Guide To Destination Charging For Electric Tow Cars


Hi, I’m Chris. About Me

In my Guide To Rapid Charging An Electric Tow Car, I discuss the available options to get power back into the battery quickly when on a long journey. With this article, we are going to discuss charging your electric tow car once you reach your final destination with your caravan/trailer. However, I’ll also discuss charging options while driving around without a trailer/caravan on the back of your electric tow car. I’m also going to specifically discuss charging an electric tow car at a caravan site, and its potential limitations/costs.

Horton Common Caravan Site
Will electric tow cars be able to charge at caravan sites and how fast will they charge?: Image – Hortoncommon.co.uk

Introduction To Destination Charging

I have a unique perspective on the challenges of destination charging with electric tow cars at caravan sites as I own the small caravan site (Horton Common) seen in the image above. Electric tow cars is a subject I’m obviously very interested in and I do want to see the rate of electric car adoption in the UK increase as quickly as possible. However, at the same time, from a caravan site owners perspective, I see that electric tow cars also present a big challenge once more visitors start turning up in them.

Caravan Site EV Chargers
Some caravan sites will be able to install dedicated EV chargers. However, for some sites, it will simply not be possible to install dedicated EV chargers: Image – Cpes.co.uk

The Challenges Of EV Charging At Caravan Sites

There is obviously a cost associated with installing dedicated electric car chargers. The larger Club sites from Caravan and Motorhome Club and the Camping and Caravanning Club will more easily be able to absorb such costs. Small 5 van sites such as my own at Horton Common, will struggle to justify the costs of installing dedicated EV chargers. However, the EV charger its self is not the biggest problem/cost, its the existing limitations of the electricity grid.

I’m not talking about the National Grid as a whole, as the National Grid has stated (read here) there is enough overall capacity to cope with electric car charging. What I’m talking about is trying to charge multiple electric cars at one single (often remote) rural location. That requires a sufficiently powerful grid connection (typically three-phase) which many caravan sites, including my own at Horton Common, do not have access to.

We have specifically been told by our network operator Western Power that no more electrical capacity can be supplied to our caravan site. I suspect that many other caravan sites due to their often remote rural locations will be told the same. Therefore, at many caravan sites, visitors will be limited to charging from the electricity supply which is provided for the caravan. So let’s discuss how much power actually comes from a caravan service post and how much charge an electric car will be getting.

Charging An EV From A Caravan Service Post

At most caravan sites in the UK, including even small sites such as my own, each pitch will receive a 16A electrical supply. Now, some sites may provide only 10A, 6A or even less, which is common on European sites. However, for this example, let’s presume the caravan service post provides the full 16A. Well, 16A translates to around 3.7kW (3,700 Watts) of power. For perspective, a typical kettle found in many UK kitchens will consume 3kW (3,000 Watts).

Caravan Service Box
Typical caravan service box, with each plug providing up to 16A, 3.7kW (3,700 Watts): Image – Cpes.co.uk

Ok, let’s also presume the caravan is not using most of that power, let’s say you are trying to charge the EV overnight while you’re asleep. Even in that scenario, the caravan will still likely be pulling some power for heating etc. Considering that, let’s sat the EV can pull 3kW (3,000 Watts) of power. How many miles of charging would you be getting into the EV if you charged from say midnight to 6 am in the morning, hence 6 hours or charging?

So that’s 6 hours of charging at 3kW, therefore that’s a total of 18kWh of energy which you have been able to put into the electric tow car. But what does that 18kWh mean, how many miles would that get you? Well, that all depends on the specific car, how efficient it is and if the electric car is towing or not. I’ve provided some example below on how far some electric tow cars will typically go on 18kW of energy.

How Far Will 18kWh Of Energy Get You?

The distances below for each electric tow car are based on the average watt-hours per mile (Wh/mi) figures for each car from EV-Database.uk. The towing range as I discuss in my article on can electric cars tow is based on a 50% range reduction while towing which is a typical result.

Electric Tow CarNot TowingTowing
Tesla Model X54 Miles27 Miles
Tesla Model Y64 Miles32 Miles
Tesla Model 372 Miles36 Miles
Audi E-Tron48 Miles24 Miles
Polestar 260 Miles30 Miles
Volvo XC40 Recharge50 Miles25 Miles
BMW iX355 Miles27.5 Miles
Mustang Mach E56 Miles28 Miles
Nissan Ariya55 Miles27.5 Miles
Skoda Enyaq59 Miles29.5 Miles
VW ID.458 Miles29 Miles
Mercedes EQC52 Miles26 Miles
Jaguar I-Pace48 Miles24 Miles

So the main take away from the above is overnight charging on a typical 16A caravan service post will provide you with a bit of range, but not much, especially if you are towing. Hence, if a caravan site does not have dedicated EV chargers to provide a faster rate of charge, you will have to look to the public/private EV charging networks. That includes rapid charging as I’ve previously discussed, but also slower/more affordable charging options.

