Can electric cars tow?

In Buyer's Guideby evarchiveLeave a Comment

Electric cars can tow, but it depends on how the manufacturers have designed the car. Electric cars are naturally better at towing than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars due to the high amount of torque they create from a standstill. The problem is that a lot of car manufacturers have not designed their electric cars to be able to resist the forces towing imposes. It’s not one of their priorities when designing an electric car at the moment, but it will be in the future when they realize there is a gap in the market. I think this is a lost opportunity for some car manufacturers, they could make extra sales by designing their cars for towing.

That is not to say that there aren’t any electric cars out there that can tow, it’s just that the majority either do not have the capacity due to the design of the manufacturer or have not been tested with an official authority. In Europe, the testing regulation for towing is EC 94/20 which the manufacturers could test against to gain approval. Electric cars that can tow have not been made due to some of the following reasons:

  • Cost & Time– they may need to spend more time designing, testing and using stronger structural parts on the car to resist towing forces.
  • Public perception– I have read various articles saying that car manufacturers don’t want people to tow their electric cars as this will show a reduced range of the vehicle. I think this is nonsense as you would show the range without towing as well as with. Anyone with common sense knows that when you are towing something you are carrying extra weight, which will reduce your range.
  • Lifestyle– car manufacturers know that people with certain types of cars aren’t interested in towing. For example, people don’t buy sports cars or small hatchbacks based on towing capacities.

Which electric cars can tow?

Tesla Model X is the only electric car that can officially tow according to the manufacturer. The Model X has a towing capacity of 5000lbs (2250kg) when using the 20-inch wheels and if the 22-inch wheels are used the car’s settings towing capacity is reduced to 3500lbs (1500kg). The Tesla Model X is an expensive car which can cost over $100,000 to buy brand new, however, cheaper ones can be picked up on the used car market. Let’s hope that cheaper electric cars that can tow become available soon.

Which future electric cars can tow?

The Rivian R1T luxury pickup truck will be able to tow up to 11,000lbs (5000kg) capacity. The R1T is due to be released in late 2020 at a cost of $69,000 before incentives. Rivian Automotive is an American based automaker located in Illinois. They are a new car manufacturer entering the market and their seems to be quite a buzz about them. So much so, that some of the legacy automakers will quickly ramp up there own electric pickup truck programs faster than originally expected, watch this space. I have to say, I am in the group of people that does not like the look of their headlights, I think people either love or hate them. However, if Rivian releases the car with the quoted specs, all the competitors in the luxury pickup market will be playing catch-up.

It’s also worth noting that Rivian will start production on an SUV in 2021 called the R1S, it has a smaller towing capacity of 7700lbs (3500kg) compared to the pickup truck. But, has very similar specs that the truck has.

Tesla Model 3 will be able to tow once the towing capacity has been confirmed by Tesla. The car is currently in production and is available to buy now, but the towing capacity was kind of an afterthought by Tesla. I have seen multiple reports saying that they are testing the tow capacity before they release the actual figure. However, Tesla has been quite conservative with their maximum towing capacities in the past. That is to say that the Model X has towed a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on one occasion and a semi truck through the snow on another, which is quite incredible really.

Tesla Model Y is due to start production approximately mid-2020 and this should be able to tow, no specs have been revealed thus far and we don’t actually know exactly what the car will look like yet. Some concept artists impressions have been created showing only the outline of the car. According to Elon Musk, the Model Y unveiling could happen in March this year. The Model Y is meant to be the newer more affordable version of the Model X, similar to what the Model 3 is to the Model S.

The Bollinger B1 will be able to tow and has a towing capacity of 16,500lbs (7500kg). Bollinger is an American based automaker who is located in New York. The Bollinger B1 is an all-electric SUV and production should start in late 2019. Another Model called the B2 will also have the same towing capacity of 16,500lbs (7500kg), but the B2 is a pickup truck. The B1 reminds me of the old school land rover that farmers used to own, but it’s a bit boxier.

Audi e-Tron Quattro SUV should be able to tow after Audi released pictures of their prototype pulling an electric race car on a trailer. No specs or price have been released yet, but this looks like a pretty big hint that towing will be possible with this car. The car should start production this year and has a starting price of $99,000 in Germany with international pricing to be released later.

Can electric cars tow a trailer?

