Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Lightship raises $34M for its electric RVs

Jan 17, 2024
Lightship displayed its L1 electric RV at SXSW 2023 in Austin.

Lightship displayed its L1 electric RV at SXSW 2023 in Austin. Photo: Travis P Ball/Getty Images for SXSW

Lightship closed a $34 million Series B as it prepares to build its electric camper trailers, the company announced this morning.

How it works: Lightship has designed a towable, battery-powered travel trailer. It can propel itself up to 300 miles, solving the huge amount of range that's lost whenever an EV hauls just about anything.

Of note: Once on-site, it can provide silent power for as long as a week, replenished by solar panels along the roof — or with outlets found at most RV campsites.

Driving the news: Obvious Ventures and Prelude Ventures led Lightship's Series B, which closed in December.

  • Allegis Capital, RV manufacturer Thor Industries, and TechNexus Venture Collaborative participated.
  • Returning investors Congruent Ventures, HyperGuap and Alumni Ventures also joined.

1 fun thing: Obvious managing director Andrew Beebe is customer No. 1 on Lightship's reservation list.

  • "He showed up with cash to a board meeting before we even started the reservation system," CEO Toby Kraus says.

The intrigue: Electric RVs would seem a niche market, especially the segment of buyers willing to pony up for Lightship's price tag.

  • The extended-range trim brings a price of $150,000. A basic "essentials" model, which nixes the self-propulsion feature and is targeted at buyers driving gas and diesel vehicles, is $125,000.

Plus: If there's anything we've learned from electric vehicle startups like Tesla, Rivian, and Proterra, building an electric vehicle is expensive, difficult, and filled with surprises.

Yes, but: A trailer doesn't face the same safety mandates as a car or truck. And the universe of potential Lightship customers isn't tiny: about 300,000-500,000 RVs are sold in the U.S. each year, most of them towable trailers, Lightship says.

  • "Every other vehicle category that gets a lot of attention from venture capital — even Class 8 trucks — are low hundreds of thousands of units," Kraus, who held roles at Tesla and Proterra, tells Axios.

What we're watching: We'll be following what happens when Lightship begins making vehicles for customers, expected by the end of this year at its new factory in Broomfield, Colorado, not far from the company's headquarters in Boulder. (It also has offices in San Francisco.)

  • The strategy calls for low manufacturing volumes, with the RVs largely made by hand.
  • "It's not like we need to get to orders of magnitude higher or scale production or create a new product before we're a viable company," Kraus says. "We are creating a sustainable business model starting with this first facility."

Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify the class of truck to 8 from A in the second bullet in the Yes, but section.

Go deeper