Hybrid vehicles are a cross between the new battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and traditional fossil fuel-based vehicles. They contain a traditional gas or diesel engine and an auxiliary drive system consisting of a battery, electric motors, and a charging system.
Depending on the vehicle, that additional electrical drive train may be able to drive the vehicle by itself under certain conditions, or it may assist the fossil fuel drivetrain so it does not need to generate as much power on its own. Regardless of how the system works, its goal is to reduce the amount of fuel burned and subsequently reduce the number of carbon emissions produced by the vehicle.
With current technology, hybrid vehicles are superior to purely electric vehicles in every way. They work well with existing infrastructure, are less expensive to own and operate, work much better as tow vehicles or work trucks, and are much more environmentally friendly.
Unfortunately, with steep fuel milage requirements placed on the US automotive industry, these superior products have been passed over in favor of BEVs when it comes to new product development. Fortunately, there are a few great hybrid options out there and with any luck, there will be more to come in the future. Let’s take a look at hybrid vehicles you can tow a camper with.
If you would like to read more about towing with a purely electric vehicle, check out this article.
Why Are Hybrid Vehicles The Best Choice For Towing?
Hybrid vehicles are the best option for towing because they combine the best features of a fossil-fueled powered vehicle with those of a battery-powered vehicle.
Benefits of the fossil fuel vehicle:
- Range: Range on a hybrid is fuel mileage times the fuel tank capacity, just like a traditional gas vehicle. Refueling is done at a standard fuel station with no need for the plugin. This makes the range a much smaller issue with these vehicles than with a battery-electric vehicle.
- Quick Refueling: These vehicles run on gas without the need to be plugged in to charge. They can be quickly refueled at any traditional fuel station. They can also be refueled from a Jerry can in the unfortunate case that you miscalculated your ability to make it to the next station. You can’t do that with a battery-powered car.
- Compatibility with existing infrastructure: Fueling is quick and easy at a standard gas station. These are plentiful nationwide, which makes long-distance travel easy. Also, unlike most electric charging stations, there are plenty of gas stations that can accommodate a truck and attached trailer while you fuel. Most battery vehicle charging stations cannot, which will require you to remove your trailer and leave it somewhere while you charge.
- Low production environmental impact: The negative environmental footprint to manufacture and deliver a gas or hybrid vehicle to a dealership is much smaller than an equivalent battery electric vehicle. Production of long-range Lithium battery packs is extremely damaging to the environment, as is disposing of them. So much so that Tesla was recently removed from the S&P 500 ESG Index. This index essentially ranks companies by their environmental, social, and governance footprints. One of the reasons for delisting was the heavy pollution generated by Tesla’s Nevada battery plant which helped it earn the #22 spot on UMass’s Toxic 100 Air Polluters Index. By comparison, General Motors is the only other ranked auto manufacturer coming in at 94th even though GM and Ford produce more vehicles than Tesla by a factor of 6 and 4 respectively.
The major benefit of the electrical vehicle is the low operational environmental impact. This is during the time you own and drive it, where it does not produce CO2. This benefit is severely limited when a BEV is charged from the non-renewable public grid, as most BEVs are.
In the case of these hybrids, the battery is charged through regenerative braking and/or with the gas engine. Any extension in fuel milage created by the hybrid system is not offset by carbon emissions generated by charging from the public grid. If you are environmentally conscience, hybrid vehicles are by far the best option for towing a camper.
Can I Really Tow A Travel Trailer With A Hybrid Truck?
There are several hybrid trucks available on the new or used markets which make excellent tow vehicles for travel trailers. As with selecting any tow vehicle, it is important to get the maximum towing capacity and Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings (GVWR) for any tow vehicle you are considering to make sure it is capable of towing your trailer.
These ratings can vary greatly depending on the vehicle and they can be quite different for apparently equivalent vehicles so don’t assume that a GMC 1500 automatically has the same towing and GVWR ratings as a Chevy 1500.
What Kind Of Range Can I Expect Towing A Trailer With A Hybrid Vehicle?
You can expect the range of a hybrid vehicle to be equivalent to the pure fossil fuel-powered truck when towing a trailer. This is the case because the hybrid system in these units is typically ineffective or automatically disabled when towing. Therefore, when towing, you are effectively driving a fossil fuel-powered vehicle.
The range is a term pushed around mainly in the electric car world for two reasons. One, it’s a competitive number that people use to judge which new models are “better”. Longer range = better car. While that may seem like an odd metric to judge quality, when you consider how inconvenient or difficult it is to charge an electric vehicle then it starts to make more sense.
A Rivian R1T will take about 40 minutes to charge from the standard 20% – 80% battery charge. That amount of charge will get you less than 100 miles when towing a decent-sized travel trailer. Having to stop for 40 minutes every 90 minutes of driving is inconvenient at best.
