Obviously, if I’ve based a website around the topic, yes, electric cars can tow caravans/trailers. However, just as with petrol/diesel 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 a caravan/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.
Table of Contents
Introduction To Electric Tow Cars
Ultimately, electric cars will be superior to any internal combustion car that has ever had a trailer/caravan 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. The power/torque outputs of new electric cars coming onto the market are still continuing to increase.
Furthermore, electric cars 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 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 that at the same time provide higher ranges.
Lighter battery packs will aid efficiency, though there 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 continue 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, and I’ll also link to my other articles going into more detail on specific issues/challenges.
UK 2030 Petrol/Diesel Car Ban & Towing Implications
One of the reasons I started this website on electric tow cars is I run a small caravan site (Horton Common). As stated in my about page, I continue to discuss the concept of electric tow cars with my guests on frequent occasions.
Their responses range from enthusiasm to apprehension. Those who are apprehensive or even dismissive of electric tow cars have referenced their concerns over the impending 2030 ban on new petrol/diesel car sales.
You can read the full details of the ban on Gov.uk. What I want to do here is provide context/clarification to that legislation and explain what it means with regards to electric tow cars.
First off, the ban only relates to the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. The legislation does not refer to the continued use/sale of second-hand petrol/diesel cars.
However, there may be changes to road taxes that make the continued use of ICE cars more and more expensive, hence, more of an incentive to consider choosing an electric car.
Will Hybrid’s/Plug-in Hybrids Also Be Banned?
So this is where it gets a bit tricky. By 2035 the sale of all new hybrid cars/vans will also be banned, hence that also includes motorhomes. The only new hybrid cars that will still be able to be sold between 2030 and 2035 are “new cars and vans can be sold if they have the capability to drive a significant distance with zero emissions”.
The government has yet to define what that ‘significant distance‘ actually is, it apparently will be confirmed at a ‘later date’. But basically, by 2030 all ‘self-charging hybrids’ will be banned, as there is no possibility of zero-emissions without a plug to put electricity directly into the car.
From my own perspective as you will see by checking out the homepage of this website unless a plugin hybrid vehicle can cover at least 50 miles on electric energy alone (not towing) I’m not going to write about it on this website. I’m not particularly interested in promoting hybrids. The main emphasis of this website is to promote true electric tow cars.
Will The UK 2030 ICE Car Ban Impact Caravanning?
I’ve heard concerns from some caravanners that the 2030 ban will be the ‘end of caravanning’. I don’t think this will be the case, for very specific reasons. First off, as stated above, the ban relates to the sale of new ICE vehicles.
Second, I also think that by the time 2030 comes around, most caravanners are going to be pleasantly surprised by the extensive offering of long-range/affordable electric tow cars.
There are those who are using examples of current electric cars and their limited towing ranges as a reason why the ban will impact caravanning negatively. They also state the current charging infrastructure is not adequate etc.
Now, if electric vehicle/charging technology didn’t advance any further from this point, then the ban would definitely impact caravanning negatively.
However, the reality is the rate of change/advancements in electric vehicles and charging infrastructure is likely to mean that by 2030 no one should rationally even want to purchase a new ICE car.
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 is a 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
Please 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 turn out to be a more significant factor in range reduction.
Electric Tow Car & Caravan Examples
As I’ve stated above, you can check out my electric tow car 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 caravan setups and some examples of electric tow cars capable of pulling that amount of weight.
Low Weight Caravan Towing Setups
So to start things off let’s look at something like a pop-up trailer tent, camping trailers, teardrop caravan or simply a very small lightweight touring caravan.
Under this scenario, many of these options are going to weigh under 1,000 kg. So what electric cars can tow such a weight? Well, some examples of your options include the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Jaguar I-Pace, BMW iX3 and Tesla Model 3.
Medium Weight Caravan Towing Setups
With this example, I regard medium weight when it comes to typical touring caravans you will see on UK roads as up to around 1,500 kg. This towing capacity will cover pretty much all single axle touring caravans which are by far the most common I see at my own site Horton Common. So what electric tow cars are up to the task?
Well, the VW ID.4 and Skoda Enyaq max out with a 1,200 kg towing capacity. This could be sufficient for some small touring caravans, though it would not be sufficient for the caravan above. For up to a 1,500 kg towing capacity other options include the Nissan Ariya, Polestar 2, Volvo XC 40 Recharge and the Tesla Model Y.
Heavy Weight Caravan Towing Setups
A classic example of a heavy caravan is an Airstream, not exactly common on UK roads due to their weight (and price), but a good example of a heavyweight caravan setup.
As I’m going to be writing about in future articles, UK/European caravan manufacturers are going to need to take design ideas from Airstream trailers though as they are very aerodynamic. As I’ll be discussing in future articles, poor trailer aerodynamics may reduce the range of an electric tow car even more than the increase in weight.
Anyway, for this quick example for something like an Airstream caravan the weights range from an MTPLM of 1,830 kg for their smallest single axle van the Missouri up to an MTPLM of 2,400 kg on their Colorado model.
Which electric cars can pull such a heavy load? Well, the Audi E-Tron and Mercedes EQC come close with a maximum towing capacity of 1,800 kg. Though the very first electric car with a rated towing capacity the Tesla Model X is still one of the market leaders at 2,250 kg.
None of the electric tow cars referenced above can pull the Airsteam Colorado shown above fully loaded up to its maximum MTPLM of 2,400 kg, though, the BMW iX could. So are more capable electric tow cars coming to the UK?
Well, its looks like the Rivian R1T Pickup and R1S SUV will be coming to the UK at some point and will likely be able to tow up to 3,500 kg. Whether models such as the Tesla Cybertruck or Hummer EV will ever come to the UK is currently unknown.
Conclusions On Towing With An Electric Car
So as you can see from the above, even now before the mass adoption of electric vehicles or well before an internal combustion engine ban comes in, there are a range electric tow cars for caravans/trailers. To be honest though, creating an electric car 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 progress 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.