Plugging An Electric Car Into A Caravan To Charge

The other reason I chose to use 3kW as the rate of power an EV can charge at from a caravan service post is that the car would not be plugged into the service post directly. The electric car would actually be plugged into a 13A (just under 3kW) external socket on the caravan.

Caravan External Power Socket
Typical 230v/13A external power socket for a caravan

Many caravans come fitted with these external 3 pin plug sockets. However, even if your existing caravan doesn’t have an external power socket they can be easily retrofitted by an electrician/caravan service engineer. It will require its own fuse/RCD in the consumer unit fitted inside the caravan.

The Cost Of Caravan Site Destination Charging

I can tell you from experience, by far, the most significant cost to a caravan site operator is the electricity bill. That’s before electric car charging becomes commonplace and potentially dramatically increases the electricity consumption by guests. Therefore, visitors to small and large caravan sites are going to have to expect changes to how caravan sites charge for pitches.

Here at Horton Common, we have previously charged for electricity consumption separately as a means to keep pitch fees down. Guests only paid for what they used, hence a fairer system. However, guests did not like it generally, they just wanted to pay a set pitch fee per day. It was also quite time-consuming/labour intensive for me to record the electricity meter before and after each guest. I had to then collect payments for electricity consumption from guests before they could leave. While it was a fair system, it was by no means ideal for all concerned.

How caravan site visitors are going to be paying for electricity usage going forward I’m still not sure. I know prepaid card solutions for power are also not popular with caravanners, and they also have their inconveniences. I’m hopeful that a fair, convenient and simple means for guests to pay for electricity consumption will become a reality. Its just at this point in time, I’m not sure what that solution is.

Other Destination Charging Options

While public car parks in town centres currently have electric car charging solutions and more will be rolled out, I believe one of the most popular destination charging options for electric tow cars is going to be at the supermarket. Often when our guests arrive at Horton Common their next stop is to one of the local supermarkets for food and drink etc.

Supermarket Destination Charging For Electric Cars
An example of a Tesco/VW branded Pod Point charging station: Image – Autoexpress.co.uk

As seen in the image above, there are already Pod Point chargers at many Tesco’s supermarket car parks. However, you will also find them at Sainsbury’s, Lidl and I suspect many more supermarkets to come. However, its not just Pod Point chargers you will find. Both Shell and BP are installing chargers at their forecourts as I discuss in my rapid charger guide. There are also companies such as Instavolt seen in the video below setting up in McDonald’s, KFC and Starbucks etc.

The InstaVolt rapid charger network: Video – InstaVolt.co.uk

The slowest chargers provided by Pod Point in supermarket car parks provide 7kW of power, hence double the power of a typical caravan service post. Therefore, at worst you are getting double the amount of range per hour, but potentially much more. Some chargers provide 11kW, 22kW and some are even rapid chargers at 50kW, potentially up to 350kW.

I actually suspect we are on the verge of an electric car charging war with different supermarkets, shops and fast food outlets. Afterall once electric cars become more common what better way to draw people in than to provide them with the fastest way to charge their car? The cost to charge is also an important consideration though…

Use Zap-Map To Find Local Destination Chargers

So what’s the best way to find local destination chargers? Well, most electric cars through their interactive screen will provide a selection of local chargers. However, for a more complete picture, I would recommend using Zap-Map to find destination chargers. You will be able to see the different charge speeds provided and importantly whether the last Zap-Map user found the charger in a working condition or not.

Zap-Map Destination Chargers
Zap-Map can be used to find the full range of destination charging options at a specific location: Image – Zap-map.com

Some chargers are actually free to use, and you can use Zap-Map to search for such chargers. However, you should expect to only find slower chargers which are free to use. You can also search specifically for chargers which offer contactless payment via a debit/credit, by far the easiest way to pay. Some charging networks offer app/member payment options. The cost per kW may potentially be cheaper via those payment methods, however, apps can be notoriously unreliable.

Conclusions On Destination Charging With An Electric Tow Car

So as discussed above there is going to be a range of charging capabilities provided from caravan site to caravan site. Some may have a sufficient grid connection to provide dedicated EV chargers, where at others charging will only be possible via the caravan and limited to 13A (just under 3kW). You should also expect to see pretty significant changes to site fees. Some may just increase pitch fees overall to account for the higher electricity bill with EV charging. Others may have the means to charge separately for EV charging from the pitch fee.

There is no doubt that EV charging is going to be a challenge for caravan site operators to provide solutions that keep guests happy while at the same time keeping electricity costs covered. Electric tow car/caravan owners also need to be prepared and research alternative destination charging options at supermarkets etc.

Chris

Hi, I’m Chris. I own and write all the content on ElectricTowCars.co.uk. 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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