Truck Camper News

Goal Zero Has Plans For Truck Campers

Bill Harmon, General Manager for Goal Zero, talks to Truck Camper Magazine about pioneering portable lithium power stations, lithium product development, and Goal Zero’s plans for the RV and truck camper marketplaces. Plug into what’s coming.

Goal Zero Bill Harmon GM Interview

Seven years ago Goal Zero debuted the Yeti 400 portable lithium power station and immediately caught our attention. There was an all-in-one lunchbox-sized product with a 400 amp hour lithium battery, solar controller, 110-volt inverter, and a front panel bristling with six outlets–one 12-volt out, three USB, and two 110-volt–to go.

Our Yeti 400 instantly became a vital part of our on-the-road work and play lifestyle. We used our Goal Zero to keep our laptops, cameras, and other 110-volt items charged and charged the Goal Zero via our 12-volt outlet and rooftop solar panels. Even better, we could put the Goal Zero where we needed it; on the dinette table for work, in the cabover for our 110-volt TV, and even outside to power tools and video lights.

Three years later, Scout Campers debuted using Goal Zero Yeti portable lithium power stations as their primary battery and electrical system. The Scout concept was an immediate hit establishing portable lithium power stations as a viable solution for truck campers. That, as the saying goes, was a game changer in the truck camper marketplace.

In the years that followed, the concept of using modular/portable all-in-one lithium power stations as the primary battery source and electrical system in a truck camper was mostly contained to small, overland-style hard side and pop-up truck campers. Larger truck campers have continued on the path of increasingly large lithium battery systems consisting of individual batteries, solar controllers, inverters, converters, circuit breakers, and fuse boxes.

That paradigm could be about to change.

When we visited Goal Zero this past summer, we were shown some cutting-edge products in development that could flip even the largest truck campers and RVs to all-in-one lithium systems; just like their smaller peers. Naturally that reveal was all off-the-record, but the seed was planted.

Today we embark on the first of two articles about the developments at Goal Zero and their implications for the RV and truck camper markets. For this first article, we talked to Bill Harmon, General Manager for Goal Zero, about the company, the true origins of the lithium power station, Goal Zero’s humanitarian efforts, and product developments that could flip a switch on the camper/RV battery and electrical system. For article two–to be published later this spring–we will dig deep into this technology with a Goal Zero engineer.

To learn more about Goal Zero and what’s charging in their product development labs, we talked to Bill Harmon, General Manager for Goal Zero.

Bill Harmon Goal Zero GM

Above: Bill Harmon, General Manager, Goal Zero

Tell us a little about your professional background and how you came to work for Goal Zero.

I spent the first part of my career in consulting about IT and traveling. When I had a family, I didn’t want to be on the road all the time and took a job with a company called Reliant Energy. At Reliant, I got really deep into electricity and consumer power; kilowatts, what devices in a home use the most energy, and how people could be more efficient. So that was my introduction to that world.

Reliant Energy was later acquired by NRG, a larger company that owns fossil fuel power plants and was pushing into green energy. At the time, I was running the residential part of Reliant Energy out of Houston and there was a lot of pressure to find new technologies and new businesses. So I took my product development team to the Consumer Electronics Show in January of 2014.

At CES we came across a booth for this company I’d never heard of called Goal Zero. They had some smaller solar panels to charge your phone, some interesting lanterns, and a couple smaller power stations with lead acid batteries. It was a fascinating set of products. I remember leaving the booth, and then grabbing one of my guys later in the show and saying, “Hey, I want to show you something.”

We walked back to the Goal Zero booth and I somehow had the guts to ask the person who was running the company, “I’m just curious, what’s your revenue?” A lot of times people won’t disclose that, but she did. When she told me the number, it didn’t sound absurd for NRG to actually acquire the business. NRG was a big company with deep pockets and was looking for businesses like that. Nine months later, we acquired the business. That was September of 2014.

At that point, I had been in my role at Reliant Energy for five years. That’s about the point where I start getting antsy. That’s when the opportunity to take on Goal Zero and move from Houston to Utah was presented. I’ve been here ever since; nine years now.

So you’re probably getting antsy again.

Yeah, a little bit. Fortunately, things have changed a lot at Goal Zero. We’ve changed the business and product strategies. That keeps it fresh. But yeah, I suppose you’re right [laughs].

Goal Zero Humanitarian Efforts In Bolivia

Above: Goal Zero installing solar panels in Bolivia

Goal Zero was founded with the purpose of providing power to populations beyond the reach or means of an electric grid; including the Navajo Nation. How has that mission impacted the way you approach the role of General Manager of Goal Zero?

That’s a really good question. Many large companies have some sort of humanitarian mission; a ‘check the box’ exercise. That’s not what’s going on here at Goal Zero.

