New Tech at the Coachmen Class B Factory


We were recently invited to take a tour of Coachmen’s Class B production facility in Middlebury, Indiana.  We’ve done Class B factory tours on a few occasions now.  In a lot of ways, the process of putting together a Class B motorhome is the same from manufacturer to manufacturer, but we saw a number of things at Coachmen that warranted a second look.  Have a look at the video and see what we mean!

 

Three main things that really stood out to us:

Insulation

Even without our guides, it would have been obvious from the tour that Coachmen has spent a lot of time thinking about how to better insulate their two Class B models, the Galleria and the Crossfit.  They were using multiple products, layering them, and even trying some things we’ve never seen before.

  • Rockwool Insulation:  We’ve been seeing people add this product to their own RVs, and Coachmen has apparently been listening.  This material (which you can buy at home centers) is fire resistant, water resistant, and has great sound absorbing and insulating qualities.
  • Radiant Barriers:  In a number of places, Coachmen has incorporated radiant (reflective) films into their insulation scheme.  There’s a foam/radiant sandwich in the roof, radiant layers in the flooring, and even the hush mat has a foil film on it.
  • Phase Change Insulation:  This is one we’d never seen before.  Coachmen is incorporating this material – which you can think of as a heat storage and management layer – into the walls and ceiling of their motorhomes.
  • Attention to Detail:  In a number of places, we saw insulation tucked into openings small enough that most wouldn’t pay attention to them.  We also saw insulation added above the factory headliner, which is actually a pretty big deal.

Suspension Improvements

Almost everyone would like to improve the way their RV drives and handles.  Coachmen is taking steps to address this directly from the factory by incorporating product from SuperSprings International.  The products they use depend on which chassis they are building on.  On the Galleria – which is built on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis – they include enhanced bump stops, both front and rear.  On the Crossfit – built on the Ford Transit van – they install a helper leaf spring in the back and a coil spring helper in the front.  While we didn’t personally test out these products in a before and after way, we have used both Sumo Springs and helper leaf springs in the past, and found both of them to help with handling and load capacity.  It’s nice to see them added on from the factory (because that would be one less thing on my “mods-to-do” list).

12 Volt Air Conditioning

This was pretty interesting.  Coachmen is now installing 12-volt air conditioning units in their Class B motorhomes.  The unit they are using is by ProAir, and it’s a roof mount unit, not an undermount.  It’s got a claimed 20,000 BTU rating, which is considerably bigger than your typical RV air conditioner.  Those of you who were at the Tampa RV show recently got the chance to hear one of these running in the Coachmen display, and it was pretty quiet.

But the big deal about the 12 volt air conditioning is that it will allow you to run the AC without needing a generator or inverter.  For those of you who choose coaches without lithium battery systems, you would even be able to run this air conditioner while driving – again, without a generator.  The thickness of wiring to the unit was not too bad (I asked), at only 2ga.  In an informal test, I saw the unit pulling amps in the 50-60 range, which isn’t too bad at 12 volts (but granted, this wasn’t in summer).  I suppose we’ll have to wait to see what people say about the performance, but I like that they’re trying new things like this at Coachmen.

 

So those were the big ones, but you’ll hear and see other tidbits as we go through the factory tour in the video.  Have a look, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

 



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    42 thoughts on “New Tech at the Coachmen Class B Factory

    1. Steven Geiger

      James. Regarding the 20K A/C.You had mentioned that “For those of you who choose coaches without lithium battery systems, you would even be able to run this air conditioner while driving – again, without a generator.” Could you clarify? Are there any limitations this system has with a generator system vs a lithium battery system?. The coachmen beyond is being offered with this A/C either with a generator or with lithium. I want to be able to run the air while driving.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        It’s a 12 volt air conditioner. While driving, an alternator could kick out enough power to run the air conditioner. No generator or inverter necessary.

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Nick actually has an opinion on that and he’s dead set against it. He sees the potential for long term problems with rust, etc.
        But generally speaking, there are problems with applying it correctly in a manufacturing environment. I suspect it has to do with cost, time, quality of finished product when done on a line, the extra work to shave it off, the difficulty of subsequent work, etc.
        These things don’t matter much to DIYers. But in a manufacturing environment, it’s a different story.

        Reply
    2. Tom S

      Hi James,

      I really enjoy and appreciate your reviews and advice. Fun and useful at the same time!

      Any update on when you might publish your review of the Galleria 24A? Like others of your readers, this may be on our shortlist and I’d love to see your review..

