With all the interest in electric vehicles, and with interest in RVs at an all-time high, we thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the possibilities associated with towing an RV with an electric vehicle. So, today we’re looking at electric vehicle towing capacity, and asking the question “Can you tow your RV with an EV?”
Electric vehicles appear poised to go mainstream, and now that there are electric trucks and SUVs coming to market, the question is certainly worth asking. Let’s take a look at electric vehicle towing capacity, and whether electric vehicles have the overall mojo to be tow vehicles for RVs.
- 1) What Is an Electric Vehicle?
- 2) What Is Electric Vehicle Towing Capacity?
- 3) What Is Payload Capacity?
- 4) What Is the “Dry Weight” of an RV?
- 5) What Is the GVWR of an RV?
- 6) What Does “State of Charge” Mean on an Electric Vehicle?
- 7) Can an Electric Truck Pull an RV?
- 8) Can I Tow an RV With Other Electric Vehicles?
- 9) What Are the Drawbacks of Towing an RV With an EV?
- 10) What Do You Think About Towing an RV With an EV?
What Is an Electric Vehicle?
An electric vehicle, or “EV”, is a vehicle that is fully or partially (hybrid) powered by electricity. The energy is stored in large rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
The motors in electric vehicles are generally either AC (alternating current) induction motors or DC (direct current) permanent magnet motors. Without getting too much into the details, at full load, induction motors tend to be somewhat less efficient than permanent magnet motors. (Permanent magnet motors are frequently smaller and lighter than induction motors.) In the way of examples, Tesla’s Model S uses induction motors while their Model 3 vehicles use permanent magnet DC motors. These motors are essentially silent.
By the way – where you’re probably used to judging the power of your vehicle in terms of horsepower, with an electric vehicle you’ll be looking at how many kilowatts your EV is capable of producing. This may seem daunting, but it’s actually quite simple. Let’s take a quick look at an example:
If you want to figure out horsepower from kilowatts, simply take the kilowatt figure and increase it by ⅓. So, if you want to translate 240 kilowatts to horsepower, you’d increase the kilowatt figure (240) by 80 (⅓ of 240). 240 kilowatts = 320 horsepower.
If you want to do the reverse and figure out kilowatts from horsepower, simply subtract ¼ from your horsepower figure. Got an 800 hp engine? Translating to kilowatts is as simple as subtracting ¼ (200) from 800, leaving you with 600 kilowatts. This gives you a general idea that makes it easy to compute your translations while falling within 1% of the exact conversion.
Electric vehicles use the power stored in their onboard batteries to drive a certain distance, after which the battery needs to be recharged. This is not a lot different from using fuel to power the internal combustion engine of a gas or diesel-powered vehicle, however, you can generally drive significantly further before refueling (and that re-fueling process is pretty universally available and quick).
With an electric vehicle, currently, the longest distance one could drive before recharging would be around 240 miles. Some high-end Teslas can do twice that – or so we’ve read – but this post refers to electric vehicles that are capable of towing an RV. (Remember, also, that towing itself reduces the distance you can travel before recharging a battery or refueling a tank.)
There’s a whole lot that goes into determining the efficiency of an electric vehicle and its charging time. Factors include everything from voltage (higher voltage means lower amperage) to environmental factors like temperature. (An electric vehicle’s state of charge drops markedly in excessively high or low temps. Moreover, the climate control system of an EV is completely powered by the battery, so using the heat or air conditioning impacts the battery’s state of charge as well.)
So, electric vehicle towing capacity is a bit of a complex subject for all of the reasons we’ve discussed above. Electric vehicles have come a long way – and they’ve also got a long way to go as tow vehicles for RVs, as we’ll see in the remainder of this post.
What Is Electric Vehicle Towing Capacity?
Just like gas- or diesel-powered vehicles, the simple answer to this question is that the EV towing capacity is the amount of weight a vehicle can safely tow. And you’ll find a manufacturer’s towing capacity listed in the owner’s manual of your vehicle.
However, while there’s a lot that goes into automakers determining this figure for any given vehicle, towing capacity doesn’t really stop with the number offered up by the manufacturer. That’s just a starting point. It’s then up to the consumer to take careful note of what’s being carried in terms of additional weight.
The manufacturer’s towing capacity allows only for the additional weight of a driver – nothing more. So, if you want to tow a travel trailer, for example, you’ll need to figure in not only the weight of that RV but also the weight of everything you’ll carry in the rig, from clothes to food to recreational gear to the fluids you’re carrying in your holding tanks. Even a tank of fuel and the fluid in the windshield washer reservoir haven’t been factored in by manufacturers.
So – to calculate electric vehicle towing capacity or the towing capacity of any vehicle, you’ll first want to determine the GCVWR (Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating) of the vehicle you’re towing with PLUS the travel trailer you intend to tow, PLUS all of the cargo BOTH vehicles will carry, including people and fluids.
You’ll then determine your vehicle’s curb weight (the weight of the vehicle itself plus the additional weight of gas and other fluids).
Finally, subtract the curb weight from the GCVWR, and this will give you the actual towing capacity. Manufacturers tell you to never exceed towing capacity, but in general, it’s best not to exceed 90% of your vehicle’s stated towing capacity so that you’re never pushing extreme limits without accounting for potential miscalculations or shifting weight distribution, etc. All of this applies to electric vehicle towing capacity as well, of course.
What Is Payload Capacity?
Payload capacity is a simpler matter. This refers to the weight limit for a truck’s bed and cabin, or the maximum amount of weight your tow vehicle can carry in its cabin and bed in addition to the truck’s empty weight.
So, your payload can be anything you can carry whether it’s a truck bed full of wood from Home Depot or four passengers and all their luggage for the weekend.
Payload capacity is noted in a vehicle’s owner’s manual, but it can also be calculated by taking the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of the vehicle and subtracting its curb weight.
So, GVWR – curb weight = payload capacity.
The difference between towing capacity and payload capacity is the difference between CARRY and PULL. Towing capacity refers to the number of pounds a truck can PULL, while payload capacity refers to the number of pounds of cargo a truck can CARRY.
What Is the “Dry Weight” of an RV?
The dry weight of an RV refers to the weight of the rig as shipped from the manufacturer without passengers (if applicable), fuel, other fluids, cargo, or any options or modifications added after shipping (including those added by dealers or previous owners).
You can learn more about the meaning of the term “dry weight” and why it’s important in our post entitled, “What is Dry Weight on a Camper?”
What Is the GVWR of an RV?
The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of an RV is the weight of the RV fully loaded, including passengers (if applicable), fluids, all cargo, and any optional or added equipment.
When you see the GVWR of an RV noted, you’re looking at the absolute maximum that the rig can bear to carry. Never, ever exceed this, and again – it’s best to fall 10% short of that number, in reality, to allow for miscalculations.
What Does “State of Charge” Mean on an Electric Vehicle?
The term “state of charge” (or “SoC”) refers to the remaining charge of an electric vehicle’s battery relative to its capacity.
The state of charge on an electric vehicle is equivalent to the level of fuel in the tank of a fuel-powered vehicle. If your fuel gauge read ¾, you’d know your tank still had 75% of a full tank of fuel left. State of charge would be the equivalent, indicating the percentage of energy (fuel) the battery still had left available.
Can an Electric Truck Pull an RV?
Yes! There are electric trucks on the market that are capable of pulling an RV. Now, of course, this would depend on the truck AND the RV in question, keeping all of the points referred to earlier in this post pertaining to weight in mind. When considering electric vehicle towing capacity, everything that pertains to the general towing of an RV needs to be considered, as well as several additional factors.
But there are electric trucks on the market that can pull 7,500 pounds, 10,000 pounds, or well in excess of those weights. There are also RVs that weigh only 5,000 pounds. So, yes – an electric truck (depending on which one you’re considering) can pull an RV (depending on which one you’re considering).
In fact, Atlis Motor Vehicles has revealed a prototype of a beast of a truck projected to feature a 35,000-pound towing capacity with a 5th wheel/gooseneck hitch. You can’t buy one today, though. Last we heard it was scheduled to go into production in late 2022. But the prospect is good for electric trucks to pull an RV.
One of the drawbacks of an electric tow vehicle, however, is the distance that can be traveled before the battery needs recharging. Since lots of campers love to boondock as we do, and since there’s not likely to be EV charging stations deep in the forest, high up in the mountains, or way out in the desert, we’d be hard-pressed to consider an EV as our tow vehicle, and we think many campers would feel the same.
However, a truck like the AtlisXP, (if you can afford the projected $78,000 price tag), skirts that issue by offering a 500-mile travel radius before recharging is needed. (When you read those projections, however, you need to remember that they’re made in a “lab” situation of sorts – not based on real-world experience. The operating range and energy consumption of electric vehicles are tested under controlled conditions. As we’ve noted previously, an EV’s actual traveling range will vary considerably based on real-world conditions.)
