Camping with Model 3 and trailer. Photo courtesy of Peter McBurney.

Electric Vehicle Towing in the Lands Down Under

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According to our illustrious former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, electric vehicles can’t tow. “It won’t tow your boat. It won’t tow your trailer. EVs will ruin the Aussie weekend!” Like all FUD, there was some truth in it. Back in 2019, there weren’t many EVs around that could tow a caravan. Probably just the Tesla Model X. However, they could tow a small trailer.

If you had a Model X, you could tow a decent-size caravan. You would just have to be aware that you would lose half your range.

Electric Vehicle Towing
Towing a large caravan halves the range. Photo courtesy of Regenex.

I don’t tow anything. After owning a large trailer for years, and moving all my adult kids several times, I decided to give it a miss. I gave the trailer away, and will not fit another towbar. My aching back deeply appreciates this.

Things have changed radically in the past 12 months, with most new EVs quite capable of managing the load. Mark Buckingham from New Zealand tells me that he has installed towbars on more than 350 Model 3s and a few other brands. “Biggest one is Model Ys at the moment, I’ve done over 185 since they got here in late August.” Mark is based in New Zealand, which is about 12 months ahead of Australia in EV penetration — 12% of new cars sold in NZ in 2022 were EVs.

Electric Vehicle Towing
EVs can take you to the view, and tow! Photo courtesy of Shane Parker.

Mark doesn’t even have a website. All his work comes from word of mouth. He has earned the nickname Tesla Tow King (#TTK). Kiwis who want a towbar can contact him through his Facebook page.

Peter McBurney also got in touch. “I saw your comment on ‘I ruined the weekend‘ that you’re writing something on towing with EVs. We’ve been towing with our 2019 Model 3 Performance Stealth, including off road, for 3 years after importing and installing our own Stealth Hitch.”

He recently got back from an 800 km round trip towing his camping gear and exploring wild places. The biggest bugbear he has found is having to unhitch the trailer in order to charge. He regularly uses his Model 3 to support his work with scout groups, driving six large canoes plus camping gear, paddles, life jackets, etc. to Glenrock Scout Camp just south of Newcastle (134 km each way). “Trickle charging at the Scout Camp gave us a full charge.”

Electric Vehicle Towing
Unhitching to charge. Photo courtesy of Peter McBurney.
Electric Vehicle Towing
Camping with Tesla Model 3 and trailer. Photo courtesy of Peter McBurney.

Peter writes: “Louisa and I ruined 4 days driving a trailer about 400km south from home in Sydney to a farm in Eurobodallah, filling it with heavy gear and driving it back home. Part of the trip accessing the farm was over deeply pit holed rough and narrow dirt roads in heavy rain.

“We were surprised because we keep reading and being told that EVs can’t do any of this.

“We drove via Braidwood and Goulburn, climbing from about sea level at Batemans Bay to well over 700 metres up the very steep Clyde Mountain.

“It’s a 2019 Model 3 Performance Stealth. We drove at full legal speed most, but not all of the way pulling this heavy and aerodynamically inefficient load home.

“As it became clear we could easily make it we increased speed. 100% range equivalent for this car with this load was about 210 km for the steep uphill Batemans Bay to Goulburn section and 285km for the much higher speed ( mostly 110 km/h ), but overall downhill drive home in north western Sydney from Goulburn.

“On the way south with an empty trailer, we charged at Goulburn only.

“On the way back, we were a bit nervous so we charged at Bateman’s Bay after the first 55 km at the bottom of the mountain. But as it turned out that was not necessary. We would have made it to Goulburn Superchargers easily.

“A great bonus was staying at Bodalla with friends. I got to drive their 2022 Y. It’s a wonderful car with so much room and some real improvements to the interior design since we bought our car nearly 3 1/2 years ago.

“These bloody EVs are obviously no good except for people just driving around in cities. Can’t tow, can’t go off the tar, can’t go long distance.…”

Electric Vehicle Towing
Taking a load of canoes to scout camp. Photo courtesy of Peter McBurney.

Another correspondent writes: “I don’t do anything extreme but regularly do the usual stuff that I have always done with big Volvos, Land Rovers and Range Rovers — carrying timber, plasterboard, furniture, and rubbish.” Charles tells me he drives the slowest Tesla available — just like me.

For those driving the BYD Atto 3, the video below from New Zealand is worth a look. It demonstrates that an Atto 3 towing a very unaerodynamic trailer will still get over 200 km of range. (Lots of technical data to feed the inner nerd.)

A quick google search will bring up many Australian companies that are fitting towbars to Teslas and other electric vehicles.

One NZ MG ZS EV driver was getting a quick top-up at Warkworth and enjoying explaining to ICE car drivers that, yes, EVs can tow. “Just to let everyone know our car MG ZS EV 2nd generation is towing very well looking at 22.5 kWh per 100km currently back in Auckland for a couple of days before heading home to Whakatane.”

Electric vehicles face the same challenges in Australia and New Zealand as all vehicles face around the world when towing — so long as we bear in mind that it takes more energy to tow, and plan our trips accordingly. Perhaps we could do with some drive-through charging stations.

As more and more high speed chargers are built out along major roads, and EVs become more and more capable, then we will say like Charles: “I just do the usual stuff.” The 3 top selling EV brands in NZ and Australia demonstrate that EVs can tow your boat, your caravan, or your trailer. They won’t ruin your weekend. Well done, Tesla, BYD, and MG.

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

David Waterworth has 738 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth