Towing Hurts EV Range Way More Than You Think

As of now, most electric vehicles are used as commuters. Driving without a heavy load ensures that drivers get the best range and puts less stress on the battery. That's not a bad thing at all. But sooner or later, EVs are going to do the majority of the heavy lifting. 

Owners likely aren't going to use a Nissan Leaf to tow a trailer. But EV trucks like the Rivian R1T and F-150 Lightning are now on the scene with towing capacities that closely mirror their ICE (internal combustion engine) counterparts. Rivian's truck can tow 11,000 pounds, according to Autotrader, and the Ford can tow 10,000 pounds. That capacity easily allows owners to tow a trailer full of building materials, other cars, or a camper. 

According to HowStuffWorks, the average car loses about 40% of its average fuel economy when towing a load. However, diesel engines are about 12% more efficient when it comes to power per gallon of fuel. 

EVs, on the other hand, suffer quite a bit more while they are towing. While torque is less of a problem with EVs, towing puts a ton of stress on the batteries and can seriously hurt the vehicle's range. 

Battery drain pain

Back in 2020, Audi took a fully loaded Audi e-tron EV towing a 4,000-pound trailer on a 500-plus mile trip to measure the impact of towing on battery range. The results are pretty astounding. 

Over the course of the trip, the Audi averaged just 105 miles of range (via Car and Driver). That's pretty shocking given that the EPA estimates the e-tron to have a range of about 204 miles. That's at least a 50% loss when towing. Given the fact that EVs take significantly longer to charge than gas cars, that could lead to a pretty painful trip if it's anything longer than a couple of hundred miles. 

That drain seems to be pretty standard among other EVs. Rivian says that an R1T towing a fully loaded trailer will also lose about 50% of range (via Autotrader). 

Hopefully, EV and battery technology will develop in the future to allow towing to be a more feasible option. But for now, gas- and diesel-powered vehicles seem to be the better option for longer trips and those wanting to tow much more than a small camper to the campsite.