Obviously, if I’ve based a website around the topic, yes, electric cars can tow RVs/trailers. However, just as with ICE (Internal Combustions Engine) cars, only certain electric vehicles are rated to tow and towing capacities vary from model to model. Though there is more to it, for instance, while an electric car may be capable of towing how far can it actually tow an RV/trailer? Quick answers to those questions can be found from checking out my electric tow car list. This article discusses the challenges of towing with an electric car.
Introduction To Electric Tow Cars
Ultimately, electric cars will be superior to any internal combustion car that has ever had a trailer/RV in tow. Why? Well, the attributes/features of an electric car in principle give them the potential to be an excellent tow car. First off, the torque (pulling power) of many electric cars even today embarrasses the most powerful internal combustion engines (ICE) found in your typical tow car/truck. The power/torque outputs of new electric cars coming onto the market are still continuing to increase.
Furthermore, electric cars/trucks are generally heavier than most ICE cars due to the battery pack. Now, this additional weight is a downside in some regards, as more weight does reduce overall efficiency. However, a heavy tow car/truck generally means a more stable/safer towing experience. Furthermore, the weight of the battery pack is low down, providing additional stability benefits.
As battery technologies continue to advance we will likely see lighter battery packs in electric cars/trucks that at the same time provide higher ranges. Lighter battery packs will aid efficiency, though they could potentially be a downside with regards to stability while towing. However, advancements continue to be made in hardware/software for vehicle stability/handling which continues to benefit safer towing.
While electric cars will ultimately be the superior towing vehicles over ICE cars, we are still transitioning to that point. Towing with an electric car will require changes in user behaviour and additional planning for a towing journey to go smoothly. Hence, those challenges are what I want to discuss in this article. I’ll also link to my other articles going into more detail on specific issues/challenges.
The Key Issue With Electric Tow Cars Today – Range
When it comes to normal everyday travel/commutes for many people today the latest crop of electric cars can meet most of their needs to avoid ‘range anxiety’. However, when towing an electric car will use more energy, potentially a lot more. Therefore, for many years to come towing with an EV will likely produce range anxiety concerns on long-distance trips. Higher energy density battery packs with two to three times their existing capacity will address this issue. Or a much more robust rapid charging network (with pull in bays for vehicles towing) would also help address the issue. However, for the next couple of years at least its an issue that needs to be acknowledged.
The best resource I can currently reference to explain this issue is the video below from Jason of Engineering Explained. Be aware, the video below is 18 minutes long, but even if you don’t have the time to watch it now I would very much encourage you to watch it later. Also, don’t get concerned with the daunting look of that whiteboard, Jason explains the issue current electric tow cars face very clearly and simply.
As Jason explains, the current generation of EVs have significantly less onboard energy than their ICE vehicle counterparts. With towing, especially when you factor in high speeds, going up hills etc energy consumption is dramatically increased. Therefore, the range of an EV can be significantly reduced. As a general ‘rule’, I often state to expect the range of an EV to reduce by 50%. However, as Jason shows in the video above, in certain circumstances the range reduction can be much more significant than 50%.
However, as Jason states at the end of his video, as battery technology continues to advance this issue of towing range will become less of a concern. In the meantime, electric tow car/truck owners need to have realistic expectations of what the vehicle is capable of and plan accordingly. That includes being fully aware of all rapid and destination charging options.
Summary Of Electric Tow Car Challenges
While the ultimate destination of electric tow cars will lead them to be the better alternative to ICE cars, we are not there yet. While even today there is a growing range of electric tow cars (list here), there is a series of challenges electric cars present when it comes to towing, namely:
- High initial purchase price
- Limited real-world ranges
- Range reduction while towing
- Reductions in efficiency when towing
- Availability/reliability of charging infrastructure
- The maximum rate of charge of the electric vehicle
- The impact of aerodynamic drag on towing range
Over time each of these challenges will/are becoming less of an issue. However, for at least the next several years, these are the challenges of using an electric car to tow that any potential owner needs to be aware of. I’ll be writing articles on each of these specific topics/concerns to provide more context and to reassure how these issues are being addressed. I’ll also be writing more content to explain the benefits of electric tow cars over the ICE competition. For now though, here again is the quick general rule that any potential electric tow car owner should be aware of.
When towing, you should expect an electric cars range to be roughly 50% of its typical range when not towing
Again, its very important to note, the 50% reduction in range is a very general rule. Many different factors will impact the actual towing range of the electric car. For instance, while the weight of the trailer/caravan will impact range, aerodynamic drag will in many instances turns out to be a more significant factor of range reduction. Obviously fighting gravity (going uphill) will have quite a significant impact on range. Likewise using gravity (going downhill) will reduce energy consumption.
Electric Tow Car/Truck & RV Examples
As I’ve stated above, you can check out my electric tow car/truck list for the full range of current and upcoming options for various towing capacity requirements. Though, I thought it would be useful to give a couple of examples of low weight, medium weight and heavyweight RV setups and some examples of electric tow cars/trucks capable of pulling that amount of weight.
Low Weight RV Towing Setup – 1,500 lbs
To start things off, let’s look at the example of a very small/lightweight RV up to 1,500 lbs. I chose to reference the Scamp Trailer above as an example because it has a smoother/more aerodynamic profile than many other camping RV trailers. Even with such a low weight, electric tow car owners are going to learn that the aerodynamics of their trailer matters big time when it comes to range. Anyway, there are quite a few affordable EVs which can tow this little guy. Examples include the Nissan Ariya, Polestar 2 and VW ID.4.
Medium Weight RV Towing Setup – 3,000 to 5,000 lbs
For a slightly larger more premium built RV the Airstream Bambi is as good an example as any. In my Tesla Model X article, I provide an example which demonstrates the aerodynamic advantages of an Airstream over more boxy campers. Therefore, expect to see more rounded camper designs from all RV manufacturers in the future when EV towing becomes more of a ‘thing’. Anyway, with this particular example, EVs which could tow the Bambi include the Volvo XC 40 Recharge, Tesla Model Y and Audi E-Tron.
Heavy Weight RV Towing Setup – 8,000 to 10,000 lbs
We are now looking at reasonably large RVs for family trips. Two examples of EVs which are capable of pulling such a load are the Rivian R1S SUV and Bollinger B1 and B2. However, the Bollinger as you can read bout in my linked article is definitely not going to be suitable for anything but short distance towing, in its current specification anyway.
Very Heavy Weight RV Towing Setup – 10,000 + lbs
Obviously, while the Classic is the largest RV that Airstream currently produce, its by no means the largest trailer RV available. However, it does weigh over 10,000 lbs hence its beyond the capabilities of most electric tow cars. The Rivian R1T and the Tesla Cybertruck are two vehicles which are capable of pulling such a trailer. Its likely the Hummer EV would also be able to tow this trailer. However, as of writing this article GMC has not stated the vehicles towing capacity.
Conclusions On Towing With An Electric Car/Truck
So as you can see from the above, even now before the mass adoption of electric vehicles there are a range electric tow cars/trucks for RVs/trailers. To be honest though, creating an electric car/truck that can tow is the easy part. The much tougher challenges are the other issues above related to price, range and charging infrastructure. Though, as I’ve stated above these issues are being addressed and significant process is being made to address these issues on all fronts. However, I’ll be writing more articles to explain these challenges in more detail, and how to navigate them.