Towing A Caravan With An Electric Car

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Would I really consider towing a caravan with an electric car? Maybe, read on..

I’ve always been a big car fan. That is to say, I love driving. I’ve never been mechanically minded, although, in my youth, I’ve fixed a few cars. My crowning glory was changing a gearbox in a Triumph Stag. There lies a clue into the type of cars, given the choice, I’d drive.

For example, Triumph Stag, 2 Range Rovers – including a 4.2 supercharged, which by the way is a great tow car, but at 13mpg, I didn’t have it long. I now drive a 3.0 litre diesel. So, you could say I like cars with big engines. I like the sound, (although not necessarily with the diesel) the higher the “V” number the better.

With all that laid out into the public domain, you might assume I’m not interested in electric cars? Well, for a long time I wasn’t. Why the heck would I want a car that makes no noise? I love a V8.

Why Am I looking At Electric Cars?

I’ll be completely honest, my interest in electric cars really isn’t environmental. I know this isn’t very “PC”, but there you have it. So, what is my interest in electric cars. Well, my other great love – technology. I’m no technology expert of course. I do work in technology, but my interest is; GADGETS.

To me, rather shallowly, electric cars mean digital dashboards. Of course you can get digital dashboards on ICE cars, but it’s not the same. Looking at how much battery you have left, calculating how much range you have. All great fun, but at the same come insanely annoying. I mean unbelievably, hair tearingly frustrating! Yes, if I had an electric car, I’d hate it, wouldn’t I??

But, couldn’t it be cool having an electric car that could tow a caravan? At first, I was rather worried. “It’s the end of the V8 pulling a caravan”. So, I started looking into it.

So, is towing a caravan with an electric car possible? Of course, manufacturers, such as Tesla, seem to make a thing about being able to tow, especially in the US. They’ve got many people excited about the Cyber Truck, which incidentally, looks like a 5-year-old has designed it. They give you figures about torque, towing capacity and of course, the all important RANGE! (Miles between re-charge) This is where it all starts to unravel and unravel in a BIG way.

Towing Capacity

On paper, towing a caravan with an electric car sounds ok and the amount they can tow does sound a reasonable amount, making them usable in most cases. For example, the Tesla Model X has a towing capacity of 2,249kg, which sounds good. However, as you’ll soon find out, not everything in the world of electric cars is quite as it should be – or indeed what it at first seems. The headline numbers jump out at you and convince you that this is the future of travel. However, this 2,249KG towing capacity really does depend on what size wheels you have. Really, I’m not joking! If you go for the 22inch wheels, which I probably would like, it decreases to about 1,360kg. That’s a big decrease!

You won’t be surprised to know, I haven’t been supplied with an electric car to test, so I did the next best thing and stole everyone else’s research, I’m sure they won’t mind.

The Norwegian EV Association (sorry it’s in Norwegian) did some tests, obviously, they do get supplied with cars, and came up with the following figures…

ModelWh per km/mi with trailerWh per km/mi without trailer
Tesla Model X Long Range (100D)279 Wh/449 Wh153 Wh/246 Wh
Mercedes-Benz EQC 400306 Wh/492 Wh163 Wh/262 Wh
Audi e-tron 55353 Wh/568 Wh185 Wh/298 Wh
Norwegian EV Association

As you can see, there’s quite an increase in the energy used and therefore decrease in range, whilst towing. These cars were towing 1,160kg, my Cartagena is 1,682kg – what were they towing? GoPods?

Range Whilst Towing

You can look on YouTube and you’ll find some information about the range of electric cars whilst towing. Mostly from the US and they seem to be petrol heads looking to show you how bad electric cars are, even so, they do provide some useful data.

In one example a Tesla Model X long-range (interesting use of the words “long-range” as it’s only 13 miles more than the “performance” version) They were towing a 900KG trailer for 1,200 miles, range of the Tesla was cut to 100 miles (about one-third of the non-towing range). To drive 1 and a half hours, they needed to spend 1 hour on charge. Obviously at 60mpg on a motorway that’s 90 mins drive, followed by 60 mins charge. Tesla’s are probably the best range you’ll get currently at about 320 miles (without towing)

In other examples, one guy gives the following results. He’s towing a 680KG small caravan. It was filmed in 2017, so things have definitely improved, however, it gives you an idea of towing during a proper road trip.