The first power station ever developed on the planet was developed for people in the Congo. It wasn’t even meant to be a product or sold. It was only afterward that the team realized there was a commercial interest for outdoor recreation. That’s how Goal Zero became a commercial reality.

When a large company comes in to take over a small entrepreneurial business, everyone is scared to death that you’ll crush the original culture, spirit, and will. It was really important to me that we didn’t do that, or at least tried to minimize that impact. So we have maintained Goal Zero’s humanitarian culture ever since. If you talked to our CEO and Founder, Robert Workman, he would tell you that we do more today than before the acquisition because we have deeper pockets and the ability grow our business and revenues. We have continued to move our profits toward those efforts.

Goal Zero Navajo Nation Help

Above: A Goal Zero project with the Navajo Nation

Every year we do two projects. One is almost always with the Navajo Nation because it’s in our backyard. Most people don’t realize that 15,000 people right here in our own country live in homes without electricity. It feels like you’re in a third-world country. We really can help. Our product is designed to fit their exact needs.

Goal Zero Bill Hartman Navajo Nation

Above: Bill Harmon prepping a Goal Zero solar panel for a Navajo Nation project

I usually take twenty-five employees to the Navajo Nation every year and set up about fifty homes with small-scale solar plus battery storage. We also do another trip internationally, usually in partnership with one of our ambassadors like Mike Lebeck and Dell Computers.

We will go somewhere where they have never seen a computer, or never seen electrical power and set up a community center with computers, satellite internet, and our power. That’s a big part of our history and our future. Your readers can learn more about that effort through

Goal Zero Lights And Power Stations In Bolivia

Above: Installing power and electric light in a Bolivia classroom

Goal Zero is an outdoor recreation-oriented company. Are you personally an outdoor enthusiast?

I grew up in the generation where our parents kicked us out of the house; particularly in the summer. They would say, “Come back for dinner”. So we were out on our bikes and exploring. I love Houston and Texas to death, but it’s super humid. I sometimes kid the only time you go outside in Houston is to get in the car or get in the pool [laughs]. At the time, we had young kids and I was starting to see that materialize in their lives; where they didn’t want to go outside. That just wasn’t how I wanted them to grow up.

In Utah, we do a lot of skiing and biking. We have a lot of mountain biking folks within the company. We’ll go on bike rides together. There’s also a lot of camping and hiking; it’s a big part of the culture. I literally live at the base of the mountains. I can get on my mountain bike, ride a mile, and be in the mountains. That lifestyle is a big part of Goal Zero with our employees and the customers we serve. We use our products all the time in everyday life.

Goal Zero Yeti Pro 4000 With Extra TankKs In Garage

Above: The Goal Zero Yeti Pro 4000 with two Tank Pro 4000 power expansions

That sounds idyllic. Are there any Goal Zero products you would use even if you weren’t the GM?

Yeah, a couple come to mind. In October we launched our flagship sixth-generation product, the Yeti 4000 Pro. It’s a beast; 4,000-watt hours. I’ve got two of these products at my home tied into the main circuit. So if the power goes out, they automatically begin powering the house. I’ll usually take one of these when we go camping. I’ll throw it into my travel trailer and plug it in as if it’s shore power. With that unit, I effectively have full power. We can run the air conditioner or my kids can watch a movie.

Goal Zero Sherpa 100Ac Bill Harmon

The second Goal Zero product is right here on my desk; a Sherpa 100AC (shown above). I always have it in my bag. I don’t even look for the elusive plug in a conference center or hotel room. The Sherpa 100AC powers my laptop, charges my phone, and everything. If I’m on a two or three day trip, it’s all I need for power. I’m never without it.

We can relate to that. We use our Goal Zero Yeti 500X all the time; on the road in our camper and at home. How have you influenced product design and development at Goal Zero?

I had product development experience prior to Goal Zero, but those products were services; not physical goods. So the honest answer is that I didn’t have any physical product development service before joining the team here. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from the engineering teams and from going to our factories. It’s been a heck of an education for me, particularly in the first year or two.

My background helped more on the consumer experience side. I spent a lot of time thinking about the customer experience with the services that we built. How does that consumer interact with the product? How do we make the product experience as seamless as possible? Goal Zero was already good at consumer experience. It’s one of our differentiators. But that was certainly an area that I really focused on.

The second area that I focused on was the operational discipline of product development. We’ve gotten pretty disciplined about the stage gates that we go through. We make sure that a product is ready to put in front of customers. We make sure we’ve done the right testing; that the right people have signed off and we’re comfortable standing behind the product. There should be a healthy tension between the team looking to launch the product and the quality control team. We’ve put those operational disciplines in place and followed a rigorous stage gate process that wasn’t necessarily in place prior to my arrival.

Goal Zero Enginering

Above and below: Goal Zero does their own R&D and engineering at their Utah headquarteres

Does Goal Zero pursue its own lithium and battery system R&D, or use off the shelf lithium batteries and components? You must watch developments in solid state batteries closely.