What Is the Towing Capacity of the Electric F-150?
The F-150 Lightning has a maximum towing capacity of 10,000 pounds. Bear in mind that this is the manufacturer’s MAXIMUM, delivered with only the F-150 with original specs plus a driver in mind. Be sure to consult the information in the section entitled “What is Towing Capacity?” above as you consider the manufacturer’s stated towing capacity as a part of the equation.
Incidentally, in December (2021), Car & Driver Magazine published an article noting that Ford had confirmed the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning to have the capacity to deliver up to 300 miles with the Extended Range battery, and up to 230 miles on the Standard Range battery pack. That article, replete with all the battery specs of the F-150 Lightning, can be found here. (Again, we caution you to keep real-world experience in mind as factors like temperature, driving style, weight being carried, etc. will have an impact on these ranges.)
What Is the Towing Capacity of the Rivian R1T?
The Rivian R1T has a maximum towing capacity of 11,000 pounds, and everything we noted in the previous section with regard to tow capacity applies, of course, to the Rivian as well.
That 11,000-pound rating is the manufacturer’s number based on the Rivian R1T as it comes from the factory with one driver on board.
What Is the Towing Capacity of the Hummer EV?
The Hummer EV has a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds and is slated to be quite a beast. Its top powertrain option offers a whopping 1000 horsepower and uses three electric motors. The estimated range per charge of the Hummer EV is 350 miles.
The Hummer EV has removable roof panels, optional adjustable air suspension, and a four-wheel steering mechanism that – believe it or not – makes it possible for the Hummer to crabwalk – yes, to literally drive diagonally, a feature for offroad enthusiasts to behold.
Electric trucks are the new frontier of electric vehicles with additional contenders coming soon including the Chevrolet Silverado EV, the Toyota Tundra EV, and the GMC Sierra.
Can I Tow an RV With Other Electric Vehicles?
There are several electric vehicles that are factory approved for towing, and there are also many electric vehicles that are absolutely not intended to be used as tow vehicles.
It’s never a good idea to tow with a vehicle – any vehicle, electric or otherwise – that isn’t factory approved for towing. And towing with an unapproved electric vehicle could prove particularly frustrating, given the reduced battery capacity induced by towing, among other issues.
These electric SUVs are factory approved for towing, with stated towing capacities that render them capable of towing small, light campers.
- Volkswagen ID.4 – 2,200lb (2WD) / 2,700lb (4WD)
- Tesla Model Y – 3,500lb (with tow package)
- Tesla Model X – 5,000 lb (with tow package – reduced to 3,500lb w/optional 22″ wheels)
- Audi e-tron – 4,000 lb
Of these very popular electric cars, only one is factory approved for towing:
- Tesla Model 3 – 2,000 lb
- Tesla Model S – not factory approved for towing
- Mustang Mach E – not factory approved for towing
- Chevy Bolt – not factory approved for towing
What Are the Drawbacks of Towing an RV With an EV?
As you may have noticed filtered throughout this post, there are a number of drawbacks of towing an RV with an EV. Among them is the real-world practicality of traveling into the mountains, desert, or other remote camping locations with a battery that needs a charge to get you out of the mountains, desert, or other camping locations.
One question that comes to mind is whether an electric vehicle could be charged via solar panels. Our friends Tom & Caitlin Morton (Mortons on the Move) have a fascinating article and YouTube video explaining how they do exactly that. If you’re interested in the concept of charging an electric vehicle (or a hybrid) with solar panels, check out their article, “Can My RV’s Solar System Power an Electric Car?”
Another significant drawback of towing with an electric vehicle is that the driving range of an EV drops considerably when towing (just like you would expect with a fuel-powered engine), as well as with extreme temperatures (like 20F on the low side and 90F on the high side), driving style, and other factors. The aerodynamic and frictional drag that an RV adds will require any vehicle to consume more power/fuel to move down the road.
While some of these things may be true of fuel-powered engines as well, the limitations of electric vehicles as tow vehicles are certainly greater.
What Do You Think About Towing an RV With an EV?
So, what do you think? Drop us a comment and let us know if you’d consider towing an RV with an EV!
Geek Out with Us Every Week
Join our newsletter to learn about all things RV-related. Every week we offer free tips, tricks, product reviews, and more to our online community of RVers. So, whether this is your first time on the road or you’re a seasoned expert, we’d love for you to geek out with us!