David MottonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Tow cars’ written by David Motton
Tow Car Editor
Do caravanners have anything to fear from the rise of the electric car? While a number of hybrids (cars which use both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor) can tow, almost all pure electric cars can't tow anything at all. Given that the government wants to see an end to the sale of conventional diesel and petrol cars, is this something tow car drivers should worry about?
Mildly concerned, perhaps, but not worried. In fact, if you have deep enough pockets, it's possible to tow with a pure electric car right now, and a number of caravan-capable models are launching over the next few months.
There are drawbacks to towing with an electric vehicle at the moment - and some of them are significant. But we're in the early days of pure electric vehicles with towing capability, and the technology is evolving fast.
Today's electric tow cars
There are already pure electric vehicles on sale that are able to tow. The Tesla Model X can be fitted with a towing pack that allows the car to tow 2250kg. With a hefty kerbweight of almost 2.5 tonnes, even large twin-axle caravans make sensible matches.
Of course, there's theory and then there's practice. We've never towed with a Tesla, so can't speak from experience as to how well it performs. Given that the top-spec models can accelerate from 0-62mph in as little as 3.1 seconds, it seems fairly safe to assume it will have the performance to pull a large and heavy caravan.
Range is more likely to be an issue. The Model X, with a 100kWh battery has a 351-mile range, according to Tesla. But how far will it go with a caravan behind it?
A number of reviewers and owners have posted videos online about towing with the Tesla. US car review brand, Edmunds, towed a lightweight caravan (680kg) behind a Model X and found the range dropped by around half. On day one of their towing trip, the car was driven for just over five hours and spent more than three hours being charged. Even towing such a light caravan made 100 miles or so between charges a realistic maximum.
Perhaps Jaguar had this in mind when setting the Jaguar I-Pace's legal towing limit. Like its rival, the Model X, it is approved for towing, but the maximum is a more robust 750kg.
Tomorrow's electric tow cars
More big electric SUVs capable of towing are on the way. The Audi e-tron has a kerb weight of well over two tonnes, and a legal maximum of 1800kg. The Mercedes-Bez EQC is another heavyweight 4x4, which can legally tow 1800kg. Both will go on sale later this year.
These are all expensive cars. The I-Pace range starts from £64,495 (£60,995 once the government's plug-in car grant has been deducted). The Audi e-tron costs upwards of £71,490 before the government's grant has been applied.
Of course, there are many more affordable pure electric vehicles, but the likes of the Hyundai, Kona Electric, the Kia e-Niro and the Nissan Leaf can't tow. Yet. But the day will come as the range, power and performance of more affordable electric vehicles continues to improve.
Hurdles to overcome
Range is one headache drivers will face when towing with a pure electric car. Charging time is another.
Filling up with petrol or diesel takes a few minutes, and you can pull into a motorway service station with your caravan still attached.
Charging an electric car is more time consuming, especially if you are towing. You would need to drive to the caravan parking, unhitch, make sure the caravan is secure, then drive to the charger.
If you were towing with a Tesla you'd be able to use the Supercharger network, which can charge the battery to 80% full in around 40 minutes. However, the Ecotricity network, which is available for other electric vehicles, is less powerful and cannot be used for longer than 45 minutes at a time.
So you'll need to stop more often when towing with an electric car, and each stop will take longer.
This drawback won't be as significant as it is now indefinitely. There are charging networks in development that will make Tesla's Supercharger network seem like early dial-up internet compared with ultra-fast broadband.
The IONITY network is being rolled out across Europe, and charges at up to 350kW. That's roughly three times as powerful as the Tesla network, and means that by the time you've nipped to the loo and bought a coffee, your car will be ready to go. The pace at which the technology is developing is remarkable.
Towing with a pure electric car today
Today's pure electric tow cars are undeniably pricey, and charging up while towing is a bit of a faff. But it is possible. Limited range means short journeys (say, towing a horse box to a local event) are easier to contemplate than long-distance caravanning.
But, with the cars and the charging technology evolving quickly, in the long-term I think pure electric vehicles will become a realistic choice for many caravanners within the next decade.
I'm looking forward to it.