At this time last year, the Liberty Coach production team was hard at work putting the finishing touches on the company’s much-heralded cockpit redesign, a project years in the making that combined breakthroughs in ergonomics, control systems, navigation software, and many other areas.
Today, their focus is on another high tech introduction which, while it arrived with much less fanfare, may well prove to be among the most important breakthroughs in RV history.
“We’re proud to announce the first ever truly Tier 4-compliant generator installation in a Prevost coach conversion,” said Frank Konigseder Jr., V.P. and managing partner of Liberty Coach. “It includes a revolutionary new 58-volt Lithium Ion Battery pack from Volta Power Systems, which delivers over three times the energy of any other RV battery system, and a new Tier 4-certified Onan generator that releases a fraction of the particulate matter produced by present day installations.”
Both components were critical to meeting the U.S. EPA’s final Tier 4 emissions standards, the tough new guidelines now being phased in for gas and diesel-powered engines of all kinds. Tier 4 has proven a particularly difficult hurdle for Prevost convertors to clear, Konigseder said, noting that only Liberty has made serious headway toward compliance.
“A lot of generator manufacturers are getting out of the RV business altogether rather than making the investment necessary to develop one that satisfies Tier 4,” he said. “So when it became apparent that we were going to have to change, we made the decision to switch to the Onan generator, which is Tier-4 certified, and increase the size of our battery pack.”
Enter Volta Power Systems, a Michigan-based start-up headed by Jack Johnson and Bill Cavanaugh, two of the top talents in the field of automotive grade lithium ion battery technology. Both played lead roles in the development of batteries for hybrid vehicles produced by major OEMs, and they were eager to push the envelope even further in the RV field.
“I met Jack in 2012 and we’ve been talking back and forth ever since,” Konigseder said. “He was impressed that we were the only (coach conversion) company that was doing anything with lithium ion battery technology, and I became intrigued with where Volta was taking it. “They took a Prevost – not one of ours, but an older model – and they retrofitted it with their energy pack and road-tested it during the summer of 2014. Then last year, we equipped one of our 2016 production coaches with the Volta system, and I drove it everywhere from July through September.”
The results were impressive. “Overall, the system performed even better than I had hoped,” Konigseder said. “Because the generator is smaller and doesn’t run as much, we saw noticeable fuel savings. Battery performance was excellent in all kinds of weather, including very hot temperatures. And under ideal conditions, we found we could run the entire coach on the battery pack alone for up to a full 24 hours before the generator came on to recharge.”
For Konigseder, that was more than enough to move forward. He and the Liberty engineering team, led by his brother and co-managing partner Kurt Konigseder, set to work designing a permanent installation and reconfiguring the coach to accommodate it. Which was no small task – but as usual with Liberty, one that produced some added benefits.
“Weightwise, we actually came out about the same – surprising when you consider how much bigger the battery pack is” Konigseder said. “But the generator is smaller and lighter, and because we converted to a 58-volt system, we were able to significantly reduce the amount of copper wire we use.
“And we actually increased the total amount of storage space,” he continued, “by adding an open bay on the driver’s side, doubling the water heater capacity to 40 gallons, and installing a 100-foot electric water hose reel.”
On the safety front, the design of this battery pack is simply the safest on the planet, Konigseder noted. According to the Volta website, the unit features 14 unique protective layers, each designed to meet the same stringent standards required of every automotive OEM. And it boasts an ultra-high impact sealed steel housing that safeguards the battery from any oxygen exposure in case of an accident.
The new installation made its debut in February with the beginning of Liberty’s 2017 model year and Elegant Lady No. 806, the Veneto Edition. Not surprisingly, the coach sold within a few days of listing, leaving eager buyers to cool their heels while the Liberty production crew works through a number of custom- ordered coaches. But it won’t be long before the next 2017 Elegant Lady arrives. And the world will find Liberty Coach right where you expect them to be. Miles – and years – ahead of the competition.
With locations in Stuart, FL and North Chicago, IL, Liberty Coach has been providing legendary leadership in the luxury motor coach industry for over 40 years. For more information about Liberty’s custom Prevost motor coaches, please visit http://www.libertycoach.com or call 800-554-9877