes, I believe so. I’ve driven three coaches myself, starting with No. 806, which was the first to include the new system, and also the 811 and 812, both of which are listed for sale today. I’ve spent about four weeks out on the road with them and I’d estimate that I’ve driven right around 2,500 miles over that time. And that’s just me personally. If we consider all of the sold coaches as well – remember, we can, and do, monitor battery and generator operations remotely – I’d estimate collectively they’ve been driven about 25,000 miles and logged hundreds of hours. So I’d say we have a pretty good data sample to work with.
And how well has the system performed to date?
I’m extremely satisfied. We’ve had the usual “learning curve” issues you encounter whenever you introduce a major new system, but they’ve been resolved much quicker than I anticipated. That’s thanks in large part to the people at Volta, who have been over the top in making themselves available and delivering support whenever anything has come up. Also because the system itself is by design very simple to troubleshoot.
How about actual performance? Has it exceeded expectations?
Absolutely. In general, customers have been more than surprised by the length of time they can run a full electrical load – including air conditioning – before the generator kicks in. One owner called to tell me he was able to run two roof air units along with his normal load – interior lights, TVs and audio components, both refrigerators and so on – continuously for 12 hours on the battery alone. He was amazed. (Performance is dependent on exterior temperature conditions)
Is word starting to spread out in the motorcoach community?
Yes, definitely. People have been asking about the Tier 4 generator in particular, and whether it delivers sufficient power. It came up this past week when I was in Cody (Wyoming, with Coach No. 812). The weather was extremely warm, to the point where power to the campground and even the town itself was taxed so heavily that we were seeing very large voltage fluctuations. Thanks to the system’s new shore power transfer logic function – it’s designed for exactly the kind of voltage fluctuations we were experiencing – the generator kicked in automatically and took over until the power source stabilized. And it did so without so much as a “hiccup” in the power flow, due to another unique design feature we engineered into the system, one that eliminates any interruption of power to the coach’s most sensitive equipment when power transitions from the battery pack to the generator. That’s a huge benefit in a world where we’re so dependent upon iPads and other sensitive control systems – and something coach owners are very, very happy to see.
So far Liberty is still alone in addressing the Tier 4 emissions standards. Do you anticipate any “follow the leader” efforts on the part of your competitors?
I think at some point they’ll have to. It’s a huge challenge, especially in the wake of 2008 (the economic crash and recession); I believe that put a big damper on technological development efforts that were underway at the time. And of course new technology is absolutely essential to meeting the Tier 4 standards.
That said, I’m a little disappointed at those companies who seem content to wait until somebody else solves the problem for them. Their mindset seems to be that within 4 or 5 years, the Tier 4 situation will be resolved entirely by the generator manufacturers. Never mind that nothing close to the solution they have in mind is in the works. It’s like they’re looking into a crystal ball and seeing the future they want to see, when in reality the future is now.
So does the future belong to Liberty?
I think that with this system, Liberty Coach is very much on the leading edge of an energy solution that can be greatly expanded upon in the years to come. As the efficiency of the system improves, we’ll be able to deliver the same amount of energy available from a smaller sized battery pack – or generate a much greater amount of energy without taking up any more real estate in the bays of the coach. It’s possible to foresee the day when the batteries will power the entire electrical load of the coach 100% of the time, with the role of the generator reduced to simply recharging the battery pack. Don’t get me wrong – it will take a lot of work to get there. But to me, that’s a future worth working for.