MilesTotal TimeTime DrivingTime Charging
2178h 9m5h 2m3h 7m
30011h 48m8h 4m3h 44m
101339h 54m29h 13m14h 34m

As you can see in the above table. time charging is the deal-breaker here. Unless you tow for about 100 miles to your destination, which, maybe some people do. We go to Brighton quite often and that is 94 miles. That’s probably the nearest weekend site we’d go to. 94 miles is pushing it on something that could have a 100-mile range. Too risky, my health would suffer!

Conclusions. The Real World.

So, I have more questions than answers regarding towing a caravan with an electric car and the more you read the more questions you have. Granted electric cars aren’t targetted at caravanners, however, with Tesla’s CyberTruck, I think it’s at least aimed at US users of pickup trucks.

Just thinking aloud for a minute. How would it work when you got to a CAMC site and needed to recharge your car. Now, this is a VERY naive view here as I’m not an expert, but how much would it cost to recharge your car? How would that alter the cost of a pitch?

The biggest show stoppers for me, and they are pretty big ones;

  • Range
  • Rowing capacity
  • Amount of time it takes to charge.

These are big obstacles to overcome.

As you may, or may not know, we take our twin axle, Cartagena, to the South of France most years. This is a 17-hour drive and we fill up about 4 times and its around 1,000 each way.

If I take the figures from the table above where the guy calculates over a 1013 mile trip, I’d need to spend 14hrs at charging stations. Now, of course, you could take time to plan your route there via recharging. But if you’re looking at a range of ~100 miles, I’d need to recharge 10 times. It wouldn’t make a very enjoyable trip.

I think, even when Cyber Tuck makes an appearance and even if you disregard the looks, it still won’t compare with ICE cars

More Things To Consider

More things that are floating around inside my head thinking about electric cars and towing. If you think of a diesel / petrol car. The more you travel the less fuel you have, so in theory the less energy you’re using. With an electric car, you don’t have that advantage.

I can’t see how, with today’s charging points, how you’d charge with a caravan attached? If you had to unhook the caravan every 100 miles are so, I assume you’d loose the will to live?

When towing you have the fridge on. With an electric car this would drain the battery even more, so you’d lessen your range.

On hot days we have aircon up full in the car. I’d be watching the range that a hawk so would probably turn off the air con to get a few more miles.

I wonder could you somehow use the caravan solar panels to help charge the car batteries, you’d probably need so many that it would increase the weight of the caravan therefor using more energy!

Travelling 1,200 miles whilst towing could take you 7 hours longer!

Batteries would need to increase their density of energy 3 fold to make it usable IMHO.

I have no idea of what it costs to recharge the batteries on an electric car. I can only assuming it’s cheaper than running on diesel?

Lastly, a table of a few electric cars, note that the range is unladen i.e. NOT towing. From what I’ve read, the best you could expect is half but more realistically one-third of the range quoted here…

My Plans

Will I be towing a caravan with an electric car any time soon? Well, we currently have 2 cars. I need a car to travel to work and Mandy needs one during the day to bomb around town. The car I use is our tow car. Mandy’s is a smaller 1 litre Aygo.

I have a plan to retire in a few years time, certainly no more than 5, so I’d like something maybe more “economical” and we might not need 2 cars anymore.

If I retire in 5 years time, our tow car will be 8 years old. I certainly wouldn’t want one on finance, so I need to sort out a car before I retire. At the moment an electric car isn’t an option whilst we have a caravan. So I’ll probably keep the towing car we currently have. I could, of course, possible change Mandy’s car for an electric, but the number of miles we do in that, it simply wouldn’t be worth it.

Make and modelJaguar I-PaceAudi e-tron Tesla Model X Mercedes EQC
Towing capacity750kg1,800kg2,270kg1,800kg
Price£64,395£71,560£82,700£64,925
Range292 miles237 miles314 miles259 miles

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