Hybrid vehicles are not strapped with this issue. While the distance you can drive may be limited to 200 – 300 miles when towing a trailer, you can stop at any standard gas station and fill up in a couple of minutes and be back on the road.
Can A Hybrid Truck Tow A Travel Trailer? (What Kind Of Trailer)
Hybrid vehicles which are designed to tow can tow a travel trailer provided that the travel trailer is within the weight limits specified by the vehicle manufacturer. When considering a hybrid (or any other vehicle) for towing it is important to look at the maximum towing capacity and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVRW) for that specific vehicle. Use your trailer GVRW and tongue weight to determine if the two are compatible.
When it comes to hybrids, those weight ratings can fall into a broad range. For example, the Ford Maverick Hybrid is limited to 2,000 lbs maximum towing while the F-150 Hybrid can tow a staggering 12,700 lbs.
While 2,000 lbs may seem very limiting, Camper Guide has published a list of 5 great travel trailer choices that fall below that weight, and there are more out there. Of course, at 12,700 lbs max towing, the F-150 hybrid can tow most travel trailers on the market. The Chevy, GMC, and Ram Hybrids fall in line with the two Ford offerings when it comes to maximum towing capabilities.
Do You Need A Hybrid Truck To Tow A Travel Trailer?
You don’t need a Hybrid truck to tow a trailer. The biggest factor in determining the vehicle you need to tow your trailer is the trailer itself. If you have a 20,000 lb fifth wheel then there will be no electric or hybrid trucks that will have the capabilities to tow it. In fact, you’ll be very limited in gas-powered choices. A diesel truck will be the best option, but that market segment has pretty limited choices as well.
If there are gas, diesel, hybrid and electric vehicles available that can tow your specific trailer then hybrid trucks have specific advantages over the other options.
The Hybrid Option – Electric Vehicles With Practical Towing Capabilities.
If you want to jump on the EV bandwagon to reduce your carbon emissions while still having a capable vehicle to practically and reliably tow your camper then a hybrid truck is the best option. While these vehicles may not offer significantly better fuel economy while towing, they do when you park the trailer at home or at the park and use the truck as your daily driver.
Combined fuel economies for these trucks average in the low to mid 20 mpg range with the Maverick hitting as high as 30 mpg, which is excellent for vehicles with solid towing capabilities.
Here are 5 options that are currently available. The two options from Ford and the RAM are available on the new and used markets. The two GM options may only be available used.
- Ford Maveric Hybrid – 2,000 lbs max tow. The hybrid version is limited to a 2,000 lb towing capacity which will only be sufficient for the smallest campers. However, at 30mpg (real word tested) when not towing, it is an exceptionally efficient vehicle to explore the areas surrounding your next camping spot.
- Ford F-150 hybrid – 12,700 lbs max tow. The F-150 is a beast of a hybrid. With a 12,700 lb towing capacity it is nearly as capable as its non-hybrid brothers and much better than the F-150 Lightning. The EPA rates the milage around 24 mpg while not towing. I’ve seen real-world towing mileage between 7 and 10.5 mpg depending on the trailer. That may seem pretty bad, but while in tow mode, Ford turns off the electric drivetrain so the truck runs solely on gas. By comparison, my Ford Excursion gets around 7.5 mpg pulling a 9,500 lb trailer, but only 12 mpg when not. The F-150 hybrid saves a lot of fuel and carbon emissions while exploring outside the campground after you have parked the trailer.
- GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid – 6,200 lbs max tow. GMC’s hybrid was initially available starting in 2016 in California. In 2018, they made them available nationwide. This was what they called the eAssist mild hybrid option which was a small battery add-on that could move the truck up to 30 mph without the gas engine running. After that, the gas engine kicked in. It improved fuel economy by about 4% and is not currently listed as an option in their 2022 specs. They didn’t make a lot of them, but if you can find a used one it may be worth looking at.
- Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid – 9,700 lbs max tow. The Silverado Hybrid is a Chevy version of the GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid. It was available with a larger engine so the towing capacity was higher, but it was still made as an eAssist mild hybrid that added about 4% to the overall fuel efficiency.
- Ram 1500 Hybrid – 12,750 lbs max tow. Like the GM offerings, the RAM 1500 is also what they call a “mild hybrid”. The option is called “eTorque” and it is available on the 3.6L V6 engine as well as the 5.7L V8 Hemi. Like the GM mild-hybrid system, the Ram system improves fuel economy by around 10%. The 12,750 lb maximum towing specification requires the 5.7L Hemi V8 with the eTorque option. Vehicles with the eTorque 3.6L V6 are limited to 7,730 lbs max towing capacity.