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Martin Perlot, President, SilverLeaf Electronics, Inc.

Each issue will feature an article from one of our vendors dealing with some aspect of our motorcoach system.

One thing I've noticed in 15 years of RVing with my family is how proud most motorhome owners are of their toolboxes - and the things we use all those tools for. RVers seem to be genetically predisposed to building and tinkering and making things better. Some of us are woodworkers, quick to add a little cabinet in just the right space to hold our wife's craft projects. Some of us are mechanics, putting our attention to getting a little better flow into the intake manifold. Some of us are engineers, busy devising a ramp and carrier that lets us take both our motorcycle and our tow car.

Me? I'm an expert on electrons. When I'm in my coach I'm always looking for things I can improve electronically. But I don't just tinker

  • -

    I have the benefit of a whole staff of engineers that help me turn my

pet projects into products that can be put into anyone's coach. And Foretravel, happily enough, is quick to put my ideas into their incredible coaches.

I should mention up front, not all my ideas come from my own RVing experiences. Many come from talking to people at rallies. Many come from the people at Foretravel in Sales, Engineering, and especially in Service. Many come from watching other industries - especially aircraft - and keeping up with the latest chip technologies. It doesn't matter to me where the idea comes from. What matters is how it makes RVing more fun.

Let me give you a few examples taken from a coach that I am particularly proud of. The 2006 Foretravel Phenix has a truly groundbreaking set of electronics installed. If you opt for the full package with all the options, it is unquestionably the most advanced production coach on the market today at any price. It has all my favorite features.

We'll start in the dash, where Foretravel has offered our VMS 400 CL as an option. If you have never driven with a VMS in your dash, then you don't know how much more enjoyable it is to drive confident that you know exactly what is going on under the engine cover. Personally, I enjoy being able to watch my fuel economy as a go down the road, and I find myself reacting to hills and headwinds to get better fuel economy. Many people have told me that with just a little attention to the VMS you can get an extra fifty to a hundred miles from each tank of fuel.

And when you hit the hills on a hot day, there is no substitute for the plethora of gauges the VMS provides - all accurate to a single degree. Again I have a favorite - the Intake Manifold Temperature is my early warning device. When I see the manifold start to get hot, I know the rest of the engine will be warming up soon. Instead of just reacting to a hot engine after the fact, you can anticipate and adjust in advance.

The VMS 400 comes with another don't-leave-home-without-it feature: TireSafeGuard. Foretravel installs sensors in every tire that broadcast the temperature and pressure to be displayed on the VMS. You can add sensors to your tow car, as well. Since usually a tire gets hot before she actually blows, the TireSafeGuard can often help you prevent a blowout. Considering the damage that a separated tread can do to your undercarraige - or the consequences of losing a tow car steer tire - I can't imagine not having TireSafeGuard monitoring my tires.

Of course, we do more than just drive our coaches. Sometimes we slow down enough to enjoy the interiors, so we've put some attention to the livability features of the coach. In fact, we've put a

lot of “intelligence” into the Phenix through what we call the “Total Coach System.” The result is that the coach is easier to enjoy, and it takes care of a lot of things for you.

For example, we've programmed the system to start the generator not only when the batteries get low, but any time the air conditioners need to run and there isn't shore power available. You don't have to worry about leaving your coach for the day at the rally and coming back to a swelter. The Total Coach System will keep things cool while you are enjoying the day.

I equipped my own coach with radiant tile heat. If you haven't experienced the joys of toasty toes on a chill desert morning, you aren't fully living in the twenty-first century. But my one frustration with the system in my coach is figuring out the thermostat. So when Foretravel decided to option Goldheat into the Phenix, I programmed in exactly the thermostat control I always wanted. And that means it's simple. Press the Up arrow to make it toastier. Down does the opposite. You can have it come on just before you wake up in the morning, if you like, and turn off later in the morning. Tile heat is one of life's simple pleasures - and we've kept it that way.

We've done the same for the other coach systems. The Phenix has one unified coach display that monitors your tank levels, batteries, inverter/charger, generator, transfer switch, and more. With everything in one place it's easy to check that everything is okay. In fact, there is a set of lamps right on the face - green, yellow, and red. If the green light is on, everything is peachy. The yellow light indicates something routine is wrong, such as a waste tank is nearly full or the batteries are low. The red light points to something serious. Additional lights will point you to the specific system that is having problems. Press a single button and you'll be told exactly what is wrong.

One common example of this is what happens when the power post you plug into at the RV park is miswired or the park power is bad. The AEC transfer switch automatically checks the power before it lets it into your coach. If there is any danger to the appliances in your coach, the transfer switch won't let it through. Instead, you'll see a message on the Total Coach panel explaining exactly what is wrong. As a bonus, if the power is okay, the panel shows the amperage and voltage data so you can manage your usage.

The key to making it all work is a new standard developed by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association called RV-C. RV-C is a language that allows products from any vendor to talk to any other device. The technology is borrowed from the automotive industry, and just as your car has a data port that the mechanic hooks into to diagnose your engine, the Phenix has a data port that lets your technician diagnose the transfer switch, inverter, tank sensors, and a lot more. Foretravel has the distinction of being the first coach builder to enter production with this groundbreaking technology, while most manufacturers are still learning how it works.

Helping Foretravel design the Phenix has been one of the most rewarding projects we've had here at SilverLeaf. Foretravel's uncompromising attitude toward quality and craftsmanship complements our company's aspirations of bringing to our fellow RVers the best that technology can offer. Our motto has always been “Simply Smarter.” In this case we might modify that just a bit - the Phenix is “Simply Spectacular.”

see you down the road… 37

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