What you need to know about towing with an EV

Tesla X towing a caravan

Toby Hagon

Posted January 24, 2024

There’s plenty to be aware of when towing a heavy load, from load limits and parking techniques to safely setting up the trailer before you take off. But that mantra is amplified once you tow with an electric car.

Towing a caravan or a trailer is something of an Austalian pastime. However, when it comes to the best cars to buy for towing, electric vehicles (EVs) don't usually spring to mind.  There are valid concerns about how far you can get on a charge and whether your EV is even designed to tow.

Here’s what you need to know about towing a caravan or trailer with an EV.

What you need to know about towing with your EV

EVs are able to tow

Electric motors can handle heavy loads. They produce their torque almost instantaneously and from when the motor first starts spinning, whereas an internal combustion engine needs to build up speed before it’s producing its maximum.

That’s partially why trains and trams rely on electricity to shift very heavy loads. And they do a great job of it.

The challenge is you need a lot of electricity, something that needs to be transported in a battery pack, which is typically bulky and heavy.


2023 Cupra Born

The Cupra Born isn't designed to have a tow hitch at all. Image: Supplied

Check whether your EV can tow

Just because you’ve seen a trailer on the EV you’re looking to buy doesn’t mean the vehicle is suited to towing.

The Tesla Model 3, for example, is rated to tow up to 1000kg overseas. In Australia, however, the company stipulates a towing capacity of 750kg, with 100kg maximum tongue weight. The owner’s manual states that “damage caused by towing a trailer is not covered by the warranty”.

Similarly, some owners have fitted the Cupra Born with bike racks, yet the car is not designed to have a tow hitch at all.

So, check the Australian manufacturer website or enquire with the dealer to establish whether an EV has been certified to tow here. Also check things such as the gross vehicle mass and gross combined mass so you can do the calculations to ensure the car you’re towing with is safely set up.


red Tesla Model 3

The Tesla Model 3 is rated to tow up to 1000kg overseas but not in Australia. Image: Supplied

For now, EVs can't tow as much, but there's more coming

The EV on sale in Australia with the largest tow capacity is currently the BMW iX large SUV: it’s rated to tow up to 2.5 tonnes.

Many others can tow around 1.5 tonnes – sometimes a bit more - which is fine for small vans and box trailers, but hardly ready to shift some of the caravans Australians love to explore with.

And a whole bunch of EVs aren’t rated to tow at all. The manufacturer simply hasn’t engineered them for towing.

Blame it on demand for EVs globally. The focus for the early breed of EVs has been proving the technology in popular and fruitful market segments, such as mid-sized SUVs and luxury vehicles.

But the experience in the United States suggests there will soon be some serious tow EVs. Already Americans can buy electric big pick-up trucks (larger versions of what we know as utes) with a tow capacity of about 4.5 tonnes. That’s one tonne more than the 3500kg many serious tow vehicles in Australia offer.

General Motors has also promised a work-focused version of its Chevrolet Silverado EV to tow upwards of nine tonnes.

All of which suggests some serious heavy duty EV tow machines aren’t far off reaching our shores.



The BMW iX is currently the EV with the largest tow capacity for sale in Australia. Image: Supplied

Be aware of charge and range

The claimed range on an EV is one of the most important stats for many buyers. Whatever that range is will be lowered significantly once towing.

Just as a petrol or diesel vehicle requires more fuel to shift a heavy load, an EV requires more energy, which is delivered in the form of electricity. Exactly how much energy is required depends on what you’re towing and what you’re towing it with. And there’s no hard and fast calculation to determine how much faster the battery will drain with a load on board.

The biggest issue is the shape of the trailer, according to Darren Palmer, Ford’s vice president of electric vehicle programs. He says aerodynamics is more important than additional kilograms in impacting range and that the shape and aerodynamic efficiency of the thing being towed is crucial.

“Around a one-tonne load in it, it doesn’t change the range very much,” Palmer says, pointing out that brake regeneration helps recuperate much of the energy used to get the load moving in the first place. “Range is most affected by aerodynamics. Towing is the thing that hurts range if you have a towing load that’s not very aerodynamic.”


Chevrolet Silverado

General Motors has promised a work-focused version of its Chevrolet Silverado EV. It's unclear whether this vehicle will be available in Australia. Image: Supplied

Charging is trickier

Most charging stations aren’t designed to cater to cars with caravans.

For that reason, with the current infrastructure you’ll likely have to unhitch the trailer so that you can back or nose into the charging space - or so that you don’t block other vehicles.

If you’re visiting caravan parks it’d be worth calling ahead to see whether they’re OK with you charging and what facilities they have. A regular powered site could be fine for slow charging if you’re planning on spending a couple of days there.

Otherwise, you need to be prepared for some charging challenges.


EV being charged

Most charging stations aren’t designed to cater to cars with caravans. Image: Shannon Morris

Battery technology is improving

Better batteries with a higher energy density could improve the outlook for towing with electric vehicles.

Japanese brands such as Nissan and Toyota have promised solid state batteries that can store the same amount of energy in a battery that is half the weight. It means EVs could theoretically travel twice as far between charges.

That’s just the start of an anticipated boom in battery advances that promises to make electric vehicles better in future.

Charging technology is also improving, potentially alleviating the challenges of towing over big distances.

Plus there’s the prospect of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, which can perform a chemical reaction to transform hydrogen into electricity.

Toyota is one brand pushing hard for FCEVs, something that could lead to circa-five-minute refuelling times commensurate with existing petrol and diesel vehicles.

All of which suggests that while towing is not a priority for the current breed of EVs, it’s only a matter of time until electric cars are hauling big boats and caravans all across the country.


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