Towing

Can You Flat Tow An Electric Vehicle Behind An RV?

Flat Tow An Electric Vehicle Behind An RV

Can You Flat Tow An Electric Vehicle Behind An RV?

Electric vehicles encompass a broad range of vehicles including pure plug-in battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in electric hybrids (PHEVs), and hybrids. There are currently no BEVs on the market that can be flat towed. Ony two BEVs, the Chevy Bolt, and Nissan Leaf can be dolly towed. There are several hybrids available that can be flat or dolly towed. The remaining electric vehicles can only be towed 4 up on a trailer.

Do They Make Any Electric Vehicles That Can Be Flat Towed?

There are no battery electric vehicles (BEVs) on the market today which can be flat towed. BEVs don’t have the necessary transmission disconnect which will allow all 4 wheels to rotate freely while the vehicle is being towed. Instead, BEVs drive wheels are directly tied to one or more electric motors. If you attempted to flat-tow the vehicle, the motors would spin and generate heat.

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When the vehicle is turned off for towing, the cooling system is not active and thermal damage to the motors could result. Also, EV electric motors will generate current when the wheels turn, even then the vehicle is in neutral. That excess current could damage sensitive, and expensive components in the vehicle.

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How Can You Tow A Tesla?

The official recommendation of Tesla is that you always trailer tow the vehicle with all 4 wheels off the ground, or drive the vehicle to whatever destination you need it to go. Teslas, like all BEVs cannot be flat towed behind an RV. Tesla specifically states that any damage caused to one of their vehicles while flat towing is not covered by their warranty.

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They do offer several models which are FWD only. General knowledge says that FWD cars can be easily towed using a tow dolly, however, Tesla specifically states that tow dollies are not recommended for their vehicles, even their FWD models. If you own a Tesla or plan on getting one then plan on purchasing a vehicle trailer if you want to take it with you on your RV trips.

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How Can You Tow Other EVs?

There are several ways to tow EVs. Let’s look at the different methods and go through some specific models that can use them.

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  • Flatbed trailer towing: This is the safest way to tow any vehicle. All four wheels are off the ground and they don’t rotate during travel, keeping wear to a minimum. Trailers can also be easily backed up while flat towed vehicles cannot. On the downside, you often can’t keep them on your campsite so they can add some inconvenience when setting up or breaking down camp.
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  • Dolly Towing: Tow dollies are basically two wheeled partial trailers designed to tow a vehicle with the two front wheels off the ground. This makes tow dollies ideal for towing front wheel drive vehicles. As a general rule AWD, 4WD, and RWD vehicles with a CVT transmission cannot be dolly towed. Like trailers, tow dollies can also be backed up although doing so with a vehicle loaded can be more difficult if your dolly has front wheel steering as most do.
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  • Flat towing: With flat towing, the vehicle has the transmission disconnected from the wheels and the vehicle is towed on all four wheels. Not all cars can be flat towed safely. Flat towing will also require that you set your vehicle up properly prior to departing. The procedure for doing that will be vehicle specific so consult your owner’s manual for more information.
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NOTE: Tow requirements and capabilities may vary by model year. Always research your specific vehicle for the manufacturer’s recommended towing procedures.

VehicleTow Method
Tesla Model 3Trailer
Tesla Model XTrailer
Tesla Model YTrailer
Tesla Model STrailer
Chevrolet BoltDolly, Trailer
Rivian R1TTrailer
Rivian R1STrailer
Ford F150 LightningTrailer
Ford Mustang Mach-ETrailer
Hyundai IONIQ ElectricTrailer
Hyundai KONA ElectricTrailer
Nissan LeafTrailer, Dolly (FWD Model Only)
Mini Cooper SETrailer
Porsche TaycanTrailer
Audi E-TronTrailer

How Can You Tow A Hybrid EV?

Many hybrid EVs have drivetrain designs that share more in common with straight fossil fuel-powered vehicles than with their battery electric vehicle cousins. The inclusion of an internal combustion engine necessitates the use of transmission of some kind to deliver the engine power to the wheels. This transmission can provide a disconnect that allows the vehicle to be flat towed.

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For example, the Ford Escape Hybrid has a flat tow transmission disconnect mode which allows it to be safely flat towed. Like any vehicle, check your owner’s manual for specific allowable methods and procedures for towing your specific vehicle. Here’s a look at some other hybrids and how they can be towed:

NOTE: Tow requirements and capabilities may vary by model year. Always research your specific vehicle for the manufacturer’s recommended towing procedures.

VehicleTow Method
Ford Escape HybridFlat, Trailer
Ford Fusion Hybrid FWDFlat, Dolly, Trailer
Ford Maverick HybridFlat, Trailer, Dolly (FWD Only)
Toyota PriusDolly, Trailer
Toyota Camry HybridDolly, Trailer
Honda Accord HybridDolly, Trailer
Honda CRV HybridTrailer

Does Towing An EV Charge The Battery?

According to Motortrend, it is possible to charge your EV by towing it. EVs have regenerative systems which will take excess energy generated by rotating the motors and feed it back into the battery. The procedure to do it can vary from car to car but it generally involves turning the car on, putting it into drive, and towing it.

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The car generally needs to have enough battery power to turn on to allow you to put it into drive. If you’ve killed the battery to the point the car won’t even turn on then you’re probably out of luck. Some vehicles have a “high regen” mode, and the Rivian R1T can be put into reverse to get the maximum charge rates while being towed forward.

Ford recently filed for a US patent for technology specifically aimed at flat tow EV charging. The interesting points in the filing detail how the regenerative properties of the vehicle being charged would change based on specific parameters. So, if you were towing it uphill the regeneration system would reduce its power, thus decreasing the drag on the tow vehicle. Similarly, when going downhill it would increase, slowing the tow vehicle down and charging the battery faster.

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While all of this is theoretically possible, it can be dangerous and no EV manufacturer currently recommends doing it. Most manufacturers even go so far as to state that any damage incurred while towing your vehicle will not be covered by the warranty.

Does Towing An Electric Vehicle Damage The Motors?

Damage to the motors can occur while towing an electric vehicle. Towing requires the vehicle to be put into neutral and shut down, this deactivates the parking brake allowing the wheels to turn. When shut down, the critical cooling system which cools the battery, motors, and other vital components is not circulating the coolant.

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Even in neutral, an EV’s wheels will turn the electric motor(s) resulting in friction and heat build-up. The amount of heat buildup in the motor will depend on the speed and distance the vehicle is towed. This is why slowly winching an EV onto a trailer is allowed while flat towing behind an RV at highway speeds is not. The higher speeds and longer distances associated with towing can overheat the motors and damage them.

Damage to the motors is not the only concern. EV vehicles are powered by motors that use permanent magnets. When in neutral, the drive system should be disconnected electronically from the remainder of the vehicle, but the stray voltage will still be generated by the rotating wheels. That power has to go somewhere and it could lead to damage of components outside the motors.

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