      Thanks,
      Tom

      Reply
    3. Mike Yates

      Great video and I’m impressed with thought Coachmen are putting into their products. I like the DC air conditioner, stabilizer/leveling systems and Sumo Springs. We added front and back Sumo Springs to my ERA 70-B and like the results. One question, are the Coachmen RV’s four season? Looked like the water tank was inside but no mention on the grey and black tanks. In our ERA we have to use it dry in the cold.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I don’t know if Coachmen is advertising their rigs as “4 season”, because there’s a lot that goes into that, and a lot of that is end-user dependent.
        I will say that their rigs would be some of the more capable winter camping vans I’ve seen from a mainstream manufacturer.
        If you were going to get into winter camping, one of the Coachmen rigs would be a great starting point.

        Reply
        1. Patrick Broos

          For the Crossfit (aka Beyond), my understanding (from comments on the Crossfit group on Facebook) is that the location of the fresh tank depends on the floorplan and whether the Li3 (lithium) option is chosen. On the rear twins (“22D”) floorplan, the tank is inside the coach with or without Li3 (as show in this video). On the rear sofabed (“22C”) floorplan, coaches with the normal lead-acis power system have the tank inside, but coaches with the Li3 system have the tank under the floor.

          For that “22C with Li3” case, I’ve heard claims that the optional “Polar Package” includes freeze protection for that fresh tank under the floor, but I have not seen any details. Does anyone here know the facts about the Polar Package on the 22C with Li3?

        2. James - Post author

          Interesting question! Perhaps another owner or someone from Coleman will chime in?

    4. Scott Baldassari

      Love the insulation,
      Love the 12 volt a/c,
      Love the big tanks,
      Love the big AGM (or lithium).

      Now, all we need is a floor plan that doesn’t have the dreaded side bath and rear bed. Any talk of new floor plans?

      Any mention of a Promaster?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Hey Scott!
        No mention of a ProMaster. But I know a lot of RV manufacturers are looking to diversify their platforms so that they’re not so dependent on any one chassis manufacturer.
        So, we’ll see…

        Reply
    5. Greytourist

      Thanks, makes a lot more sense. A lotta shade being thrown around these days, and it’s hard to tell where someone’s coming from. Coachmen is doing some impressive stuff with their insulation and componentry.

      Reply
    6. Greytourist

      “Throwaway Air Conditioner”…I wonder if that’s a reference to Coleman, or to ARV’s Quiet A/C (Houghton), of which ARV is the sole source and service facility. It looks like the unit Proair is supplying Coachmen is built especially for them.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        By “Throwaway”, I believe he meant that this unit can be refilled with Freon if something goes wrong. With some RV air conditioner choices, it’s a sealed system, and there’s no refilling it or replacing some parts. If they go bad, it’s just as economical to replace the whole unit.

        (I don’t know specifically which brands or models though – we didn’t get into it and I haven’t researched.)

        Reply
    7. Herb FIgel

      James and Stef, really enjoy your videos, and, James, very envious of your new shop! Regarding Coachmen, appreciate their efforts to improve insulation, especially the use of rock wool. However, are they not using insulation on the floor? If I understood the video it appears there is only OSB and foil backed felt under the finished flooring. That translates to a cold winter floor. What am I missing?

      Reply
      1. Greytourist

        But a dry floor. In the video, they were worried about condensation buildup with “floor leveling”, or filling in the corrugations with insulation. It’d be cool if someone figured out a way to use honeycomb paneling of the type used in aircraft partitions in flooring, but the structural demands of van floors probably would preclude it. As well as the stratospheric cost of honeycomb composite.

        Reply
      2. James - Post author

        Don’t forget as well, in a van, you always have to be concerned about taking up headroom. In the ceiling, you have ribs, and you can insulate between them without shrinking the ceiling. But on the floor, every half-inch you add comes right off of the headroom. Also, the insulation you put in a floor has to be pretty rigid so it won’t compress and make things un-level, so there are fewer options.

        Personally, I’d love to see better insulated floors. But I think you’d need something like a very small Class C (where they build their own floor) to pull that off.

        Reply
    8. Bill Redding

      Three Talking Points if you will:

      1.Don’t like the FLEXIBLE solar panels on the roof: They have a poor track-record with assorted problems and don’t last very long (durability-wise). They should be using RIGID panels only: WAY more reliable and can last decades.

      2. IMO, the most important reason for having the AC under the vehicle allows for more freed-up roof space, which then allows for more solar panels, which means more solar output.

