Can You Tow an Electric Car?: Everything You Need to Know

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Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming increasingly popular as more environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional gas-powered cars. With EVs gaining traction globally, many new EV owners are curious if towing capabilities apply to these modern electric cars. This article explores the ins and outs of towing electric vehicles – from the feasibility and methods to the special considerations involved. Read on to learn the answers to common questions like Can you tow an electric car behind a motorhome or with a tow bar?

Introduction

The rise of electric vehicles brings new opportunities and innovations in transportation. With advancing EV technology, features that were once unique to gas-powered cars are now available in electric models too. One such capability that new EV owners inquire about is the option to tow with an electric car.

While EVs have some differences from traditional cars, towing remains possible with the right preparations and precautions. Understanding the correct way to tow an electric vehicle ensures a smooth, safe towing experience. Equipped with the proper knowledge, EV drivers can take their electric cars on towed adventures in various scenarios.

This article provides a comprehensive look at towing electric cars – when you may need to tow an EV, the different towing methods, how to tow an EV correctly, and various towing possibilities with electric cars. Read on to gain clarity on questions like:

  • What type of towing works with EVs?
  • How is towing an electric car different than a gas car?
  • What EVs can be towed?
  • Can you charge an EV battery while towing?
  • Is it possible to tow an EV behind a motorhome?

Let’s jump in and uncover everything you need to know about towing electric vehicles!

Reasons Why You Would Tow an Electric Car

Like any car, situations may arise where towing becomes necessary for an electric vehicle. While EVs require less maintenance than gas cars overall, there are still circumstances where towing would be required or preferred. Common reasons to tow an electric car include:

  • The battery runs out of charge: Despite advancements in EV battery ranges, it is still possible to fully deplete the battery and need a tow. This is especially true for longer trips exceeding the car’s maximum mileage. Towing spares the EV battery and takes you to a charging station.
  • Accident or breakdown: Accidents and mechanical issues can leave any car undrivable. Towing provides safe transportation for the EV driver and vehicle to an auto shop for repairs.
  • Severe weather: Dangerous weather conditions like snow storms that make driving hazardous may warrant towing an electric car. This avoids accidents in poor visibility or slippery conditions.
  • Off-roading adventures: Towing an electric car lets you bring it along on ATV trails, cabins, camping grounds, and other off-road destinations it couldn’t reach under its own power.
  • Track racing events: For EV owners who enjoy racing their electric cars on closed tracks, towing provides an easy way to transport vehicles to and from the racing facility.
  • Interstate travel: Drivers going on long interstate journeys can tow an electric car behind a motorhome so they have a vehicle available at destinations to drive around and explore the area after unhitching.

While EVs perform well in daily driving, towing offers convenience and safety assurances in special circumstances like these. Next, let’s look at the recommended methods for towing an electric car.

How to Tow an Electric Car: Different Types of Towing

When it comes time to tow an electric vehicle, using the proper towing equipment and technique helps ensure a smooth process. There are a few common types of towing that work well for EVs:

A. Flatbed Towing

Flatbed towing involves loading the electric car onto a flat platform truck and strapping it down securely. This is an ideal towing method for EVs for a few reasons:

  • Keeps all 4 wheels off the ground – no mileage is added to the odometer.
  • Avoids any transmission wear and tear from wheel rotation.
  • Prevents battery drain from regenerative braking.
  • No chances of damage from improper dollies or tow bars.
  • Fully secured transport minimizes shifts or jostles to EV components.

Flatbed tow trucks provide the safest transportation for electric cars. EV owners should request a flatbed unless wheel dollies or tow bars are specifically approved for use by the manufacturer.

B. Wheel Dollies Towing

Wheel dollies are wheeled platforms that the front or rear tires rest on during towing. While not as secure as a flatbed, wheel dollies offer these benefits:

  • Allows the car to be towed without the drivetrain engaged.
  • EV components are protected since wheels spin freely.
  • More affordable and accessible option than a flatbed.
  • Can be stored conveniently when not towing.

The drawbacks of towing an EV with wheel dollies include an increased risk of transmission damage if done improperly. Misalignment and improper tire securing can also cause tire or wheel damage. This method should only be used if approved by the EV automaker.

C. Tow Bar Towing

Tow bars connect the front of the towing vehicle to the front of the towed vehicle. This enables pulling the electric car with all four wheels on the road. Tow bar towing advantages are:

  • Keeps EV drivetrain disconnected to avoid mileage accumulation.
  • Allows charging via regenerative braking of the wheels.
  • The compact size of tow bars for easy storage when not in use.

However, tow bar towing has severe limitations with electric cars:

  • Risk of drivetrain damage from improper use.
  • Safety hazards if EV transmission or brakes engage.
  • Potential for regenerative braking to overcharge EV battery.

Tow bars should never be used with electric cars unless explicitly permitted by the manufacturer. The overall risks make tow bars an unsafe choice for DIY towing of EVs.

How Is Towing an EV Different From Towing a Regular Car?

