When electric pickup trucks come on the market, you may wonder about their towing and transport capabilities. Previously, most electric vehicles on the market were largely small hatchbacks and luxury sedans, which are not typically associated with towing. However, the electric SUV and truck segments are growing rapidly, and they need to have some pulling power to compete with proven gas-powered trucks.
In this guide we answer all your questions about towing and transporting with an electric vehicle (EV).
What is payload and towing capacity?
Towing capacity speaks for itself: it’s how much weight a vehicle can pull. More horsepower in a truck or SUV often translates to more towing power, but there’s more to it. Because an engine has to work harder when towing, vehicles designed for towing often have improved cooling systems that help increase towing capacity.
Payload refers to the weight a vehicle can carry. Part of the reason why pickup trucks have sturdier chassis and suspension components than regular cars is to increase payload. Like towing capacity, horsepower has a lot to do with a truck’s payload, but so is the suspension, which can only support so much weight before it bottoms out.
For example, the Ford F-150 has a maximum towing capacity of 14,000 pounds and a maximum payload capacity of 3,325 pounds. That means, when properly rested, it can tow up to 14,000 pounds. It can carry up to 3,325 pounds in the bed and cab, just not at the same time as towing.
For more information on how payload and towing capacity are calculated, read our full detailed payload and towing guide.
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Can EVs tow?
Automakers build electric SUVs and trucks for towing purposes. However, we do not recommend towing a boat or RV with a Tesla Model 3 or Nissan Leaf.
From what we’ve seen so far in electric pickup trucks, they have pretty good pulling power values comparable to their gas-powered counterparts. However, the payload is relatively uninteresting. Electric trucks can tow well because they deliver significant horsepower and torque. They deliver torque directly to the wheels without increasing revs, and they don’t need the heavy cooling systems of petrol or diesel trucks.
The GMC Hummer EV has a towing capacity 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 claim a maximum pulling power of 10,000 pounds. Chevy says its electric truck can tow up to 20,000 pounds later in the production run.
The payload is a problem because electric vehicles are very large. The loading capacity of electric trucks is sufficient for most drivers. However, they cannot carry as much weight as comparable petrol and diesel trucks. The reason is that an EV’s chassis already carries a tremendous weight of electric motors and battery packs.
For example, the electric Ford F-150 Lightning has a maximum payload of 2,000 pounds in the Standard Range model. The Extended Range model is rated at 1,800 pounds. Meanwhile, a regular F-150 with an old-fashioned V8 has a maximum payload of 3,325 pounds. A Ford Super Duty can carry a whopping 7,850 pounds.
How towing and payload affect range?
Towing has a significant impact on the range of an electric vehicle, even if it’s not that much weight. A Rivian spokesperson has admitted that towing a heavy trailer with the R1T pickup will reduce the estimated 314-mile range by about half.
Some real-world tests have shown an even worse outlook for the range of drag impacts. Motor Trend tested the towing range of the Ford F-150 Lightning, specifically a Platinum model with an estimated 300 mile range in mixed driving and a towing capacity of 8,500 pounds.
With a small travel trailer weighing in at 3,140 pounds, the truck’s range dropped to 115 miles. When towing a 5,260 lb. medium RV, it could only drive 100 miles. Towing a heavy RV, weighing 7,218 pounds, reduced the truck’s range to just 90 miles.
It’s a similar story with payload, but the impact on a vehicle’s range isn’t as great. Because pickup trucks have a modest payload, an 1800-pound F-150 Lightning doesn’t have to work as hard as the same truck towing more than double that weight.
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Disadvantages of EV towing
We don’t want to dampen the enthusiasm for electric vehicles. However, we would be remiss if we overlooked the downsides of towing an EV. As we discussed above, towing has a major impact on the range of an electric vehicle. You need to plan your road trip carefully when towing a boat, RV or other heavy load over a long distance.
A best-case scenario is towing a truck suitable for DC fast charging. But even with a good charging infrastructure on your route, it will be difficult to charge your vehicle. Most charging stations are like retractable parking lots, so you may need to drop off your load elsewhere in the parking lot. Then you can pull to the charger without blocking anyone. Once you plug it in, you’ll have to wait half an hour or more for it to charge, depending on how much juice the battery has drained.
Compare that to a conventional petrol or diesel or SUV pick-up. A full tank can provide enough range for your entire trip. Even if not, filling the tank at a gas station (which is much more common than a charging station) is quick and convenient because you don’t have to remove your load.
Hills and weather affect towing with an electric car more than with a petrol or diesel truck. Steep climbs on your route will have a small impact on fuel economy with a gas or diesel engine. However, driving uphill has a significant impact on EV range. Electric vehicles also tend to get the best range in nice weather conditions. Extreme heat or cold can make your towing range even worse with an EV. However, the outside temperature has little or no influence on the efficiency of a gas or diesel engine.
List of EVs built for towing
Here are some EVs that can tow more than £5,000 and are available today or arriving soon. We have included their maximum towing capacity, according to the manufacturers: