Towing with electric vehicles
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Hitching a boat or caravan to the back of your vehicle and heading to a lake or camping ground is as Kiwi as the hokey pokey icecream.
If your vehicle doesn’t have a towbar you can buy a genuine one from the vehicle manufacturer or have one made aftermarket.
Unfortunately, though, over the years there have been a few changes that have limited our towing options.
Information for used imported vehicles is hard to find and tow ratings can be non-existent as towing may not have been in the mind of the manufacturer nor a requirement in the market it was intended for.
When the CVT (continuously variable transmission-1-speed) was introduced, tow vehicle recommendations were a little limited as small engines were used and the transmission was not deemed strong enough to tow much more than a bike. But with time and technology advancements, the CVT has been fitted to engines with larger capacity and towing has become a viable option.
How much tow can an EV tow?
If you call a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) an EV then the answer until recently was not much.
The popular Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has a braked/unbraked capacity of 750kg, while the petrol model is rated to tow up to 1600kg braked. The new kid on the block, Kia Niro PHEV has a braked tow of 1300kg, which dispels our previous belief that a PHEV wasn’t capable of towing an empty trailer.
Currently EV tow ratings are non-existent ... that is unless you have a Tesla Model X. Is anyone surprised? Trust Tesla to break all the moulds. Not only have Teslas been the EV answer to range anxiety, all variants can tow 750kg unbraked and 2250kg braked. These are not just figures on paper — Tesla put the power of its Model X to the test by having the electric SUV tow a Qantas 787 Dreamliner for almost 300m at Melbourne Airport. And in NZ, the AA carried out its own (1200kg) tow test and was very impressed.
While it would be great if more tow capable EVs reached our market, it is important to factor in that towing reduces an EV’s battery range.
When we took the Tesla Model X for a spin with a 1200kg Haines Hunter SF535 boat attached, the main thing we were interested in was how fast the battery would drain with a load attached, compared to regular driving.
Over our short 35km journey, we calculated a 17 per cent drop in battery range. That’s three times faster than standard, essentially reducing a complete charge from 565km to less than 200km.
With consideration of the route, terrain and driving conditions, we still considered this a positive result.
Using an EV to tow a long distance
The AA has launched EV Charge Finder which uses the revolutionary and world-first EVRoam platform. Hosted on the AA’s Time and Distance calculator, EV Charge Finder enables drivers to plot their journey between charging stations, removing range anxiety stress for EV drivers who will now know with certainty there is a safe and reliable charging station on their route.
This platform has been created by NZTA, which collects live data directly from all New Zealand’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure providers, such as ChargeNet and Vector. Tesla chargers don’t yet feature because they’re for Tesla drivers only.
No other country in the world has been able to create a database like this with good old fashioned collaboration only — but it’s something us Kiwis know a bit about and we’re proud to provide this resource for EV drivers. Go to aa.co.nz/travel/time-and-distance-calculator and select charging stations