If you have a trailer, horse box, RV camper-trailer or caravan you have something in common: a towing requirement. We often get asked ‘Can you tow with an EV?’ and ‘What’s the effect on range?’. And as caravan owners ourselves we’re also interested in this information.
The answer to the first question is easy: Yes you can tow with an EV. An EV is ideally suited for towing, being fairly heavy with a low centre of gravity, plus 100% torque (pulling power) from standstill. The outright performance of an electric vehicle from the lights and midrange will almost always be better than a diesel, and of course it doesn’t emit lots of cancer-causing particles. And the low running costs can help owners save money during trips. That’s the good news.
In 2019, The Norwegian Electric Car Association tested 3 electric vehicles’ performance towing a Caravan, on a 1,381km trip. Three cars were tested – Tesla Model X LR (long range), Mercedes-Benz EQC 400, and Audi e-Tron 55 Quattro. All three models had pros and cons and were benchmarked against parameters such as range, price, towing weight, charging speed, charging network, and driving comfort. The extensive test article can be found here https://elbil.no/the-very-first-test-of-three-electric-cars-with-caravans/. Results are below:
- Best overall – Tesla model X
- Best towing range – Tesla model X
- Best comfort – Mercedes EQC
- Best charging speed – Audi e-Tron 55 (150kW)
The bad news is there are only a few EV models which are rated for towing. Popular EVs like the Nissan Leaf and Kia e-Niro don’t have type-approval and cannot legally be used for towing in the UK, although technically you can fit a towing hitch and use this to transport bikes though. Same with the Chevrolet Bolt in the US. A further frustration is that many EVs have fairly restrictive towing weights, but in most cases this seems to be manufacturer limitation due to the negative effect on range, rather than the capability of the vehicle itself. You need to pay top dollar for a large SUV-type vehicle to get a towing limit sufficient for a large caravan.
EV Towing Range
The other bad news is the effect of towing on EV range. From speaking with caravan owners a fairly typical rule of thumb is you will get 50% of the quoted range. So for a Tesla Model X LR (long range) with a real-world useable range of 300 miles, this will drop to around 150 miles towing a large twin-wheel caravan weighing 1600kg. If you’re doing reasonably short trips between sites this becomes quite viable, and we’ve met people doing long duration touring trips overall with this type of combo. The obvious downside is the price of the Model X (and its large size for when you are not towing).
Also, check the specific regulations in your country. In Australia a Hyundai Kona ‘is not rated for towing’ which doesn’t mean you can’t actually tow with it. But towing with the Kona would be illegal in the UK and EU.
The other gotcha is is may not be possible to retro-fit a towing package onto an existing vehicle. Tesla state that you can only fit a towbar with a new car order. So check the individual vehicle before purchasing, particularly if you are looking at buying used.
However for frequent and short-distance towing requirements an EV could be very well suited, especially if you have an alternative ICE vehicle which can also tow.
EV Towing table
|Vehicle||Drivetrain||Real World Range||Towing Limit|
|Jaguar iPace||4WD||225 miles||750kg|
|Ford Mach-E||2WD or 4WD||215-270 miles||750kg|
|BMW iX3||2WD||225 miles||750kg|
|Tesla Model 3 LR||4WD||270 miles||1000kg (UK)|
|VW iD.4||2WD or 4WD||1000kg/2200lbs|
|Hyundai Ioniq 5*||4WD||1600kg/3727lbs|
|Tesla Model X LR||4WD||300 miles||2250kg/5000lbs|
Future EVs for towing – trucks
A number of EV trucks will be hitting the market from 2022 (USA). Rivian has been extensively developing its off-road vehicles and it can only be a matter on months before you can buy one. And they do look pretty slick. Ford’s F150 Lightning has had huge press exposure, and Tesla’s Cybertruck will be another option if you can live with the Space 1999 looks. Lordstown is another specialist EV truck manufacturer. Expect all of these to be able to tow massive payloads. In Europe we’re not expecting to see most of these vehicles as they are generally too large for European roads.
What about PHEVs?
If after reading this you might have decided that towing with an EV isn’t going to meet your needs. Until pure EV battery ranges improve and prices reduce, you’ll probably want to be looking at the next best option. So that means a PHEV. Whilst we don’t usually feature PHEVs (because we view them as slightly-more-economical mostly-fossil-fuelled cars, promoted by the auto industry to extend their legacy product for as long as possible), but for towing we’re making an exception for now.
The availability of PHEVs for towing opens up your choice considerably, and you don’t need to buy an SUV to get a very capable towing vehicle. We’ve provided some examples below but this is by no means a complete list.
If you’re only towing a small trailer or lightweight caravan then the Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in hybrid has a 750kg limit. Or Kia’s Niro PHEV with the later towing pack will pull 1300kg. The Citroen C5 Aircross also offers 1300kg.
Other car options include both the VW Golf GTE and Passat GTE (1600kg), both of which will give you more driver enjoyment than a wallowy SUV. https://www.practicalcaravan.com/reviews/vw-passat-gte-advance-estate. Why not consider the Mercedes C350E (1600kg) with air suspension or the stylish Volvo V60 PHEV (1800kg).
For SUVs the obvious choice is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (1500kg). This is now 2nd generation and has sold in decent numbers, so there are plenty of used ones around with strong reliability. Toyota now offer the RAV4 in a PHEV version (1500kg); you can expect an extremely capable vehicle but it’s most likely going to be a company car option rather than private buyers due to the hefty price, approaching £50,000.
For those with a much larger budget and a heavier towing requirement there’s the bulky BMW X5 xDrive40e, or the more interesting Volvo XC90 Plug-in Hybrid (our large SUV recommendation) (2250kg/5000lbs). The Range Rover Sport P400e (2500kg) is a better option than the guzzling diesel versions. For the more sporty types with a massive towing limit there is the Porsche Cayenne e-Hybrid (3500kg) or finally the new Land Rover Defender P400e (3500kg).