Charging While Towing – The Biggest Challenge


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As I frequently discuss on this site, when towing you should generally expect around a 50% reduction in the vehicle’s range. The weight of the trailer/RV and its aerodynamic profile both play their part in reducing the distance an electric car can travel. Electric car efficiency is also heavily influenced by the speed at which you’re travelling. Therefore, when towing with an electric car on the highway/freeway range can be significantly reduced. So we need to talk about the current state of rapid charging in the US.

Charging While Towing - The Biggest Challenge
Whether its a Tesla Supercharge (left), Electrify America station (centre) or ChargePoint station (right) access to them while towing may be a challenge: Images – Tesla.com, ElectrifyAmerica.com & ChargePoint.com

Introduction To Charging While Towing

I’ve previously written about destination charging an electric tow car, sometimes referenced to as Level 1 and Level 2 charging. This will include charging via a 3 pin plug or 7kW dedicated EV charger at your home or destination which could be an RV site etc.

I’ve also previously written about rapid charging an electric tow car explaining the different rapid charging standards, speeds and charging networks etc. Within those articles, I’m mainly discussing the technical capabilities/limitations of current charging technology/infrastructure.

What I want to discuss in this article is the current practicalities (or lack thereof) of charging an electric car or truck while towing. Hence, with a trailer/RV on the back of the car/truck can you actually get into a charging bay or even get to a charging bay?

Current State Of US Rapid Charging Options

As I stated at the start of this article, its when an electric car is travelling at high speeds, hence on the highway/freeway where range reduction is most significant. Put a trailer/RV on the back of an electric car or truck with its associated weight/aerodynamic drag and the range is reduced further.

If you browse my electric tow car list you will see that the market is delivering more and more electric cars that can tow, and the driving range of these cars is increasing. As things currently stand it would appear that most electric tow cars on sale today could cover at least 100 miles towing even under a worst-case scenario (high speeds up a hill in bad weather etc).

If you were to travel over 100 miles with a trailer/RV in tow its highly likely you are doing so via a freeway/highway. Hence, you are going to want to rapid charge during the journey. Below is a list of the most widely available rapid charger operators in the US

Let’s discuss the current challenge of charging an electric tow car/truck that’s towing a trailer/RV at any of these rapid charger providers. I’ve tried to get in touch with the press teams of each of the charging networks above, however, non have responded to my questions. Though I would welcome their feedback.

Tesla Supercharger Network

While I’d love to get in touch with Tesla to discuss their Supercharger infrastructure with regards to electric cars towing, they currently have no press department so that’s not an option. Therefore, we are left with information from users on their experiences.

Most Tesla Supercharger stalls are designed for the vehicle to back up into the charger due to the location of the charge port on the rear driver’s side on all Tesla vehicles. However, that’s obviously not ideal for a Tesla Model X, Model Y or the upcoming Cybertruck when towing.

Therefore, some existing Tesla owners who tow have been pulling alongside Superchargers in order to charge. However, that’s obviously only possible when there are lots of empty stalls. Alternatively, they are having to unhitch and park up the trailer/RV and then go over to the Supercharger stalls.

Pull-through Tesla Supercharger Stalls
Some Tesla Supercharger stalls are pull-through but in many cases its going to lead to blocking another charger: Image – Teslamotorsclub.com (ecarfan)

As can be seen in the image above, there are some Tesla Supercharger locations where the stalls are pull-through. However, in many cases, it will still lead to blocking another charger. So while it is possible to tow and use Tesla Superchargers, existing facilities are not currently well set up for towing.

If Tesla hopes to realise even a fraction of their Tesla Cybertruck pre-orders and even a small proportion of those owners intend to tow with current Tesla charging infrastructure/charger layouts it would create significant issues for all users.

Tesla must be aware of this issue and I’m sure they are. It’s just as of this moment its not clear what plans they are going to put in place to address the challenge of charging while towing. As soon as I see news on such plans I will reference it here.

Electrify America Network

While there are other non-Tesla rapid charging network providers as shown above, the most widely available provider which also currently has some of the fastest 350kW rapid chargers is the Electrify America network.

The origins of the Electrify America network are from the soot particles of the VW ‘Diesel Gate’ scandal of 2015. The result of which was a large multi-billion dollar penalty for VW and the setup of the Electrify America rapid charging network.

Now, anyone who owns an electric vehicle other than a Tesla will likely need to use the Electrify America network on their trip if its over 100 miles while towing. Hence, let’s take for example owners of the Rivian R1T electric pick-up. Below I’ve embedded a video from TFL Truck discussing a cross country towing journey taken by one of the first Rivian owners.

A discussion on the first cross country trip (2,700 miles) made by a Rivian R1T towing a pretty heavy trailer

The fact that the owner of the Rivian had to charge roughly every 100 miles is not too surprising to me, and if you have read my electric tow car guide articles, it shouldn’t surprise you either. Towing a 6,500 lb trailer at high speeds is going to result in some significant range loss.

What we’re specifically discussing here though is the charging experience, hence getting to and using the rapid chargers. Note that the charge port on the Rivian R1T is on the front driver’s side corner of the vehicle, hence the need to pull up front onto the charger to use it.

As you can see from the photos within the video above that means two things with the trailer still attached. First, charging while still attached in most cases created an obstacle to other users trying to get to and from the rapid chargers.

Second, charging while still attached means the Rivian owner has to reverse out with the trailer attached after charging. As you can see by the limited access/turning space within many of the Electrify America charging locations they visited, those reversing manoeuvres must have been ‘fun’.

Conclusions On Charging While Towing

As electric tow car/truck adoption rates are still relatively low compared to the number of existing rapid charging stalls it would be possible in some instances to charge while towing and blocking other chargers as they are not in use.

However, that’s obviously not sustainable as more electric car owners come to use rapid charging bays, hence charging while towing that way will simply not be possible. Therefore, in that instance, the trailer/RV would need to be parked up and unhitched before driving over to the rapid charger.

That obviously also presumes there is somewhere suitable to park up and unhitch the trailer/RV somewhere near to the rapid chargers that also won’t block access for other users. Hence, the title of this article that charging while towing is the biggest challenge.

We need all rapid charging network operators to provide proper dedicated pull-through charging bays for electric cars/trucks which are towing. However, currently, there seems to be few plans in place from any of the rapid charger network operators to provide such solutions.

I get why in one regard, as there are currently so few electric cars/truck towing at the moment. But customers of these electric vehicles are going to start to tow with them. Hence, to avoid a lot of potential challenges/conflicts with rapid charger users, this issue needs to be addressed ASAP.

Chris

Hi, I’m Chris. I own and write all the content on ElectricTowCars.com. The content above is purely my own personal thoughts/opinions/research and should not be treated as professional advice. I hope you find the content above useful to help you find your future ideal electric tow car or truck.

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