Can Electric Car Tow a Caravan or Trailer?

Many people are planning on buying an electric car model to replace the conventional car that runs on diesel or petrol. While this is a welcome development as it will help curb greenhouse gas emissions and will eliminate our dependency on the continually increasing costs of fossil fuels, one of the major issues that are being considered is the capability of electric vehicles to tow caravans and trailer.

To this very common inquiry, if electric cars can tow a caravan or trailer, the categorical answer is yes. However, the number of electric vehicles suitable for towing at the moment is very limited. While models for pure electric cars have limited towing capabilities, numerous hybrid electric cars are powerful enough for towing.

What Is the General Guideline?

There is a rarity of pure electric vehicles that can safely tow caravans and trailers. While many personal reviews and claims have been made showing the capacity of an electric vehicle to tow, the best way to ensure if an electric vehicle is indeed capable of towing is if the manufacturer provides a certification that demonstrates that an electric car is legally approved for towing. Without this, you should not attempt to use the electric car for towing for safety reasons and to prevent legal problems.

What Electric Car Models Can Tow?

Tesla Model X — The Tesla Model X SUV is the leading electric car that’s approved for towing. According to Tesla, the Model X has a rated towing capacity of 5,000 lbs (2268 kg). This can easily carry a caravan with an average weight between 800 kg and 1300 kg. It is also capable of hauling a travel trailer that weighs 1000 to 3000 lbs (453 – 1360 kg). Note however that the maximum towing limit includes the load and cargo. That means that if you have a 1000 lbs trailer, the cargo or load of the trailer should not exceed 4000 lbs (1814 kg).

In using Tesla Model X for towing, you need to enter the trailer mode. This activates the Trailer Sway Mitigation — an electronic stability control system that automatically triggers the brake of the SUV’s different wheels to prevent the risk of the trailer swinging precariously behind the car. Although, the car has 713 lb-ft (966 Nm) of torque which contributes to its superlative towing capacity, this mode deactivates some driver-assistance functionalities such as automatic steering and parking, among others.

While the Tesla Model X is the only pure electric that is legally approved for towing in the US and the UK, two other pure electric SUVs explicitly designed for towing by their respective manufacturers.

Audi e-tron SUV — The first purely electric SUV from Audi, this electric car has a towing capacity of 4000 lbs (1814 kg). Boasting of 400-horsepower, the SUV has a 95 kWh battery situated in the floor in between the motors that provide greater stability because of balanced weight distribution. Similarly, you need to switch to the trailer driving mode when using the car for towing or pulling trailers and caravans.

Mercedes-Benz EQC — This SUV has a similar towing capacity with the Audi e-tron which is pegged at 4000 lbs (1814 kg). In particular, it has an EQC tow rating of 3,070 lbs (1392 kg) with a maximum payload of 1,135 lbs (514 kg). One advantage of this SUV is its fast charging 80 kWh battery pack which can be fully charged in approximately one hour, which can cover up to cover 200 miles (ca. 322 km).

Among the three electric vehicles that are currently approved for towing, the Tesla Model X proved superlative based on the range and efficiency. Both the Audi e-tron SUV and Mercedes-Benz EQC required more energy to travel the same distance as the Model X when pulling trailer which means the range they can travel with a single charge is lower.

What About Other Tesla Models?

While the Tesla Model is undeniably the top electric car that can be used for towing, let us look at their other models if they can be used for towing caravans and trailers.

Model S and Model 3 — The Tesla Model S and Model 3 are sedans that are not built for towing trailers or caravans. However, it can be used for transporting light cargoes and loads. In the second quarter of 2019, Tesla has released a tow hitch that can help these electric cars to lug around 2,000 lbs (907 kg) of extra weight which is enough to carry small items like bicycles and skis. It can also carry very small trailers. Carrying trailers, however, is not advisable because of potential legal restrictions and can considerably impact the operational efficiency of the electric cars. This high strength steel tow bar that has a detachable adapter is currently available in Europe.

Tesla Model Y — The Tesla Model Y which is a crossover between a sedan and SUV is set to be launched in the North American Market in late 2020. While no explicit word has been released from the manufacturer as to its towing capacity, the initial release of the model displays a provision for hitch receivers at the back of the car indicating cargo-hauling capabilities. Moreover, the new model is also promoted as a 7-seater versatile car ideal for camping and other family adventures.

What Popular Electric Cars Are Not Built for Towing Caravans or Trailers?

If an electric car is designed and engineered for towing caravans or trailers, the manufacturer establishes its legal towing limit called homologation which defines the maximum weight limits for towing an unbraked and braked trailer. If these are not present or published, this means that the car is not suitable for towing. Here are popular electric cars that are not meant for towing.

Car brand/modelDescription
Chevy BoltGM has no official announcement that the Chevy Bolt is designed for towing.
Nissan LeafNissan has explicitly recommended not to use the Nissan Leaf for towing because its motor is routinely attached to the wheels and it lacks a genuine ‘neutral’ gear, which can cause serious damage to its rotor when used for towing.
BMW i3The BMW i3 has a load-limiting tow tongue which makes it not ideal for towing trailers or caravans. It only has a maximum tow force of around 220 lbs (99 kg), which is not capable for towing.
Volkswagen e-GolfThe company does not recommend the vehicle for towing. It is not engineered for rear-end towing.
Jaguar I-PaceWhile the Jaguar has 750 kg Towing Capacity, it is not officially tow rated. The company categorically explained that it is not designed for towing caravans or trailers because towing depletes the power of the rangers too much.

Why Can’t Many Electric Cars Tow a Trailer or Caravan?

If you are wondering why many electric cars are incapable of towing a trailer or caravan, here are the primary reasons.

They are already too heavy — Electric cars are generally heavier than conventional fuel consuming cars. The additional weight is primarily due to its battery pack, which is the primary source of power. The average car weighs just 2,870 lbs (1302 kg). On the other hand, the average weight of electric cars ranges between 3700 and 5000 lbs (2270 – 1680 kg).

Towing can damage electric motor — While accelerating the trailer can be a piece of cake for most electric cars because of the remarkable power of electric motors, slowing down is the problem. This lies in how electric car operates particularly in the use of regenerative braking. This braking system uses the car’s momentum to generate electricity when braking. However, the additional weight from a trailer or caravan can damage the electric car’s electronics. This is especially true when driving downhill, the kinetic energy when braking can crush the electrical system.

Limited driving range — Pulling a trailer or caravan would require additional power that can further reduce the maximum driving range of an electric car. Manufacturers avoid publishing the homologation process for towing to counteract the problem of range anxiety that has discouraged many people from buying electric cars. Towing can potentially increase the risk of getting stranded for having low batteries.

What Hybrid Electric Cars Can Be Used for Towing?

While the number of pure electric cars that can be used to pull caravans or trailers is limited, many hybrid electric cars can be used for towing. Hybrid electric cars use a combination of electrical power and internal combustion engines to operate and run the car. While they don’t absolutely save you from expensive fuel costs, they are nevertheless cheaper pure electric cars. Hereunder are hybrid electric cars suitable for towing.

Car brand/modelDescription
Volkswagen Golf GTEThis car model is one of the cheapest models rated for towing. Per its homologation, the maximum weight limits for towing an unbraked trailer and braked trailer are 750 kg 1,500 kg respectively.
Audi A3 Sportback e-tronWhile it is relatively more expensive than its Volkswagen counterpart, this hybrid car has a 1,600 kg towing capacity which allows it to pull a small-sized caravans.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVOne popular and affordable hybrid SUV, this Mitsubishi model has a maximum weight capacity of 1,500 kg for a braked trailer and a 75 kg maximum trailer nose weight.
Kia Optima PHEVThis sports wagon executive saloon has a tow capacity of 1,500 kg, which can carry small trailers and caravans
Volvo V60This five-door wagon with twin engines has a high towing limit of 1800 kg, enough to carry medium sized trailers and caravans. Incidentally, the Volvo XC90 T8 has even a higher towing capability of 2,400 kg.
BMW X5 40eThis 2.0 petrol engine SUV has a towing capacity of 2,700 kg.
Audi Q7 e-tronThis 3.0-litre diesel SUV has a towing capacity of 2,800 kg.
Porsche Cayenne S E-HybridThe 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine Hybrid car has a towing capacity of 3,500 kg braked trailer.

What Is in Store in the Future of Electric Car Towing?

As shown in the discussions, there are already pure electric cars that are capable of towing. In brief, manufacturers have already discovered the technology to address the inherent problem of regenerative braking systems in electric cars that restricts their towing capabilities.

One other issue, however, that continues to challenge manufacturers is the problem of range. The additional power required for towing trailers or caravans can expressively reduce the distance or range that an electric car can travel. This has become a problem with lengthy journeys as charging points are still limited. This has also continuously dissuade people from adopting electric cars in general because of the fear of getting stranded in the middle of the road.

Aside from improving the energy efficiency of electric cars, electric car manufacturers in partnership with the government should find a way to add more charging stations in strategic locations across the country to ensure electric car owners can power up their vehicles for longer travels. It would also help if towing companies include battery recharging as a core service in their roadside assistance services. Indeed, the adoption of vehicles that runs on environmentally friendly and renewable sources of energy can forward faster with greater cooperation among all stakeholders involved.

Mike Reyes

I'm Mike Reyes, a guy behind I have a background in electrical engineering and I was interested into technology since my early age. My passion is sustainable transport and energy, and my objective is to make eDrive Planet a pillar of the electric vehicles industry with hopefully millions of site visitors each year. I am counting on you, please spread the voice!

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