      With all the “traditional” items on the roof of almost all RVs (regardless of class) that pretty much MUST be up there — vents, exhaust fans, and maybe even a TV antenna — plus the fact that they aren’t usually laid-out efficiently, too much roof real estate is wasted as there’s no room for enough solar panels all that roof space COULD accommodate. I’d like to see room for (and factory-installed, on a roof-rack perhaps) 3 of the large 300-350W solar panels up there. Presently you might find room for only 2, and that’s decent, but today that’s really not enough. For a Class B sized vehicle, I think 3 panels (just over 1KW) is the “sweet spot.” With at least 2 (if not 4, although pricing is outrageous!) lithium batteries, that’d be an outstanding setup for any boon-docking/off-grid adventures.

      3. DO like/appreciate all the effort Coachmen goes through to make a 4-Season Class B (RARE in this segment) but I’d like to see the OTHER half of the equation addressed: Producing a 4-Season Class B that ALSO has 4×4/AWD. Again, that’d not only make the RV usable all year long, but off-the-pavement as well — getting to less crowded boon-docking sites.

      — BR

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        With regards to 1 and 2… you’re not going to dig this rationale, but here goes:
        Most of the coaches you saw in the video were lithium powered coaches (not all, but most, and the one you saw the roof of was).
        With a large capacity lithium-ion battery and a second alternator to charge it extremely rapidly, lots and lots of solar on a class B simply doesn’t make sense.
        Compared to the size of the battery and the output of the alternator, the amount of solar you can get on the roof of a B just doesn’t justify the cost and effort.
        Case in point, I am actually considering *REMOVING* solar panels from the roof of Lance so I can do something more useful with the space. Seriously.
        If I drive most every day… and driving for 15 minutes provides more charge than a full day of solar… why dedicate the roof space to it?
        I’m not saying solar isn’t cool. Just that in these vans, most people only *think* they need a lot of it.

        But I’m with you in appreciating the effort that Coachmen is putting into 4 season RVing. Love it!

        Reply
        1. Bill Redding

          No, I certainly can “dig” your rationale, and the “super alternator” solution to power needs does seem to be a good option, but I suppose I was addressing the Class B segment in general/across-the-board rather than a particular brand/model providing exceptions.
          Also, for a B that doesn’t come with any “super alternator system” — especially if the industry as whole doesn’t adopt that in the future (TMK, most Bs don’t have it presently) then the traditional solar panel route is the only option…if we put aside marine-type wind turbines and of course, small gasoline generators such as a Honda or Yamaha (which I’d prefer over the larger built-in generators many RVs have come with for decades now).
          Further, it may be a “personal taste” thing, meaning some people may like the simplicity (and “purity” if you will) of getting their energy from panels not generators, which being mechanical could fail — solar panels have no moving parts, should last at least 20 years, and so less to go wrong out there in the Outback (I like applying the KISS Principle when I can). 😉
          Happy Travels,
          — BR

        1. Bill Redding

          @ Diane:
          I’d like to see 4×4/AWD models available on an American-branded chassis by the major makers (mass-producers) of Class Bs, meaning the Ford Transit and Dodge ProMaster…along with a gas engine. I’m sure 3rd party/specialty shops can/do add 4×4 capability to American chassis but I’m referring to products coming from the major B-Makers presently right from their factories as “standard” offerings.
          I still have mixed feelings about the Sprinter platform and its diesel engine, but for now (TMK) if you want a Class B with “4×4” the only game in town is the Mercedes Benz Sprinter/diesel…no other choice.
          — BR

        1. Robert

          According to Quigley about a couple of months ago (NOV/2018), the RV VANS with liquid TANKS (fresh, grey, black) make it impossible to install 4×4.
          Another word, the 4×4 can only be installed prior to RV is built to the chassis .
          Also, cost wise, according to website of Pheonix Cruiser, it’s 24K opt.

    9. Barry

      I am very interested in the 12V AC. I read a comment that the ProAir will not make it to the Crossfit even though they have already produced a few Crossfits with it. For me the lack of ProAir would be a deal breaker.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I suspect that if they knew the ProAir was a deal breaker for people, Coachmen would consider adding it to the Crossfit. (It would require a new wiring setup though.)
        Do keep in mind I’m not an official Coachmen spokesperson, so these are just my thoughts.

        Reply
    10. David Huff

      I’m really happy with all their improvements. The Crossfit is at the top of our short list. I’m also hoping that the Lithionics system comes down from its pretty premium price over the next few years…

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The Crossfit is apparently on a lot of short lists – judging from the number of them we saw on the line in Indiana!

