Getting an electric car is a big decision and there are a lot of factors to consider. For many people, the main concerns are things like running out of charge mid-drive, or covering the cost of a home chargepoint. Yet for a select few there is a far bigger concern, namely finding the best electric vehicle to tow a caravan or trailer.
If you’re obsessed with caravanning or use a trailer to tow anything from a jet ski to a horse box, the biggest concern you’re likely to have about investing is an EV is how well it will tow.
What exactly are you supposed to do if you want an EV, but need a large car on a par with the likes of the Ford Galaxy – one that would be capable of towing a small elephant should the need arise?
Here’s the thing: the time is rapidly approaching when fossil fueled cars will be a thing of the past. With the petrol and diesel ban imminent, pretty soon everyone who tows is going to need to find an electric car capable of handling their needs.
And the market knows this.
While there may not yet be EVs available that rival the Galaxy, there are equivalents available as SUVs, saloons, and estates that are more than capable of hitching up a trailer or caravan.
If you’ve been looking into EVs at all you’ve likely realised by now that the ever-popular Nissan Leaf isn’t going to tow anything very far. Yet this isn’t true of all EVs, with both hybrid and plug-in models available that are more than up to the challenge. Here’s how to find the best electric vehicle to tow a caravan or trailer…
Why Do So Many Electric Cars Struggle To Tow A Trailer?
Where towing is concerned, EVs are currently fairly limited, especially if you’re looking to buy a hatchback or supermini. Car manufacturers calculate exactly how much a vehicle can tow during the design and engineering process, and this figure determines the legal towing limit of the model.
Drivers looking for a car with real towing power need to concern themselves with two key figures: the maximum weight limit a car has for towing both an unbraked and braked trailer. If there are no figures published for a model it is usually because the car manufacturer has deemed it unsuitable for towing, and this is most often the case with electric cars.
There are a few different reasons EVs struggle to effectively tow. The main one is the battery packs that are fitted into electric cars, as they are very heavy. For example, the overall weight of a 1.2-litre petrol engine Renault Clio supermini can be as low as 977kg, while the all-electric Renault ZOE supermini clocks in at 1,468kg, of which the battery alone weighs 305kg.
Carrying so much extra weight means an EV has less capacity to deal with a trailer or caravan, as it could place too much strain on certain components, particularly the brakes.
Beyond this, manufacturers frequently cite the potential damage towing could cause to the car’s electric powertrain. While an electric motor comes with the benefits of impressive power and instant torque, which in theory is ideal for accelerating while towing a caravan or trailer, the problem arises when it comes to slowing down.
While conventional internal combustion engines can’t become generators the second you release the accelerator pedal, EVs can. They instantly convert kinetic energy into fresh charge for your car’s batteries, immediately slowing the vehicle down. If you’re towing a caravan or heavy trailer down a hill or steep incline, your car will contain a lot more kinetic energy than it would were it towing nothing. This can easily overwhelm the electrical system.
Finally, many EV manufacturers aren’t putting their models through the necessary homologation process that allows them to be certified for towing. The additional strain of pulling a trailer will dramatically reduce a car’s maximum driving range. Since EV manufacturers are (generally speaking) already struggling to combat the negative stigma and ‘range anxiety’ of potential customers, manufacturers simply don’t want to throw in the additional wild card that comes with towing.
With so many people already worrying what they will do in the (highly unlikely!) event they run out of charge mid-drive, from a marketing perspective it’s difficult for EV manufacturers to envision being able to sell the concept of an electric car that tows.
Electric Cars That Can Tow…
There is currently only one fully electric car on sale that’s been approved for towing – Tesla’s Model X SUV. This impressive EV can not only tow, but has a top towing range of 2,270kg – more than enough to haul your trailer or caravan.
The only thing to be aware of here is that if you didn’t pass your driving test prior to 1997, you will need to take an extra car-and-trailer driving test should the combined weight of what you’re towing and the Model X (which itself weighs in at 2,439kg) exceeds 3,500kg.
When you plug your trailer’s electrics into your Model X, the EV switches to ‘trailer mode’, which disables many of the driver-assistance features, including the automatic parking and steering, rear parking sensors, and active cruise control. The Model X will also activate Trailer Sway Mitigation, which allows for automatic braking of your vehicle’s individual wheels to prevent your trailer swaying dangerously in your wake.
While the Model X has a lot of amazing features and is the perfect choice for many caravaners and trailer fiends with a price point starting at £78,000, it’s not going to be for everyone. Fortunately, there are alternatives…
Plug-In Hybrid SUVs And Cars That Can Tow…
Since plug-in hybrids provide a combination of combustion engine and electric technology, a lot of the issues faced by models that are purely electric are considerably less pronounced. As a result, if you’re looking to tow, and the snazzy Model X is out of your price range, a plug-in hybrid is likely the way to go.
One of the cheaper plug-in hybrids on the market is Volkswagen’s Golf GTE, which is highly rated for its towing power. Capable of pulling up to 750kg as an unbraked load and an impressive 1,500kg with a braked trailer, it’s perfect for pulling a small- or medium-sized caravan.
Another great and affordable option is Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV, an SUV capable of towing 1,500kg as a braked load, with a 75kg maximum trailer nose weight. This makes it more than capable of managing most trailers and caravans.
While these are both great choices of hybrids the undisputed heavyweight champion of the plug-in word is Porsche’s Cayenne S E-Hybrid. At the pricier end of the spectrum, the Cayenne is capable of towing a 3,500kg braked trailer. This is the most weight that is legally allowed to be towed by a non-commercial vehicle, hybrid or otherwise.
The Future Of Towing In An Alternatively Fuelled World…
With the imminent arrival of the petrol and diesel ban we’re set to see a huge shift in the number of electric vehicles available on the market that are capable of real towing power. Consumers are not going to stop needing cars capable of pulling a caravan or trailer, and the inability to produce new fossil fuelled cars will force manufacturers to step up their game.
In the transition period Tesla’s Model X is the perfect choice for the eco-enthusiast, but if that’s a little out of your price range a hybrid is a great choice.
Whichever solution you choose, you’re going to need somewhere to charge your new car so it has plenty of juice to pull your stuff. Get in touch today for advice on choosing the perfect chargepoint for your home, or charging station for your business, and how to secure funding to help cover the costs of both…