Payload and towing capacity of electric vehicles
As electric pickup trucks come onto the market, you may be wondering about their towing and hauling capabilities. Previously, most EVs on the market were largely small hatchbacks and luxury sedans, which are not usually associated with towing. However, the SUV and electric truck segments are growing rapidly, and they need to have some towing power to compete with proven gas-powered haulers.
In this guide, we’ll answer all your questions about towing and transporting with an electric vehicle (EV).
What is payload and towing capacity?
Towing capacity is obvious: it is the weight that a vehicle can tow. More power in a truck or SUV often translates to more towing capacity, but there’s more to it. Since an engine has to work harder while towing, vehicles designed for towing often have upgraded cooling systems that help increase towing capacity.
Payload refers to the weight a vehicle can carry. Part of the reason pickup trucks have stronger chassis and suspension components than regular cars is to increase payload capacity. Like towing capacity, horsepower has a lot to do with a truck’s payload capacity, but so does suspension, which can only hold so much weight before it hits bottom.
For example, the Ford F-150 has a maximum towing capacity of 14,000 pounds and a maximum payload capacity of 3,325 pounds. This means that when properly equipped, it can tow up to 14,000 pounds. It can carry up to 3,325 pounds in the bed and cabin, but not while towing.
For more information on how payload and towing capacities are calculated, you can read our full detailed guide to payload and towing guide.
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Can electric vehicles tow?
Automakers are building electric SUVs and trucks with towing in mind. 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 pickups, they have pretty good towing ratings similar to their gas-powered counterparts. However, the payload ratings are relatively unimpressive. Electric trucks are good for towing as they provide tremendous power and torque. They deliver instant torque to the wheels without the need to rev up, and they don’t need the heavy-duty cooling systems of gasoline 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 upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV claim a maximum towing capacity of 10,000 pounds. Chevy claims its electric truck will be able to tow up to 20,000 pounds later in production.
Payload is an issue because electric vehicles are very heavy. Electric truck payload ratings are adequate for most drivers. However, they cannot support as much weight as comparable gasoline and diesel trucks. The reason for this is that the chassis of an electric vehicle already carries enormous weight due to electric motors and batteries.
For example, the electric Ford F-150 Lightning has a maximum payload capacity 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-school V8 has a maximum payload of 3,325 pounds. A Ford Super Duty can haul 7,850 pounds.
How towing and payload affect range
Towing has a significant impact on the range of an electric vehicle, even if it is not that heavy. A Rivian spokesperson admitted that towing a heavy trailer with the R1T pickup will halve its estimated range of 314 miles.
Some real-world tests showed even worse prospects for the impact of towing on range. Motor Trend tested the towing range of the Ford F-150 Lightning, specifically a Platinum model with an estimated range of 300 miles in mixed driving and a towing capacity of 8,500 pounds.
With a small trailer weighing 3,140 pounds, the truck’s range dropped to 115 miles. When pulling a mid-weight 5,260 pound motorhome, it could only travel 100 miles. Towing a heavy 7,218 pound RV 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 significant. Since pickup trucks have modest payload capacities, an F-150 Lightning hauling 1,800 pounds doesn’t have to work as hard as the same truck towing more than twice that weight.
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Disadvantages of electric vehicle towing
We don’t want to dampen the enthusiasm around electric vehicles. However, we would be remiss if we ignored the disadvantages of towing with an electric vehicle. As we have seen above, towing has a significant impact on the range of an electric vehicle. You will need to plan your road trip carefully when towing a boat, RV, or other heavy load over a long distance.
The best-case scenario is to tow with a truck capable of fast DC charging. However, even with good charging infrastructure on your route, it will be difficult to charge your vehicle. Most charging stations are like walk-through parking spaces, so you may need to drop off your charge elsewhere in the parking lot. Then you can shoot to the loader without blocking anyone. Once plugged in, you’ll have to wait half an hour or more to recharge, depending on how much juice the battery has drained.
Compare that to a conventional gasoline or diesel pickup truck or SUV. A full tank can provide enough range for your entire trip. Even if you don’t, filling up the tank at a gas station (which is much more common than a refill station) is quick and convenient as it won’t require you to detach your load.
Hills and weather conditions have a greater impact on towing with an electric vehicle than with a gasoline or diesel truck. Steep climbs on your route will have a slight impact on fuel economy with a gasoline or diesel engine. However, driving uphill significantly affects the range of the electric vehicle. Electric vehicles also tend to get the best range in good weather. Extreme heat or cold can worsen your towing range with an electric vehicle. However, the outside temperature has little or no effect on the efficiency of a gasoline or diesel engine.
List of electric vehicles designed for towing
Here are some electric vehicles capable of towing over 5,000 pounds that are available today or are coming soon. We have included their maximum towing capacities, according to the manufacturers: