With electric pickup trucks hitting the market, you may be wondering about their towing and towing capabilities. Previously, most electric vehicles on the market were small hatchbacks and luxury sedans, which are not usually associated with towing. However, the SUV and electric truck segments are growing rapidly, and they should have some traction to compete with tried-and-true gas-powered pickup trucks.
In this guide, we’ll answer all of your questions about EV towing and towing.
What is the payload and towing capacity?
Towing capacity is self-explanatory: it is the amount of weight a vehicle can tow. More horsepower in a truck or SUV often translates to greater towing capacity, but there’s more. Because the engine must work harder while towing, vehicles designed for towing often have improved cooling systems that help increase towing capacity.
Payload refers to the amount of weight a vehicle can carry. Part of the reason pickup trucks have better chassis and suspension components than regular cars is because of the increased payload capacity. Like towing capacity, horsepower has a lot to do with the truck’s payload rating, as well as the suspension, which can only hold so much weight before coming off the bottom.
For example, the Ford F-150 has a maximum towing capacity of 14,000 pounds and a maximum payload capacity of 3,325 pounds. This means that when properly equipped, it can tow up to 14,000 pounds. It can carry up to 3,325 pounds in bed and cabin, but not at the same time as towing.
For more information on how to calculate payload and towing capabilities, you can read our complete in-depth payload and towing guide.
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Can electric vehicles be towed?
Automakers build SUVs and electric trucks with drag in mind. However, we do not recommend towing a boat or camper with a Tesla Model 3 or Nissan Leaf.
From what we’ve seen so far in electric pickups, they have very good towing ratings that are similar to their gas-powered counterparts. However, the payload ratings are relatively insignificant. Electric trucks are good for towing because they carry large numbers of power and torque. They provide instant torque to the wheels without the need to overdrive, and do not require heavy-duty cooling systems for gas or diesel trucks.
The GMC Hummer EV has a towing rating of 7,500 pounds, and the Rivian R1T can tow up to 11,000 pounds. The Ford F-150 Lightning and the upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV get a maximum towing rate of 10,000 pounds. Chevy says its electric truck will be able to tow up to 20,000 pounds later in production.
Payload is a problem because electric cars are very heavy. Payload ratings for electric trucks are suitable for most drivers. However, it cannot carry the same weight as similar gas and diesel trucks. The reason is that the chassis of an electric vehicle already carries a massive weight of electric motors and battery packs.
For example, the electric Ford F-150 Lightning has a maximum payload capacity of 2,000 pounds in the standard range model. The extended range model is rated at 1,800 pounds. Meanwhile, the average payload of a regular F-150 with an old-fashioned V8 is 3,325 pounds. A Ford Super Duty can carry £7,850.
How do drag and payload affect range
Towing greatly affects the range of an electric vehicle, even if it’s not that heavyweight. A Rivian spokesperson has admitted that towing the R1T’s heavy-duty trailer will cut its estimated 314-mile range in nearly half.
Some real-world tests have shown a worse view of the extent of the drip effect. Motor Trend has tested the towing range of the Ford F-150 Lightning truck, specifically the Platinum model with an estimated range of 300 miles in mixed driving and an 8,500-pound towing rating.
With a small travel trailer weighing 3,140 pounds, the truck’s range was reduced to 115 miles. Pulling a 5,260-pound mid-weight wagon, it can only travel 100 miles. Pulling the 7,218-pound heavy-duty wagon reduced the truck’s range to just 90 miles.
It’s a similar payload story, but the impact on the vehicle’s range isn’t nearly as important. Because pickups have modest tonnage ratings, the 1,800-pound F-150 Lightning doesn’t have to work as hard as the same truck towing more than twice that weight.
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Disadvantages of towing electric cars
We don’t want to dampen the enthusiasm about electric cars. However, we’d be remiss if we overlooked the downsides of dragging with an EV. As we covered above, towing has a severe impact on the range of an electric vehicle. You’ll need to plan your road trip carefully when towing a boat, wagon, or other heavy load over a long distance.
Best case scenarios include towing with a truck capable of DC fast charging. However, even with a good charging infrastructure on your way, charging your car will be tiring. Most charging stations are like towed parking lots, so you may need to drop your cargo somewhere else in the parking lot. Then you can pull up to the charger without blocking anyone. Once plugged in, you’ll need to wait half an hour or more to recharge, depending on how much power the battery has used up.
Compare that to a traditional gas, diesel, or SUV pickup truck. A full tank may provide enough range for your entire trip. Even if it doesn’t, filling the tank at a gas station (which is more common than at a charging station) is quick and convenient because it won’t require unplugging your cargo.
Hills and weather affect towing more with an electric vehicle than with a gas or diesel truck. Steep climbs on your route will have little effect on the fuel economy with a gas or diesel engine. However, driving on slopes greatly affects the range of an electric vehicle. Electric cars also tend to get the best range in mild weather conditions. Extreme heat or cold can make the towing range worse with an EV. However, the outside temperature has little or no effect on the efficiency of a gas or diesel engine.
List of electric vehicles designed for towing
Here are some electric vehicles capable of towing over 5,000 pounds that are available today or arriving soon. We’ve included the maximum towing capabilities, according to the manufacturers:
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