While the logistics of attaching towing equipment are similar, there are key differences between towing electric versus gas-powered cars:

  • EVs are heavier – Battery packs add significant weight over a gas engine and require more robust towing capacity.
  • Regenerative braking – Towing methods must account for potential EV battery recharging from the wheels spinning.
  • Avoid drivetrain use – Engaging the electric drivetrain risks damaging expensive EV components.
  • No engine power assist – With no engine running in an EV, extra care must be taken for maneuvering.
  • electronics – Towing operations should avoid Roof rack impacts, jacket damage, and power drain to sensitive electronics.

Proper towing procedures are critical with EVs to prevent problems like overcharging batteries or engaging drive systems. When in doubt, flatbed towing remains the safest approach.

Towing EVs Requires Preparation

While towing an electric car is very possible, it requires thoughtful preparation:

  • Consult the owner’s manual – Check towing instructions to confirm allowable methods for that EV model.
  • Use OEM towing accessories – Tow bars, hitches and equipment from the EV’s manufacturer ensure proper fit and function.
  • Check tow vehicle capacity – Confirm the tow vehicle has the engine power, weight capacity, and brake system to safely tow the EV’s weight.
  • Disconnect batteries – For long-term towing storage, battery management systems may need to be shut off.
  • Watch speed and mileage – Avoid excessive speeds and long distances to prevent battery drain or overcharging.
  • Secure properly – Make sure the EV is fixed firmly to towing equipment without loose parts.

Taking these steps before towing maximizes safety and minimizes risks of damage to your electric vehicle. Check with your dealer for model-specific preparations needed.

What Electric Car Can You Tow?

Today’s EVs are designed for compatibility with towing applications:

  • Tesla Model X – This SUV can tow up to 5,000 pounds according to Tesla. The Model Y is rated for towing up to 3,500 pounds.
  • Ford F-150 Lightning – Ford’s electric truck can tow trailers weighing up to 10,000 pounds just like its gas F-150 counterpart.
  • Rivian R1T – The Rivian pickup offers a max towing capacity of 11,000 pounds, perfect for hauling boats, trailers, and more.
  • Volvo XC90 T8 – With the right hitch Receiver, the plug-in hybrid Volvo XC90 can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
  • Audi e-tron models – Audi states their e-tron SUV line can safely tow loads of up to 4,000 pounds.

With electric towing capacities approaching those of gas vehicles, EV owners have ample options for towable models from Tesla, Ford, Rivian, Volvo, Audi, and more.

Can You Charge an Electric Car by Towing It?

Owners often wonder about recharging EV batteries while the car is being towed. This is possible through regenerative braking that generates electricity when the wheels spin. However, challenges exist:

  • Overcharging risk – The limited onboard charging rate could lead to EV battery overheating or damage if overloaded.
  • Minimal range – The small recharge percentage from towing would not make a significant impact on the overall range.
  • Flatbeds preferred – Keeping all wheels stationary on a flatbed avoids this issue entirely.

While towing could provide a minor battery top-up, the charging would be minimal and take hours to accumulate. Flatbed towing remains the ideal method for EVs rather than relying on charging-while-towing.

Towing an Electric Car Behind a Motorhome

Motorhome owners who have added an electric car for local transportation at destinations have a great option for multi-state RV travel – towing the EV behind the motorhome. Here’s how it works:

  • A tow bar or vehicle trailer smoothly tows the electric car behind a large motorhome on highways.
  • The EV can charge up fully at overnight RV camping sites.
  • Unhitching the electric car at stops allows driving around that area.
  • On departure days, the EV is hitched back to the motorhome for protected transportation down the road.

This allows RV owners to explore off the beaten path without a large motorhome, while still bringing their electric car on RV trips.

Can You Tow an Electric Car Behind an RV?

This is certainly feasible, using a tow dolly or trailer designed for towing smaller 4-wheel vehicles behind motorhomes. Key things to consider:

  • Braking system functionality to stop both vehicles.
  • Towing at moderate speeds and distances to avoid EV battery drain.
  • Extra clearance is needed when maneuvering tight RV sites with EVs in tow.
  • Avoiding shifts from acceleration/braking that could loosen straps.

With thoughtful setup and driving, an electric car can be towed short distances behind an RV for multi-stop trips. Flat-towing is not recommended unless approved by the EV maker.

Can You Tow a Car with an Electric Car?

The notion of using an electric passenger car to tow another vehicle raises some concerns:

  • Weight limits – Most electric cars lack the heft and torque for sizable towing loads.
  • Dire risks – Attempting to tow with a compact EV risks instability or loss of control.
  • Braking ability – EV brakes are designed for the car weight alone, not additional towed vehicles.
  • Hitch attachment – Many EVs lack standard hitch receivers to safely attach towing equipment.

Unless an electric car model specifically lists towing capacities from the manufacturer, it is unsafe and unwise to try towing any substantial trailer or vehicle with a standard electric passenger car. Leave towing duties to capable trucks or SUVs designed for towing heavy loads.

Can You Tow a Caravan with an Electric Car?