        Reply
    11. Jacqueline Milton

      Hey James and Stef, I wrote a while back and made mention of the galleria 24a and you did report that you were going to the factory and now you have reported on your visit. You did make mention of some of the great new features that are now being offered from Galleria for their customers. But you did not mention the galleria 24 A. I trust you and Stef so much. Both of you are such hands on people and really pay attention to detail and quality. That is why I wanted your opinion and hopefully a walk through of the galleria 24 A. I am so excited about their four season offerings and their new tech stuff. James by the way how is your work space build coming along. My husband always says that you put other men on spot(smile), with wives telling their husbands, “come and look what James is building now.” I have come to really enjoy your sharing your rv life with us, the veiwers. You both have opened a whole new world and life style to some of us. The health tips are great. I have learned so much from the two of you. Thanks and God Bless you both.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        We do have a second video coming in a few weeks where we’ll review the 24A. Stay tuned!
        (And now, back to work on my shop…)

        Reply
        1. Nate Ravid

          James, We are ordering the 24A, and there is very little information available on some of the differentiating features of this floor plan, so I hope you get a good look at it. The extra space under the bed was our deciding factor. Also, they don’t talk much about the options of the area behind the driver’s seat (jumpseat/fold out sofa, extra chair, desk) so I hope that Nick can provide more information related to that. Thanks for the great video, as it helped verify that we made a good choice in RVs.

    12. James D.

      The phase change has potential to make a noticeable difference in conjunction with everything else they’re doing but without an air gap that radiant barrier is just a gimmick because it does nothing to stop thermal conductance.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I had the same thoughts about radiant barriers – they need an air gap.
        One thing I did note is that they never seemed to use a radiant barrier by itself. It always seemed to be laminated to some other insulator… felt, foam, what have you.
        So my thought there was… couldn’t hurt, and may help some.
        A big air gap would be better, but we’re building inside vans here! There’s often not the room for the air gaps.

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I’d suggest contacting Coachmen to get an answer directly. At least one other commenter seems to think the 12v AC is not available on the Crossfit at all.
        I don’t have any notes on that specifically.

        Reply
    13. Rex in Austin

      Excellent video! Being somewhat disenchanted with the cargo capacity of my 2015 Viva, I watch all vehicle suspension upgrades with additional focus. Would you comment or speculate on the possible long term negative impact of helper springs on other suspension or vehicle components? Can you exceed the capacity of axle bearings or some other component? Furthermore, do these bump stops do anything more than remove the harsh impact at end of travel? They seem to reduce or consume suspension travel. Perhaps, I missed a modification of the vehicle’s suspension travel in the video?

      Reply
    14. Karen

      Loved the video of the Coachman factory. I may have missed it in the video, but I am really interested in AGS, Automatic Generator Started. Do they have that option? Loved the levels they are using. I would love to see more factory tours. It will help in our decision.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        They don’t offer an automatic start on the Sprinter chassis because Mercedes-Benz doesn’t want them to.
        But I believe they do offer an auto-start on the Crossfit.
        (At least I think I remember Nick saying that… Someone should check.)

        Reply
    15. Noel

      Thanks, James and Stef, for another great summary about what’s happening in the B world at Coachmen. Many B owners are intrigued by the AC options in terms of energy supply, sound, and quality. Were you able to get a chance to hear the ProAir run or have intel on the dbs? The Phase Change is also interesting, but don’t know how I’d feel about a liquid property behind my walls and ceiling. Initial thoughts on that?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Hey Noel! We did put up a facebook live video where I was running the ProAir in the test rig we were camped in. I ran the heat up really high so the compressor would kick on. Now granted, this was in January, so probably not a super good test, but we thought the noise was quieter and “different” from our current air conditioner. I didn’t measure the decibels (next time, suggest this earlier! lol), so I won’t hazard a guess. It was running in a coach they had at the Tampa show, and most people there seemed to think it was pretty quiet as well.
        As far as phase change… apparently, the liquid is something like coconut oil. The foil pouches were pretty thick, and the liquid is only liquid at higher temperatures. I wouldn’t worry about it too much, but that’s why I asked the question about hazards of punctures. It would require extra care if putting any nails or screws in the exterior walls though. Beyond that, I’d be OK with it.

        Reply
        1. Gordon Williams

          All they need to do is put a layer of Kevlar between the Phase Change Insulation and the interior walls! Of course, that would mean the coach would be relatively bulletproof, with the palm oil taking some of the energy out of the incoming rounds and the Kevlar preventing them from penetrating…then they could install the Israeli Trophy system to deal with RPGs…uh, oh, my wife says that’s enough…James, I feel your pain; we can’t have any fun…

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Comment moderation is in use. Please do not submit your comment twice -- it will appear once we have had the chance to review it.