For electric cars to become commonplace, they must be able to do most of what internal combustion engine vehicles do. One of such features is towing. If you own an electric car or will soon purchase one, you may wonder if you can use it to tow a caravan, a trailer, or a boat, and what you need to know to make it work. This article answers the question and much more.
Can an electric car tow a caravan or a trailer?
Like with an ICE, you can use your electric car to tow anything with wheels. These include a caravan, trailer, or a boat mounted on wheels. However, you must be careful not to exceed the recommended limit by the manufacturer. Electric cars are better for towing than their gas-powered counterparts for several reasons. For instance, the best tow cars are those that produce high torque. The torque is usually mentioned alongside the horsepower property of the engine and is measured in ‘Nm.’
Electric cars usually have higher torque ratings, meaning you don’t have to work the engine so hard for the load to get moving. The advantage EVs have is that their electric motors produce their maximum torque immediately they are started, making it easier to get the load you are towing to move from a standing position.
Can any electric cars tow?
The short answer is no. This is why you can only use an EV to tow if it is certified by the manufacturer.
Electric cars are different from ICEs because they are usually heavier, courtesy of the battery. As such, the suspensions and brakes are under increased pressure. Towing adds extra weight, and the outcome may be disastrous. In addition, electric cars usually use regenerative braking to top up the battery, and lifting your foot off the acceleration pedal produces a braking effect. With the added weight of a caravan, the excess kinetic energy produced during braking may damage the powertrain.
For this reason, an EV must be designed with towing in mind if it is to serve that purpose. However, many new EV models are certified for towing.
When it comes to towing with electric vehicles, there are some things that you must know. One of them is towing capacity.
What is towing capacity?
Towing capacity is the maximum mass that the vehicle manufacturer says your car can safely tow. Anything above that is liable to void the warranty. There are two types of towing capacity; braked and unbraked.
Braked vs. unbraked towing capacity
The braked capacity is the maximum mass the car can tow when what is being towed has its own brakes. On the other hand, the unbraked capacity is the maximum load limit when what is being pulled does not have its brakes.
Brake towing capacity is higher than unbraked because when what you are towing has its own brakes, it is easier to pull safely. As such, the extra load will not overpower the car’s braking capacity. This is normal because the heavier the moving mass, the longer the distance required to come to a halt.
In practical terms, if an EV is rated 1,500 kg and 750 kg for braked and unbraked, it means you can safely tow a caravan weighing 1,500 kg when it has its own brakes and 750 kg when it doesn’t have its own brakes.
Naturally, the higher the towing capacity, the higher the cost of the electric vehicle. The most affordable electric cars may not be able to tow or have low towing capabilities. The least practical towing capacity is 750 kg, as anything below it may not be worth it.
Effect of towing on the driving range
Electric cars have driving ranges determined by the capacity of their batteries. When it comes to towing, you must remember that you are adding to the amount of work your car does. Since all the energy to move the vehicle comes from the battery, towing makes the battery level go down faster. This means you end up with a significantly reduced driving range when you tow.
This is why many early EV models were not put through the towing certification process (known as homologation). The manufacturer would have ended up with an embarrassingly low towing driving range.
This means you would stop more frequently to charge the battery on long trips.
If you live in areas where the temperature gets low, your driving range will suffer more due to the combined effect of towing and low temperature.
Tips on towing with an electric car
While you can tow with an electric car, the tips below will help you get the best experience.
Select the best type of caravan or trailer
If you must tow a caravan with your electric car, choosing one with the lowest air resistance or drag is important. This will minimize the effect on your driving range.
Make sure you don’t exceed the towing capacity
The caravan you want to tow has its own weight. So you must ensure the combined weight of the caravan and the content do not exceed the maximum towing capacity. Also, never tow a trailer that is heavier than the car to avoid the tail wagging the dog.
Pay attention to local legal requirements
There may be legal requirements for towing with a car, depending on where you live. You must observe them to avoid being on the wrong side of the law.
While electric cars can tow, not all of them are certified for it. However, more electric vehicles are equipped with towing ability, but you must observe the towing mass limit.