Driver Knowledge Tests

Are electric vehicles (EVs) OK for towing?

The typical vehicle we choose for towing is either a ute or an SUV – preferably diesel for the extra torque – but if we’re talking about torque, that’s something battery electric vehicles have right from standstill. They don’t need to build engine revs to build torque, so does that mean that an EV is the right option for towing?

To tow a trailer, a vehicle needs:

  1. A suitable towing hitch or tow bar
  2. Sufficient braking strength to stop the extra weight
  3. Sufficient chassis strength to cope with the forces transmitted through the tow coupling
  4. Sufficient power to pull the maximum rated load up a realistic incline

Many (but not all) modern electric vehicles are equipped with towing capabilities and can tow trailers, just like traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. However, it’s important to check the specific towing capacity of the electric vehicle you own or plan to purchase, as it can vary among different models.

When towing with an electric vehicle, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Towing Capacity: The manufacturer specifies the maximum towing capacity of an electric vehicle, which indicates the weight limit it can safely tow. It’s essential to ensure that the weight of your trailer, including its contents, falls within the recommended towing capacity of your EV.
  2. Range and Efficiency: Towing a trailer will put additional strain on your electric vehicle’s battery, reducing its range. The weight and aerodynamic drag of the trailer can decrease the efficiency and require more frequent charging stops during long trips, especially if the terrain you are driving on is hilly, or if there is a lot of standing water that creates drag on your tyres. Be mindful of your EV’s estimated range and plan accordingly.
  3. Charging Infrastructure: Before embarking on a long trip with a trailer, it’s crucial to research the availability of charging stations along your route. Towing will increase your charging needs, so ensure you have access to charging infrastructure that supports electric vehicles with trailers. In some places you may need to unhitch your trailer to park in an EV charging bay, e.g. when they are located in multistorey car parks.
  4. Stability and Handling: Electric vehicles have a lower center of gravity due to the battery placement, which can enhance stability and handling while towing. However, the added weight of the trailer can still affect the vehicle’s acceleration, braking, and maneuverability. It’s advisable to drive cautiously and allow for greater stopping distances when towing. EVs are already heavier because of the battery, and a trailer will just exacerbate their poorer braking performance compared to an ICE-powered vehicle
  5. Hitch and Wiring: Make sure your electric vehicle has the appropriate trailer coupling and wiring connections to attach the trailer safely. Consult the vehicle’s manual or contact the manufacturer to determine the correct coupling and wiring specifications for towing with your specific electric vehicle model.

Always consult the owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer of your electric vehicle to get accurate and model-specific information regarding towing capabilities, recommendations, and any additional requirements or considerations.

How should you change your driving style when towing a trailer with an EV?

EVs require a different way of driving to optimise the battery life. To understand this fully, an EV training course is essential.

  1. Acceleration and Braking: Be mindful of the additional weight and adjust your acceleration and braking accordingly. Electric vehicles typically have instant torque, so it’s essential to apply smooth and gradual acceleration to avoid straining the motor or causing things to move or break free from their restraints (this applies more for caravans or when transporting furniture and items that might not be able to be restrained). When braking, allow for greater stopping distances as the added weight of the trailer will increase braking distances.
  2. Maintain a Steady Speed: Avoid abrupt changes in speed and try to maintain a consistent speed while driving with a trailer. Frequent acceleration and deceleration can decrease efficiency and put additional strain on the vehicle’s battery. The easiest way to do this is to keep much more distance from the vehicle in front.
  3. Plan Ahead for Hills and Slopes: Towing a trailer uphill requires more power from the electric motor and can significantly impact range. Anticipate inclines and adjust your speed accordingly to conserve energy and maintain a stable driving experience. When descending hills, use regenerative braking (if available) to help recharge the battery while minimizing wear on the brake pads.
  4. Increase Following Distance: The added weight of the trailer affects the vehicle’s stopping distance. Increase your following distance to allow for extra time and space to react and stop safely, especially in emergency situations or when road conditions are less than ideal.
  5. Be Mindful of Range and Charging: Towing a trailer will reduce the range of your EV due to increased energy consumption. Keep an eye on the battery level and plan your route to include charging stations along the way. Consider shorter driving distances between charging stops to ensure you have sufficient charge to reach your destination. This might mean that your actual journey is a longer distance than would be the case without a trailer because you may have to incorporate charging stops that are off your intended route.
  6. Take Corners and Turns Carefully: The added length and weight of the trailer can impact the turning radius and stability of your EV. Take corners and turns wider than you would without the trailer, and be cautious of potential sway or fishtailing. Slow down before entering curves and maintain a steady speed to maintain control.
  7. Check Tyre Pressure: Ensure that the tires of both your electric vehicle and the trailer are properly inflated according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Proper tyre pressure improves stability, handling, and fuel efficiency.

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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