Pretty much every car manufacturer has an electric or hybrid model these days, and concerns about stuff like travelling distance are getting less common as more charging points are being built.
But while many see electric cars as the future, there are still some drawbacks and question marks about whether they’re actually practical for ordinary drivers, particularly if you’re a family looking to tow a trailer or caravan for a holiday.
In this guide, we look at whether electric cars can be used for towing, and give you a few options on the makes and models available if you really do need pulling power from your electric motor.
Can I tow with an electric car?
While it’s technically possible to tow with an electric car, there are a lot of grey areas you should be aware of before hitching up a trailer or caravan.
For starters, most manufacturers don’t even develop electric cars with towing in mind. So even if you physically can tow something with your car, it might invalidate your warranty and insurance because the manufacturer hasn’t officially given it the OK.
If the manufacturer has tested and approved it for towing, there’ll be two figures listed on the spec sheet showing the maximum weights for pulling a braked and unbraked trailer. If these aren’t there, you can assume it’s not been giving the OK for towing – so that’s something to keep in mind when you’re searching around for the best electric tow car.
But why wouldn’t a manufacturer test a car’s towing abilities? After all, wouldn’t that make it more attractive to buyers?
The thing is, there actually are some practical reasons why they usually don’t.
- Electric, hybrid and plug-in cars are marketed on their performance and efficiency figures. Pulling a trailer has a big impact on mileage, performance and efficiency, so electric car makers have been reluctant to publish performance ratings when a car is towing.
- Safety is another very real concern for towing with an electric car. Electric, hybrid and plug-in engines are much heavier than standard diesel and petrol models, meaning that even small battery-powered hatchbacks like the Renault ZOE are much heavier than the equivalent petrol or diesel. Add to that the extra weight of towing, and this can start to impact on safety and performance, with the brakes placed under added strain that could make it difficult to slow down safely.
- And then there’s how the electric motor actually works. Most electric and hybrid cars use “regenerative braking” – rather than brake pads stopping the motion to slow the car, the energy which is making the car move is transferred back to the battery instead. When a car is towing a trailer or caravan, particularly downhill, this can put too much strain on the vehicle and could cause problems for the engine and brakes.
So, while some electric and hybrid cars may have the power to tow, they’re not necessarily built for it, and you should always check first that the right testing has been done before towing with an electric car.
Which electric and hybrid cars can be used for towing?
Thankfully, for those who need to tow regularly, there are a handful of electric and hybrid cars to choose from, and manufacturers are planning more. If they have been tested and approved for towing, electric cars actually excel at pulling heavy loads, with instant torque, powerful acceleration and smooth power output making them a great choice for towing caravans and trailers.
Here, we look at some of the best electric cars for towing, including fully-electric and hybrid models.
Tesla Model X
[Source: Tesla Press]
At the moment, the only fully-electric car on the market that can tow is the Tesla Model X, which has been developed to make it as capable as any other SUV. With a 2,700kg towing weight, the Model X can tow heavy caravans, but you should know that the quoted 270-mile range will be affected by towing heavy loads.
One of the best things about the Model X is its clever ‘Trailer Mode’ function. When you turn this on, it adjusts other vehicle settings to preserve battery life, and also automatically applies the brakes on each wheel independently if it detects that the tow load is swaying or swerving.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Mitsubishi was one of the first manufacturers to develop a plug-in SUV hybrid, and the Outlander PHEV has since become the go-to for motorists looking for a fuel-efficient 4X4. The car has plenty of power so it’s more than capable of pulling a caravan, trailer or horsebox, and also benefits from a petrol hybrid engine which means drivers don’t have to worry about running out of battery power.
The only downside to the Outlander PHEV is that, if it’s not charged regularly, it will act like any other SUV, and not be particularly fuel efficient. Add to that the extra weight of the electric motor and batteries, and a diesel would be the better choice. But, if you can charge it, it’s definitely worth considering.
Volvo XC90 T8
Like the Outlander, Volvo’s XC90 T8 essentially has two engines, a 2.0-litre petrol and an electric motor. Together, these produce 407bhp, which is more than enough power to tow a load up to 2,400kg in weight.
On paper, the XC90 T8 has a claimed MPG of 134.5, which is impressive, but it’s unlikely that you’ll achieve anywhere near this figure while towing. That said, it’s one of the most luxurious hybrid SUVs on the market, so if you want extra comfort on your drives it’s a good choice.
Range Rover Sport P400e PHEV
The Range Rover is a bit of a favourite for caravanners, because it gives you loads of power, great road-holding and a comfortable interior. And now there’s a PHEV, or plug-in hybrid, version, which gives you these same benefits without worrying about your environmental footprint.
The P400e offers 398bhp from a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and an 85kW electric motor, so it’s certainly got plenty of pull. But despite all this power, it’s quiet, refined and luxurious, so you can tow a load easily or use it as your daily run-around.
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