RV maker to open in Bend

Australian company makes solar- and diesel-powered all-terrain vehicles

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin / @EGlucklich

Published Jan 29, 2013 at 04:00AM

Lance Gillies wants to bring a new kind of recreational vehicle to Bend. He wants to create some jobs, too.

Gillies’ vehicle, called the EarthCruiser, is a new addition to the camper market. But it’s far from a typical RV. Powered by a combination of diesel fuel and solar energy, it’s able to run up to 10 days without a battery charge.

Founded in Queensland, Australia, in 2009, EarthCruiser Overland Vehicles has sold about 30 EarthCruisers in seven countries — including Australia, the United Kingdom, and even in Mongolia and the United Arab Emirates.

Its interior features sleeping space for two, a small dining area and a shower with a built-in water purifier. The RV sits on a 4x4 chassis, similar to most trucks, allowing it to drive over the kinds of unforgiving terrain someone might expect to encounter in the Australian outback. The price tag is $220,000.

“It’s designed to go in any type of terrain you might find, whether it’s in Africa or Australia, or Central Oregon,” Gillies said. “It’s truly an expedition vehicle, and it’s completely off the grid.”

Gillies and his wife, Michelle, moved from Australia to Portland two years ago to be closer to Michelle’s family.

But Portland’s rain proved too much for the couple. So they headed southeast and found Central Oregon. Now the couple wants to open EarthCruiser’s U.S. office in Bend, which would serve as the launch point for the company’s American sales. They recently secured their first U.S. sale, to a customer in Palo Alto, Calif.

Gillies has been in contact with Bend-based Host Industries — an RV manufacturer located near Boyd Acres Road and Brinson Boulevard — about building EarthCruisers in Bend. He doesn’t have a timeline yet for when that will happen. But Gillies said he’s committed to building a similar manufacturing presence in Bend, similar to the operation in Queensland, where about 30 workers build the vehicles.

“The intention is to bring some of that manufacturing here to Bend,” Gillies said.

Q: Where did you get the idea for the EarthCruiser?

A: I love to travel, whether it’s through Australia or anywhere else in the world. So the idea of creating a new kind of RV was something that we had been kicking around. We first developed the (EarthCruiser) model in 2008 after about a year of research and development. Then there was a lot of testing, taking it out in the wild and sort of smashing it up, seeing where we could make improvements.

Q: Where do you see the business going in the future?

A: We don’t have an exact time frame for when we want to be set up here in Bend. But we’re definitely on a mission to do that. Our long-term goal is to be successful in as many markets as possible ... If you want to be successful, you’ve got to do something different; you need a unique project. And I think we have that.

What: EarthCruiser Overland Vehicles

What it does: Makes solar- and diesel-powered, all-terrain RVs

Pictured: Lance Gillies, co-founder and owner

Where: Queensland, Australia; planned expansion to Bend

Employees: 30

Phone: 503-688-3345

Web: www.earthcruiser.com.au

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