Can an Electric Vehicle Tow a Trailer or Camper?

can electric vehicle tow trailers?

What would you reply 10 years ago when someone asks you, “Hey, can that Nissan Leaf tow?” You would most likely say something along the lines of: “Yeah but not much and definitely not far, it only has 84 miles of range on a full charge…”.

You’d be lucky to get 40 to 50 miles on a full charge towing a measly 1,000 pounds.

Electric car towing has evolved significantly in the last decade, with dozens of new vehicles being introduced and technology advancing ever so swiftly.

The question still remains for many people: Can an electric vehicle tow a trailer or a camper… of any kind?…  the quick answer is YES

But the long (and better) answer is, it DEPENDS.

This is what I made this post for, it’s to answer the question by explaining what the current state of affairs is with towing additional vehicles behind EV’s.

What towing specs to look for in EV's?

What things to look for?
*Image from Ford

One of the first main things to look for in an electric vehicle is clear indication that the vehicle can actually tow. Manufacturers in the United States are strict on rating vehicles for towing capacity. Many European and Asian markets have small vehicles towing far beyond what they are rated for in the United States, with little to no real problems.

There’a FIVE things to look for when looking at an electric vehicle and seeing whether it has the towing capacity that matches your needs.

Battery Capacity

battery capacity of EVs
*Image from Rivian forum

Aside for the actual towing capacity, battery capacity has to be one of the most important things to look for. EV’s store energy in their battery, thus why it’s called battery capacity. With regular vehicles that operate on gasoline or diesel having fuel tanks and are rated at miles per gallon, electric vehicles rate their efficiency in miles per kilowatt hour (mi/kWh).

Vehicle such as the Tesla Model X 100D are rated for 295 miles on a single charge from a 100 kWh battery pack. This averages out to 2.95 miles per kilowatt hour. As an average based on city and highway driving, that is what you can confidently expect at 100% state of charge.

A safe rule of thumb towing any kind of size-able trailer or camper (that does not exceed capacity ratings), at highway speeds the range can be cut in HALF. From 2.95 to 1.5 mi/kWh, or so. As you can see, you can estimate 140-150 miles on a single charge from 0% (in theory).

Towing Capacity

towing capacity

Vehicles like the Hyundai Ioniq electric are known for having some of the best efficiency in the industry, however their towing capacity is next to nothing. If you can manage to tow 1,000 in total with the vehicles, you could still manage 2 to 3 miles per kilowatt hour on relatively flat surface.

At 38.3 kWh capacity, with a small trailer behind you, expect 75 to 110 miles of range.

The most current towing kind is the Ford F-150 Lightning with its 10,000 pounds of towing capacity. Even at its 136* roughly kWh battery capacity, towing near its limit of 10,000 and getting 1 to 1.5 miles per kilowatt hour, you can get anywhere between 136 to 200 miles on a single, full charge.

Payload Capacity

electric car payload capacity

When it comes to electric trucks, its a relatively new thing to 2021 and 2022 years. The most recent available options now on the market are the Ford, Hummer and Rivian offerings. Their payloads vary significantly, so be sure to check their specs (available below, keep reading).

Here’s something to think about.

For a vehicle like the F150 Lightning with a payload of around 2,200 pounds, if the tongue weight of the trailer you are pulling is 500 pounds, the payload capacity drops to 1,700 pounds as you are towing the camper or trailer behind you.

You can still put things in the bed of the truck, but the maximum payload rating is reduced due to the added trailer connection.

Aerodynamics

ev aerodynamics for efficiency

Like with any moving vehicle that cuts through air, aerodynamics plays a significant role in efficiency. Towing capacity for EV’s can be effected when there’s any kind of wind resistance. The Model X is rated for 0.24 drag coefficient, where as the F150 Lightning is rated at 0.46. 

If you were to hypermile with the Model X and F150 Lightning, you would get better improvements in terms of efficiency with the Model X (towing the same thing).

Unloaded Vehicle Weight and Gross Vehicle Weight

empty weight of trailer for towing

If you picked an electric vehicle to tow a trailer with, but let’s say you are cutting it close with the capacity, you need to remember what the trailers UVW is. For a Tesla Model X 100D, the towing capacity is 5,000 pounds. A trailer that is rated for 4,800 pounds empty, sitting dry, is already cutting it close to the Model X’s capacity.

Adding water to the water tanks, adding your luggage, additional batteries for solar, and many other things, you can easily be at 500 pounds or more of extra wight. This is where the Gross Vehicle Weight comes into play, you want to be careful here.

Know your EV’s towing capacity, know your trailers empty weight, and take into account adding all the misc things to get it going.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: A post we wrote about properly having your EV towed. Not many know improperly towing your EV can cause significant damage. Give it a read and save yourself a possible BIG repair bill.

Top 4 Electric SUV's Towing Capacity

Rivian R1S

The Model X is the OG SUV when it comes to the electric vehicle segment. Since the first release of the Model X, a few other SUV’s have been released and now have not only decent driving range, but they also have some respectable towing capacity figures. Below are the top picks for electric SUV’s towing capacity:

Tesla Model X 5,000 pounds

This is the original gangster of SUV’s as I mentioned, with 100 kWh of battery capacity, you can tow for quite some time (compared to other electric SUV’s). If you are limited by budget, consider getting the Model Y for a respectable 3,500 pounds of towing capacity.