Yes, electric cars can tow trailers, Tesla Model X is the only approved electric car for towing. Due to the lighter nature of trailers, in comparison to caravans, I would think as more electric cars are released in the future, there will be much more choice when selecting an electric car that has the capacity to pull a trailer. Trailers are more popular in Europe than the USA or Canada, as you have probably noticed there aren’t many pickup trucks in Europe. The European solution is to have a trailer and tow it behind your car, people normally use their everyday car and hitch on the trailer when they need to transport more stuff or bigger items.

Can electric cars tow a caravan?

Certain Electric cars can tow caravans, the Tesla Model X currently comes with a 13-pin female connector which allows you to connect the electronics of the Caravan with the Tesla. It might be worth checking if the pin connector is correct for your region as I know different countries use different pins etc. Once you connect the Tesla and the caravan via the pin connector the car should automatically enter into towing mode, if not go into control→ driving → towing mode. It is important to do this so that the car’s settings have been set up for towing purposes.

A good weight ratio between the car and the caravan is needed as well as good weight distribution, this helps avoid the caravan from snaking whilst driving. Snaking is when the caravan weaves side to side behind the car. Since electric cars are generally heavier than their internal combustion engine counterparts, this should be a bonus for caravan enthusiasts. Some electric cars have a battery distributed along the whole length of the car, which would benefit the weight distribution.

An interesting thing for me regarding caravan travel with electric cars is that you could be self-sufficient in the future. What do I mean by self-sufficient? Well, if you have a big enough battery in your car you could go wild camping with the caravan, instead of been restricted to caravan sites. The electric car would just act as a large battery to power the caravan. You could use all the lights, the electrical sockets and cook food etc. As long as you make sure there is enough juice for your car to get to the next charging station, there shouldn’t be a problem. This is why when electric RV’s/motorhomes start to join the electric revolution I think this will be a big bonus for owners. You can use your battery pack for everything, you could even set up some solar panels for when you’re parked up and start charging up some of the battery.

Can an electric car be flat towed?

No, generally electric cars cannot be flat towed. One of the main reasons for this is the regenerative braking on electric cars. Regenerative breaking is when you take your foot off the accelerator pedal and the car automatically brakes itself. This is done by reversing the direction of the electric motor in the car and using the kinetic energy (movement energy) of the car to charge up the battery. Only small amounts of energy are transferred to the battery at a time, but over a long journey it can add up. Regenerative braking can generally be set to harder or softer modes depending on the driver’s preference. The harder the regenerative braking the more energy you put back into the battery. Mechanical brakes which are in all gas cars lose any kinetic energy they have through friction which then creates heat. The good news is that electric cars also have mechanical brakes which everyone who drives, is familiar with. This is used when the regen braking is not strong enough to stop the car at the position you want to stop. For some people, it is a strange sensation to have the car brake when you take your foot off the accelerator, but you get used to it over time. For the experienced electric car drivers out there, they only need to use one pedal the majority of the time which is the accelerator pedal and the regen braking takes care of the majority of the rest.  

I have found only one example where a manufacturer has said that their electric car can be flat towed. The Bollinger B1 and the B2 Model can be flat towed, however, I would have thought these cars would be too big to be flat towed behind an RV/Motorhome. When this car is released hopefully we can see the technology side of how they got around the regen breaking issue all the other electric cars have.

What is flat towing?

Flat towing is when a car is towed by another vehicle and the car has all four wheels on the ground. Situations, where this happens, is when an RV or a motorhome tows a car behind it using a tow bar. A tow bar is normally used as this is one of the least expensive options when towing, especially when compared to a trailer or a tow dolly.

What is EC 94/20?

EC 94/20 is a European directive which states, the design, testing & manufacturing of tow-bar and tow-hitches. This directive only applies to lightweight passenger vehicles and excludes commercial vehicles etc. Various tests such as a push/pull test are applied to the tow hitch where it can be tested up to two million times, which will show any fatigue in the tow hitch. After the testing is complete the tow hitch should show no signs of cracking or deformation.

An important thing to mention is you don’t have to buy your car manufacturers tow hitch you can use another brand as long as it complies with the max towing weight approved for your vehicle. All tow hitches should have stamps on them showing, company name, E designation, D-value, and S-Value (for European countries).

What is D-value and S-value on a tow hitch?

D-value is basically the maximum dynamic loading of a tow hitch between a vehicle and its trailer. Since dynamic loading is a force, the maximum loading is shown in KiloNewtons (kN).

S-value is basically the maximum vertical weight in kilograms coming down on the top of the tow hitch, this is also known as the “nose load”.

Please check that you comply with the latest government standards and directives as the correct towing vehicle, trailer, and tow hitch is the responsibility of the user.

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