Electric and hybrid vehicles are incredibly popular these days. And looking at recent gas prices, it’s for good reason. Looking at the number of models available in plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and all-electric (EV) versions, it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart from their gasoline-powered brethren. With these types of vehicles being more and more accessible, switching to a PHEV or full-EV is as easy as choosing a paint color.
While PHEVs and EVs may help save money and cut emissions with their fuel efficiency or not needing fuel at all, we also don’t want to cut into how we can use these vehicles for recreation. The evolution of electric vehicle technology is now at a point where we no longer need to trade all capabilities for fuel efficiency.
In some ways, towing with one of these types of vehicles will be a more pleasant experience than using their gasoline-powered counterparts. Somewhat surprisingly, the electric motors in EV and the electric assist in PHEV can provide the most important power factor for getting the payload moving from a stop–torque. Even the short time electricity generates the power in the PHEV, the high amount of instant torque is enough to get the full payload in motion. Be sure to check to see the payload capacity of the vehicle.
Towing with an EV
While towing is possible, with an EV capable of such, there are significant hurdles that technology has not quite caught up to.
There is no way around it. The more you tow, the shorter distance you will be able to travel. With some testing, towing near the payload capacity for a particular car can cut the range in half. Consider that most of your towing might be done for recreation to places that likely do not have EV charging stations, this may rule out EVs overall.
The torque of the electric motor easily gets the vehicle and payload in motion. However, stopping the weight can prove problematic. Looking at the weight of the EV itself, it does not take a lot more in the way of payload to exceed some vehicle weight limits. Some EVs can weigh almost a ton more than their gasoline kin. This is a lot to stop, not even considering what is being towed.
Charging Supply from Braking
One of the ways EVs maintain their charge to extend their range is by using the braking action of the vehicle to provide a slight amount of regenerative power back into the system. When the force needed to stop the EV and the payload exceeds what this system can safely handle, many EVs will turn their regenerative braking systems off. Without this source of charging on the go, the range is decreased even more.
Towing With a PHEV
Using a PHEV over an EV to tow, seems to solve most of these issues and keeps the benefits of an electric motor. The PHEV uses the electric motor to get things started before the gasoline engine takes over. Once at speed, the hybrid system keeps the fuel efficiency quite high. There still are some downsides to using a PHEV to tow. The added weight and strain on the electric motor and hybrid system can have significant effects on the longevity of the batteries. This is much less than what is seen with EVs but is still worth considering.
There are many EVs and PHEVs that offer significant towing capacity. However, this comes at a significant penalty by reliance on denser networks of charging stations and potential more frequent replacement of battery systems. And if your goal is to get off grid you are likely not heading to places with lots of charging stations.