Deciding to switch to an Electric Car is a big decision. You’ve probably done loads of research online about the range of electric cars, their environmental impact and battery capacities among many other things. But can electric cars tow caravans?
Technically, yes. Practically, well, there are quite a few considerations you need to make into whether the electric car of your choice can and should be used to tow a caravan. While most electric cars have the ability to tow caravans, your decision to tow depends a lot on its mileage, performance, safety, and the legal requirements.
If those sound like a lot of factors to consider – fret not! By the end of this article, you will have all the information you need to know in order to make an informed decision.
Determining the Towing Capacity of Electric Cars
Before you decide if you should use your electric vehicle to tow a caravan, you need to determine if the model you have can tow it in the first place.
To check this, look out for the model’s towing capacity. The towing capacity should be available in specifications of the model of your interest online or in the vehicle’s handbook.
For instance, Tesla’s long-range Model X boasts a towing capacity of up to 5000 pounds while the Audi E-Tron’s towing capacity is at 4000 pounds. Be sure to look at the model-specific numbers instead, as the different models from the same company can have drastically different towing capacities.
Do note that many smaller EVs don’t offer a towing capacity due to their limitations and design considerations. If you are not able to find the towing capacity in the manual or online, contact the manufacturer to check whether such a towing capacity number exists. Without a towing capacity number, you are not allowed to tow as it is a safety issue. The cars have not been tested and designed for such purposes and if you do end up using them for towing (which you shouldn’t) your warranty and insurance will certainly be void.
Now that you know the maximum weight that the vehicle can tow, you need to know what the maximum load is you are looking to tow as well. The total weight of the caravan, also known as Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM), can be found on the compliance plate of the caravan itself.
The ATM of the caravan is determined by the manufacturer and accounts for the total weight of the caravan including cargo, fuel and other loads.
When the towing capacity of the car is more than the ATM of your caravan, you are cleared to tow the load according to the manufacturer.
Before you excitedly go off to check the numbers, this only shows that the electric car is able to tow your caravan. Before you start towing, take note of the following considerations.
Towing & Range of Electric Cars
Towing a load affects the mileage and efficiency of the car.
The range of the electric car is invariably reduced due to the weight of the caravan, even if it is within the towing capacity limit.
The reason for the reduced mileage and performance is pretty involved in the science behind the energy storage features of the vehicle’s battery technology. The added weight of the caravan and the increased frictional forces that the car must work against means that the energy provided by the car battery must inadvertently increase.
Engineering Explained goes in-depth with some calculations and shows that taking a trailer along for the ride on an electric car (in this case Tesla’s Model X), almost requires almost twice as much energy from the battery.
Unless you are planning to set up camp wherever your car battery runs out, the last thing you want is to be stranded in the middle of nowhere with your caravan (well, at least you have your supplies in the caravan). Planning before your trip to account for the reduced range and having more charging pit stops along the route ensures you don’t end up in such an unfavourable situation.
Starting and Stopping when Towing
Electric motors can be a blessing when it comes to towing. They enable electric cars to produce instant torque at very low speeds and can move stationary objects like your caravans very effectively.
While accelerating with electric cars is beneficial, the difference when trying to slow down or stop your car when towing could be a cause for concern and worth accounting for.
Most electric cars currently use “regenerative braking”. This type of braking involves the transfer of energy from the brake pads slowing the wheels to the car battery. This is a great feature for electric cars when they operate in isolation as it helps conserve every bit of energy possible even when braking.
However, this feature could be an issue when it comes to towing caravans. The added weight of the caravan especially in scenarios where the car is moving downhill could potentially damage the power train – the part of the system which transmits the drive from the engine to the wheels.
In some electric cars, just lifting your foot from the accelerator pedal might create a braking effect.
To avoid damaging your engine and brakes, drive at lower and safe speed limits when towing a caravan and especially when moving downhill.
Weight Distribution and Safety when Towing
At present, electric cars have a heavier than average weight (when compared with conventional combustion engine cars) due to their batteries. This added weight should not be taken lightly (pun intended).
Compared to a diesel or petrol-fuelled vehicle, the electric vehicle components such as brakes and suspension are subjected to more stringent weight and pressure requirements.
When the weight of a caravan is added to the mix, it can be a potential safety concern when it comes to driving and braking as highlighted above.
To ensure the safety of both the driver and the passengers, please ensure that the weight distribution within the caravan itself is properly distributed. A higher nose weight (weight closer to the front end of the caravan) is generally preferred to ensure the stability of the caravan. For caravans which might be susceptible to instability, the load needs to be distributed to ensure that the weight at the front end is optimised.
The bright side of the situation is that with a heavier car, the weight ratio between the vehicle and the caravan is preferable compared to that of a conventional internal combustion engine car. The heavier weight stabilises the car.
As always, if in doubt about how to distribute the load in your caravan, it is always best to get professional advice from your caravan manufacturers.
Legalities & Towing
Now that you know some of the main practical considerations behind using an electric car to tow your caravan, what follows is the very necessary legal considerations you should note.
- Do not use your car for towing if it is not approved for towing. Doing so might not only be against the law but could also likely invalidate your warranty and insurance.
- When using towing approved vehicles, ensure that the maximum capacity of the caravan does not exceed the towing capacity of the electric car.
- Check your driving license to ensure that it allows you to tow your caravan.
- In some countries like the UK, a separate license is needed for towing. If you have passed your driving test after 1 January 1997, your standard UK driving license will cover categories B and B1 which allows you to drive a vehicle up to tow up to 750kg.
- Those looking to tow a heavier combination would need to sit for a special test which adds an E category to your license.
- Those who passed your driving test before 1997 automatically clear these criteria. However, do consider receiving some extra training for the sake of your safety.
- Some countries have regulations on the tow bar and tow hitch add-ons. If the vehicle itself is not approved for towing, these add-ons must not be made. For specific requirements, check your country’s legal requirements.
Which Electric Cars Can Tow?
You are now aware of all the major practical and legal considerations when it comes to towing a caravan with an electric vehicle. The only question left is, what are your options?
Tesla Model X
For a long time, Model X was the only fully electric car in the international market that could tow caravans. The SUV can tow up heavy caravans with a towing capacity of 2,700kg. While it has a very competitive maximum range of 565km, you should know by now that the maximum range will be affected when towing heavy loads.
Aside from fast charging and Autopilot driving modes, Model X has a “Trailer Mode” function which automatically adjusts vehicle settings to preserve and prolong battery life when towing. The function also enables brakes to be automatically applied on individual wheels to minimise swaying of the caravans.
With impressive performance specs and features, Model X is definitely priced at the higher end of the electric cars market at USD 99,690.
With a towing capacity of 1,500kg, Polestar 2 bests Tesla’s Model X to offer the best towing capacity in the EV SUV segment as of 2020. The electric car itself has a range of 443km and is priced at a relatively more affordable price point of USD 45,000.
The company also has an optional electric tow bar available in European countries which costs about £1,000 in the UK.
Tesla certainly surprised the world in late 2019 with its unconventional and daring design of the Cybertruck. Cybertruck claims to have a minimum towing capacity of 3,400kg for its Single Motor RWD and a maximum towing capacity of a staggering 6,350kg for its Tri-Motor AWD. Cybertruck has three battery options with maximum ranges from 402km to 804km to cater to those who will be towing heavy loads.
Cybertruck also has a unique “towing calculator” which can update you on real-time changes to the acceleration, braking and other factors after accounting for the towing weight. The energy tab in Cybertruck also allows you to track energy usage, range and locate superchargers.
The models are priced between USD 39,900 for the lower end and USD 69,900 for the higher end performance specs.
The e-tron is Audi’s first fully electric SUV with a towing capacity of up to 1,800kg. The maximum range of e-tron is at 315km with fast charging capabilities.
The vehicle is selling at around USD 74,800.
Jaguar’s first all-electric car has a maximum towing capacity of 750kg and a range of 470km.
You have the option of an electrically deployable tow bar which deploys in 12 seconds or a detachable tow bar, both of which are approved to carry a 3,500kg maximum towing capacity.
The price of Jaguar I-Pace starts at USD 69,500.
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)
There are PHEV alternatives which might be affordable and provide you with the towing capacity and range you need. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Volvo XC90 T8, Range Rover Sport P400e PHEV are some examples of PHEVs which can tow.
Future of Towing with Electric Cars
With increasing adoption and performance of vehicles, there are bound to be more electric car manufacturers who design for optimised towing performance. The Mercedes EQC is one such product that is in the pipeline for launch.
Keep a lookout for new models which are bound to have more features to cater to those who tow and love outdoors.