Caravans and pop-up campers offer a great way to road trips while bringing accommodations along. But the large size and weight of camper trailers make them poor matches for electric passenger cars. Challenges with towing a caravan with an EV include:

  • Extended range loss from the significant additional weight.
  • Insufficient torque and horsepower for large loads.
  • Risk of instability if the trailer starts swaying.
  • Rapid battery depletion – frequent lengthy charging stops.

While affordable and tempting for road trips, average electric cars lack the specs needed for feasibly towing full-size caravan campers long distances.

Can You Put a Tow Bar on an Electric Car?

Installing tow bars on electric vehicles is highly inadvisable due to risks like:

  • Potential damage to sensitive electronics and battery systems.
  • Engaging drive systems not designed for towing friction.
  • Inability to properly charge EV battery via regeneration.
  • Lack of engine power for maneuvering the extra weight.

Tow bars are designed for use with traditional combustion engine vehicles. Unless explicitly factory-approved, tow bars should be avoided on electric cars due to the unique EV engineering and risks involved.

Can You Tow a Trailer with an Electric Car?

Lightweight trailers like small utility or luggage trailers can potentially be towed short distances by some electric SUV models. Key considerations for EVs towing trailers include:

  • Adhering precisely to manufacturer tow rating limits.
  • Towing only with an EV model approved for towing from the factory.
  • Following speed limits and avoiding long trips to prevent battery depletion.
  • Taking extra care when reversing or maneuvering with a trailer attached.

While full-size travel trailers are not recommended, cautious owners of select EV SUVs can feasibly tow properly weighted small utility trailers for occasional short-range use when necessary.

Can You Tow an Electric Golf Cart?

The compact size and light weight of most golf carts make them well-suited for towing behind electric cars. Benefits include:

  • Little impact on EV’s driving range.
  • Provides transportation convenience at RV parks, golf courses, and campgrounds.
  • Allows bringing the golf cart to destinations the EV can reach.
  • Golf carts can be charged alongside the EV at overnight stops.

Using a small lightweight trailer to tow an electric golf cart with an electric passenger car is very feasible. This enables RVing and camping adventures with transportation conveniences at sites.

Can You Tow a Horse Trailer with an Electric Car?

Towing a horse trailer with a passenger electric car is extremely inadvisable. Hazards include:

  • Insufficient torque and horsepower to pull heavy loads.
  • Rapid battery depletion and range loss under heavy loads.
  • Risk of serious accidents if the trailer sways while towing.
  • Greater strain on braking systems designed for the EV alone.

While suitable for light recreational towing, most electric cars lack the power, stability, and robustness required for towing livestock trailers. Leave horse and livestock trailers to heavy-duty trucks designed for the job.

Can You Tow a Boat with an Electric Car?

Similarly, towing boats with the average electric car is not recommended due to:

  • Boats often exceed EV payload capacities for tongue/hitch weights.
  • Risk of battery power depletion on trips to boat launches.
  • Insufficient torque for starting/stopping the momentum of boat trailers.
  • Electronics and motor exposure to moisture at boat launches.

While electric SUVs approved for towing may work for very light watercraft, gasoline-powered trucks are far better suited for towing heavier fishing boats, pontoons, sailboats, and pleasure craft securely and safely.

Conclusion:

  • Towing electric vehicles is feasible with proper procedures and equipment. Flatbeds or wheel dollies provide secure transportation for EV towing.
  • Differences exist like EV weight and regenerative braking that require special towing considerations. Taking precautions ensures safe, damage-free towing.
  • Many electric trucks and SUVs offer robust towing capacities rivaling gas vehicles. But compact electric cars lack the power and stability for major towing jobs.
  • With thoughtful preparation and adherence to manufacturer limits, electric vehicles can be towed short distances in certain situations when required. But the best practice for long trips is transporting EVs atop flatbed trucks.

Towing an electric car requires careful steps compared to towing traditional vehicles. But understanding the methods, and risks, and following towing safety practices enables EV owners to transport their electric cars securely when needed.

Do Electric Cars Lose Charge When Parked?

FAQs:

Can tow an electric car damage the batteries?

Flatbed towing is ideal. With proper precautions, towing does not directly damage EV batteries, but depleting the battery fully can cause issues. Avoid exceeding manufacturer towing guidelines.

How far can you tow an electric car?

Distance is limited by battery range. Flatbed or dolly towing avoids draining, but other methods can deplete batteries depending on speed and conditions. Limit tow mileage based on EV model specs.

Can you tow a Tesla?

Yes, Tesla provides clear instructions that Model S, 3, X, and Y can all be flatbed towed. Their app also allows tow mode to prepare the EV. Follow Tesla’s guidance for proper towing.

What happens if you tow an EV in drive/reverse?

Towing an EV with a drivetrain engaged risks serious damage from internal resistance. Only tow in neutral gear with the drivetrain disengaged. Transmission repairs could be extremely costly.

Can you jump-start or charge an EV from a tow vehicle?

No. EV systems cannot directly tap into alternator power from a tow vehicle. Flatbed or recharging at charging stations are the only ways to recharge a depleted EV battery.

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