Audi E-Tron 4,000 pounds

When luxury started to become a real concern, Audi addressed the worries of many buyers. The E-Tron is a very popular SUV all around the world. When it comes to towing capacity, it does fairly well but not quite as much as the Model X. Depending on what you are looking for in an electric SUV, for luxury, the E-Tron is a solid choice. For practicality, the Model X takes the cake.

Rivian R1S 7,700 pounds

The new-comer to the electric SUV game is Rivian. With the R1T being a massive success and one of the most anticipated vehicles ever, the R1S does not seem to be getting as much love… understandably so. The hype train has passed through, yet the demand is solid and reliable. 

The R1S is an SUV version of the two vehicles Rivian manufactures. The towing capacity is the call-leading 7,700 pounds. With respectable range figures, this electric SUV does in fact have what it takes to tow most things reasonable distances.

GMC Hummer 7,500 pounds

This electric SUV might as well be called the electric tank, no joke. At almost 10,000 pounds and with over 200 kWh of battery capacity, the hummer is a tank for everyday living. At 7,500 pounds of towing capacity, it is reasonable and respectable. A solid #2 on the list and a good choice if you can afford it.

Top 3 Electric Truck Towing Capacity

GMC Hummer Ev towing

Pickup trucks are the ones that are really meant for towing, and 2022 was the year that Hummer, Rivian and Ford made a huge stride in moving forward with electrification for all. I would include the Tesla Cybertruck in this list, however the vehicle is not currently selling and towing capacity number for that electric truck are still unverified.

Ford F150 Lightning 7,700-10,000 pounds

The F150 Lightning comes with two battery configurations, 95kWh and 135kWh. You probably guessed already that 7,700 belongs to the small battery and the latter does with the bigger battery.

Overall, the electric truck can get up to 330 miles on a single charge, providing plenty of buffer for towing something heavy.

Rivian R1T 11,000 pounds

Rivian is at the moment dominating the towing game with up to 11,000 pounds of towing capacity. This truck may be slimmer and looking much like a Toyota Tacoma, but don’t be fooled. Battery capacity with this truck is identical to the Extended Range F-150 mentioned earlier.

GMC Hummer EV Truck 7,500 pounds

One of the coolest and most laughable electric “trucks” on the market so far, the GMC Hummer EV defies all things that makes an efficient electric vehicle. Heavy, boxy and ultimately made for crawling hills in a desert.

Driving without a trailer the efficiency is already barely 1.5 miles per kilowatt hour, imagine towing something else, you can expect that figure to drop to 0.5 to 0.75, giving a total range of 100-150 miles (maybe) on a full charge… did I mention the huge 206 kWh battery it has?

Top 3 Electric Car Towing Capacity

Ioniq 5 towing

There are many electric cars that can tow, anywhere between 500 and 1,000 pounds. When you start to climb to 2,000 pounds or more, things get fairly limited. Why you ask?

The reason is most likely because electric “cars” are meant to be superbly efficient and their entire setup is made to be as light weight and mostly equipped for cruising on the highway, rather than pulling something.

Kia EV6 & Hyundai Ioniq 5 2,300 pounds

Currently, the Kia and Hyundai twins are the benchmark in many regards when it comes to daily, usable electric vehicles. The Koreans have outdone themselves this time and are seriously giving the American and German manufacturers, a run for their money.

While these two are more set-up as family sized hatchbacks, they are surprisingly big in person and their towing capacity is respectable at 2,300 pounds.

Polestar 2 2,000 pounds

A branch-off from Volvo, the Polestar is a family sized sedan that gets impressive range and equally impressive towing capacity, for being a family sedan. At 2,000 pounds towing capacity for this electric car, you can tow a few jet ski’s, a teardrop trailer and much more.

Chevy Bolt EV 2,000 pounds

One of the most popular electric cars of all time, the Bolt EV is a VW Golf sized hatchback that gave usable range at an affordable price. The overall size of the vehicle is small, but the Bolt is roomy and has plenty of power to spare. At 2,000 pounds of towing capacity, it does exactly what the Polestar 2 above can.

Electric VAN Towing Capacity

Ford E-Transit Towing

Ford E-Transit 3,880 pounds (PayLoad)

At the moment, the only vehicle that is currently available for mass market purchase is the Ford e-Transit. In the United States, this is a 126 mile range vehicle that is capable of towing up to 1,000 pounds of weight (unofficially) but more impressively, the payload capacity of the Ford E-Transit is 3,880 pounds in total. 

Being a work van it is understandable. In the event you ever want to convert this vehicle into a camper van or use it for commercial purposes, it has the durability to do just that.

What does the future hold for battery technology?

In my honest opinion, the future is looking very bright for electric vehicles. As technology gets better, vehicles will become more efficient, motors will become stronger, and ultimately battery tech will allow us to store more energy into smaller size batteries (this is where solid state batteries come into play). What does this equal to? Lighter vehicles, longer range while towing and overall improved reliability.