Our engineering team monitors developments in battery technology, but we are not pushing those boundaries. Most of the battery technologies you read about are years away from being commercially available and cost effective. We want our products to be reasonably priced so the general public can afford them. We want a great customer experience.

Above: Goal Zero has a two building campus in Draper, Utah

Goal Zero is an international operation with headquarters in Draper, Utah. Tell us about where Goal Zero products are designed, manufactured, and serviced.

Most of the design work is done internally here in Draper, Utah. We call our headquarters a campus, but it’s really just two buildings. There’s an office building with our sales, marketing, call center, and engineering teams. Across the parking lot is our warehouse with picking, packing, shipping, receiving, and repairs.

The firmware is another big component. These products are more firmware than hardware. The electrical engineering work is shared with our manufacturing partners. Most of our products are made in China where most consumer electronics are made today, with a little bit in Vietnam.

Above: Goal Zero products are shipped from their warehouse in Draper, Utah

Have you been to China and Vietnam to oversee the manufacturing process?

I haven’t been since pre-Covid, but I’m going this year. Our teams are there all the time. A Goal Zero team was just there before the Chinese New Year and just got back. They were overseeing product development. We have tight relationships with our manufacturing partners. Our project managers are there all the time working with them as we develop new products.

Above: Goal Zero’s wall of product innovation from 2009 to present day

One of the more impactful trends in the truck camper marketplace over the past five years is the use of Goal Zero lithium power stations as the sole power source, inverter, and solar controller for a truck camper. Has Goal Zero taken an active interest in the truck camper marketplace?

We absolutely are. If you walk into our lobby, there is one wall with three sections representing the customers and use cases we’re focused on. One is for outdoor recreation; which includes tailgating. The next is home resilience with backups for the home and the third is auxiliary vehicle power.

One segment of that third section is overlanding with Jeeps and vehicles that go off-grid. RVs are a big part of that from travel trailers, like I have, to truck campers. There’s an RV setup in the lobby and our product is integrated into the RV. All of the people looking to provide auxiliary power to their vehicles are a third of the market we’re focused on.

The Goal Zero Escape Ecosystem (including the Yeti Pro 4000) is a new category of larger lithium power stations for the RV/camper and home markets. What is your vision for the new Yeti Pro 4000 products and the RV marketplace?

RV manufacturers and owners are coming to us saying that the old lead acid or AGM power system is really dated and that it’s time for a change. Those old technologies will be abandoned over the next several years. People want lithium for its lighter weight and longevity and they want inverters. They need to power things that run off 120-volt power. They want to run their air conditioners off-grid. We’re feeling pressure from the RV market and consumers to disrupt the old power systems.

Goal Zero Yeti PRO 4000 Ports

The new Yeti 4000 Pro system, particularly if you add one of the tanks, can run an entire RV including the air conditioner. It’s a tipping point. People want to go camping and they want to be comfortable. You need 6 to 8kW hours of power with a lot of solar to replenish that and run the air conditioner for hours a day. That’s where the 4000 Pro system fits in. It’s for reasonably large power needs when you’re camping off-grid.

There are 6-8 kWh hours of power with solar to replenish it and run the air conditioner.

Is there a team at Goal Zero that can work with the truck camper companies and engage their design and engineering groups?

We have a hands-on team. We’ve been at numerous RV manufacturer facilities to walk through how the units are built and talk about how our products can be integrated. Their mission is to engage RV manufacturers and teams. They will get on a plane, talk to the companies, demonstrate our system, and look at how we integrate. They also have a direct line of communication with our engineering teams and are ready to receive feedback on changes we can make to improve the product to meet their needs.

Is there anything else you want the RV and truck camper marketplaces and communities to know about Goal Zero and its products?

Providing power and solving problems and opportunities for the RV market is a distinct part of Goal Zero’s business. We’re really focused on it.

Beyond having the Yeti 4000, we’ve designed integration kits specifically for RVs. These kits are for motorhomes, towables, or campers and tie into the vehicle’s alternator so you’re recharging the battery as you drive. We believe we have some good solutions that will fit the RV and truck camper market, but our ears are open. We have a team dedicated to this that’s ready to visit the manufacturers and partner with them. That’s where we’re headed as a business.

I can tell you a little tidbit. We have new power station sizes that are going to be perfect for the truck camper market. They will come out toward the end of this year. For a camper application where the Yeti 4000 is a little big, and a 500 is a little small, we’ll have a solution with all the benefits of the Yeti 4000, but at a smaller size and cost, and still with a way to expand and integrate it the same way.

We had new power stations launch a few weeks ago. New sizes are going to be available for the truck camper market at the end of this year.  They will have the solution benefits of the 4000.

For more information on Goal Zero’s products, visit their website at Click here for a Goal Zero brochure.


Truck Camper Chooser
To Top