You may have seen our recent post on electric vehicle towing capacity in which we discussed whether or not it’s possible to tow your RV with an electric vehicle (EV). Today’s post looks at EVs and RVs from a different perspective: “Can electric vehicles be flat towed?”
We’ll begin with a quick primer on flat towing any vehicle, and then we’ll see where we are in terms of using EVs as flat-towed toads!
- 1) What is Flat Towing?
- 2) Can Most Cars Be Flat Towed Behind an RV?
- 3) Do You Need a Special Tow Bar for Flat Towing?
- 4) Does Flat Towing Require a Special Braking Mechanism?
- 5) Can Electric Vehicles Be Flat Towed?
- 6) Are There ANY Electric Vehicles That Can Be Flat Towed Behind an RV?
- 7) Would You be Interested in Flat Towing an Electric Vehicle Behind Your RV?
What is Flat Towing?
Flat towing is towing with four wheels down. All four wheels of the toad are on the ground when flat towing. This is the way we tow our Honda CR-V behind our motorhome, in fact.
Flat towing is considered the gold standard of towing and with many years of experience behind us, we can even show you how to hook up your car to your RV tow bar by yourself with relative ease. Bear in mind, however, that not every car can be flat towed. (More on that later.)
Fortunately for those who can’t flat tow, there are other towing methods available. In our opinion, they’re less convenient, but for those without the option to flat tow, there are other means of towing a car behind an RV.
Camping with a dolly or a trailer that must be stored somewhere on the campsite isn’t everyone’s favorite cup of tea. But, let’s take a look at why it may be necessary to use dolly towing or trailer towing (flatbed or enclosed) instead of flat towing.
Can Most Cars Be Flat Towed Behind an RV?
The short answer here is no. Not all cars (not even most cars) can be flat towed. As a matter of fact, we currently flat tow a 2003 Honda CR-V and have done so for 19 years.
But, if we were to buy a brand new Honda CR-V today, we wouldn’t be able to flat tow it. Only the pre-2015 models of the Honda CR-V are approved for flat towing by Honda (as long as you follow the proper procedure as laid out in the owner’s manual).
So, if you were to ask the question, “Can you flat tow a Honda CR-V”, the answer would be “maybe”, because we’d need more information about the car.
The main reason why many cars can’t be flat towed is that their transmission is only lubricated when the engine is running. Without that lubrication, the transmission can overheat and may even burn up while dinghy towing, causing expensive damage.
With that said, we could make the cautious generalization that a rear-wheel-drive vehicle with a manual transmission, or a four-wheel-drive vehicle with a manual transfer case that can be put in neutral, PROBABLY can be flat towed.
The bottom line for those interested in flat towing ANY vehicle is knowing what cars can be flat towed behind an RV.
Do You Need a Special Tow Bar for Flat Towing?
Yes. And there are a number of important things to know when considering what’s the best tow bar for flat towing.
You’ll need to consider the weight of the vehicle you’ll be towing, and you’ll need a system that includes the wiring necessary to connect your RV lights to the lights of your toad (which may include buying & installing a separate wiring kit). You’ll also need quality safety cables, and of course, a hitch receiver on your RV if you don’t already have one.
But you’ll also want to look at other features of your tow bar setup including ease of use and durability over time. And for goodness’ sake (and for YOUR sake) you’ll want a non-binding latch on your towing setup. Don’t believe us? See our towbar unbound post and have a look at our towbar unbound YouTube video:
People ask us all the time what our favorite tow bar is for flat towing our Honda CR-V behind our motorhome, and without hesitation, we gush with good reason about the Roadmaster Nighthawk tow bar.
It’s by far our favorite, hands down. Here’s more detailed information about why this is our tow bar of choice:
Does Flat Towing Require a Special Braking Mechanism?
When flat towing any vehicle, an auxiliary braking system is required by law in most of North America (rules & requirements vary by state/province). The purpose of an auxiliary braking system is to reduce the addition of the towed car’s weight to the RV’s braking system and to bring the towed car to a stop should a breakaway occur.
Our RV towed car braking system is the Roadmaster InvisiBrake which we had installed by Roadmaster, and WOW what a difference from our previous system.
We invite you to watch our video if you’re interested in more information about this upgrade of our auxiliary braking system:
Can Electric Vehicles Be Flat Towed?
And here we are (finally!) at the original question posed by this post: “Can electric vehicles be flat towed?” Now that we’ve given an overview of why not all cars can be flat towed, it may be easier to understand that, in general, today’s electric vehicles are NOT to be towed four wheels down behind a motorhome (and most rear-wheel drive EVs can’t even be towed on a dolly).
The primary reason for this is that the wear & tear on their electric motors would be substantial while being towed. An EV’s electric motor is often directly connected to the wheel(s) it’s powering. So when you shift the vehicle into neutral, unlike in a traditional drivetrain, the motor isn’t disconnected from the wheels. Instead, power just stops flowing to it.
That’s because EVs don’t have the same type of transmission as gasoline engines do, which is typically required for flat towing. We can’t simply shift a vehicle into neutral and start towing. A true transmission disconnect, or a transmission that isn’t damaged by being spun without the engine running, is what ensures that the vehicle’s transmission and engine won’t be damaged or worse.
So, IN GENERAL, the answer to the question, “Can electric vehicles be flat towed with an RV?” is no.
However, we’re reading and hearing some whispers about changes that’ll possibly lead to a whole different answer in time.
And with that in mind…
Are There ANY Electric Vehicles That Can Be Flat Towed Behind an RV?
As it turns out, we heard from Rivian directly some time back that their all-electric Rivian R1T (their pickup truck) and the Rivian R1S (their SUV) CAN be flat towed behind an RV. These two electric vehicles from Rivian are built on the same platform.
So, the possibilities are coming. But at this time, Rivian is the only EV manufacturer that has officially claimed that their EVs can be flat towed behind an RV. Deliveries are still very slow and there aren’t many Rivians on the road as of yet… so we haven’t been able to corroborate first-hand that this is true. That said, we’ve got our fingers crossed!
One more thing…
A reader suggested in the comments section of one of our recent posts that the Ford F-150 Lightning can be flat towed, but we haven’t found any information to confirm this. But, the Lightning has permanent magnet motors that always rotate when the wheels are in motion. In a flat towing situation, it would damage the motors when dragging them behind an RV.
With that said, Ford did file a patent that could change this.
Ford has reportedly patented a way to charge electric vehicles by flat towing them. The patent refers to how an EV can be charged while being towed behind another vehicle.
The patent application was filed in December 2020 and published in July 2021. You can read more on that patent here.
Meanwhile, if electric vehicle manufacturers DO allow their EVs to be towed behind an RV, wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a built-in auxiliary braking mechanism using the EV’s regenerative brakes… as well as the ability to recharge while being towed (either through an umbilical connection between the RV and the car OR through a regenerative electric generation mode)? Potentially exciting innovations for sure!
Electric vehicles bring a lot of change to the automotive world, and it would be great to see some new features/options that make towing an EV behind an RV easier.
Would You be Interested in Flat Towing an Electric Vehicle Behind Your RV?
So, what do you think about the possibilities on the horizon for RVers who are interested in flat towing an EV? Would you have any interest in flat towing an EV behind your RV? Drop us a comment below!
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