Towing A 2-Ton Boat With An Electric Vehicle

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Thinking of buying an EV to tow your really big boat? Check this out.

Jon Day recently posted a video that demonstrates that an EV (a Volvo XC40 Recharge, to be exact) can tow a boat. However, it really reduces the range, from around 400 km to about 150 km. That led Jon to conclude that, for now at least, we might have to stick with diesel for those really heavy loads over long distances. “Unfortunately, EVs need more development in battery energy density. This is coming over the next ten years, but until then, turbo diesels are far more convenient.”

For my readers stateside, we do not have access to Rivians or F-150 Lightnings, yet. We’ll see when we get them.

Towing reduces the range of all powertrains. I know that sounds obvious, but for some people, it will need to be pointed out. According to BoatUS, “In general, expect around a 30-percent drop in average MPG when towing with a gasoline engine, though that may vary significantly depending on terrain, weight and height of load, and the driver.”

So, yes, petrol engines also lose range when towing, just not as much. Those of you with diesel experience might be able enlighten us as to the effect that towing a load has on the range of your truck.

From the comments I have read about various vehicles, it appears that EVs lose about half their range when towing. While we wait anxiously for better EVs down under, what can be done to improve our range?

“RV, are we there yet” gives us this good advice on Improving Fuel Economy when Towing with a fossil fuelled vehicle.

  1. Adjust your driving style. This is an obvious method for reducing fuel use, but it’s probably the most ignored as well. …
  2. Avoid driving on windy days. …
  3. Use premium engine and drivetrain lubricants. …
  4. Change your air filter. …
  5. Install a wind deflector. …
  6. Fit a snorkel.

Graeme from OZDIY adds that we should empty the “extra crap” that’s in the trunk and frunk. He is also looking into the option of trailers and caravans being fitted with extra battery packs and drivetrains. Francisco is building a monster of an EV towing machine by converting a Mitsubishi Pajero.

When I was driving out west of Queensland in my Ford Falcon in the ’80s, it was worth having spare fan belts, radiator hoses, water, a toolbox, oil, etc. in the boot in case of a breakdown. The boot of my Model 3 seems to be slowly filling up with hats, umbrellas, and kids’ toys.

As an EV driver, we also need to be aware of what other accessories are drawing power from the battery — air conditioning, driver assist, heated seats, etc.

EV Towing
MGs can tow. Photo by Ricky Spencer.

Coming back to that XC40 and the really big boat, have you watched the video yet? It’s worth following the JD Solar and EV YouTube site. Jon gets into the technicalities and puts EV abilities to the test.

The Volvo XC40 was purchased specifically to tow the owner’s boat. The boat weighs 1.8 tons. This is very close to the towing limit of the XC40. The diesel version will tow up to 2.2 tons. There really isn’t much choice in the Australian market if you want to tow. The Model X and the Audi e-tron were considered. But not the Model Y Long Range, Jon?

The XC40 was expected to give a 220 km (137 mile) range when towing. The owner believes that this is quite acceptable when you are on holidays and have plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely trip.

One of the biggest bug bears they found was that very few charging stations are built to accommodate vehicles towing and the boat trailer had to be unhitched every time they charged up. Can you imagine the outrage from drivers of diesel utes if they had to unhitch to refuel? I expect that as more and more towing-capable EVs hit the highways, charging stations will be built to suit.

Although the rule of thumb when towing with an EV is that you can expect to halve your range, the really big boat reduced range by 2.5 times. Range will vary with aerodynamics and weight.

Many EV drivers have found the towing capacity of their chosen EVs acceptable for their needs. One correspondent uses his LEAF to tow a trailer around the farm harvesting tomatoes.

EV Towing
Towing on the farm. Photo by Andrew non de Plume.

He says that he keeps the pallet over the axle and the bin holds about 200 kg of tomatoes. Another farmer adds, “We use our EV every day to tow on the farm. That’s what got us into EVs.”

An experienced tower tells me that the number of kilometers sacrificed from the total range of any vehicle is the same with the same trailer. So, having once established the range, you can be confident of what your EV will do.

The XC40 Recharge averaged about 76 km per hour, using 45 kWh per hundred km. Travelling at over 100 km per hour on the return trip used even more power — 56 kWh. See 8:55 in the video. So, at the higher speed, the range is reduced to 120 km, using 90% of your battery. From Brisbane, you could expect to make it to the tourist hot spots of either the Gold Coast on the south or the Sunshine Coast on the north.

In response to my previous article on towing, a couple of readers shared their stories.

“It is not just Tesla, MG and BYD EVs that can tow. My I-Pace was ordered with a retractable tow-bar. It gets used at least once a month. In winter this is mostly hauling logs from my woodland to my home. In summer, I haul a bike trailer with one of my vintage Triumphs on it. Yes, I lose range, but I knew that before I bought it. I’ve seen VW ID.3s and even Nissan Leafs towing things in Norway.”

EV Towing
Model 3 tows van. Photo by David Reddecliffe

“Like the US pickup truck discussions, some think the bigger the better, and if you can afford it why not, while others are fine with the new Maverick hybrid or a Honda Ridgeline. There are also many different options in campers/caravans, including those that many motorcyclists tow that could take less range behind a smaller EV. Pulling a small trailer behind my 2016 Chevy Spark EV with its 80 mile range wouldn’t work out too great, but behind a Chevy Bolt it would be very doable. Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

“Towing my 2000 pound sailboat behind my EV is simple, and the low speed torque is a delight. Range hasn’t been a worry at all, though I do see the numbers are different. That was true for my gas car as well, though, and it had to work a lot harder to tow.”

When we consider a new vehicle purchase, we have to weigh up many options. The main consideration is: will it be fit for purpose? As more and more capable EVs come to market, we will have more options to tow our really big boats. Or anything else for that matter.

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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 719 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth