Caravan towing: Can you tow a caravan with an electric car?
Recent figures show that plug-in vehicles made up more than 10 percent of UK car sales last year, and the UK looks set to ban all sales of new non-zero emission cars by 2030. But while going electric is fast becoming a mainstream purchasing choice for motorists, it’s fair to say that electric cars haven’t always enjoyed a ‘tow-friendly’ reputation! The good news is that things are changing.
Right now, touring caravan owners are likely to have plenty of questions. What’s the position with electric cars and towing caravans? How does electric car charging work on caravan sites? If you are looking for the best electric car to tow a caravan, what are your options? To answer your questions and combine greener motoring with hassle-free caravanning, here’s what you need to know.
Electric cars: what’s the difference?
Before delving into the market, it’s worth getting to grips with some common jargon.
First off, we have the electric vehicle (EV), aka the battery electric vehicle (BEV). Under the bonnet of the EV, the traditional petrol or diesel engine has gone, and instead, there’s a battery-powered electric motor that’s charged by plugging the car into a socket.
Tesla is the most famous name in the EV field. At new prices currently starting at around £40,000, you get zero emissions combined with luxury stylings and technological innovation, including Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’ high-level driver assistance.
We’ve also already seen a steady flow of EV models from more established manufacturers over the last couple of years, with plenty more to come. Hyundai’s Kona Electric is a good example; starting at just under £30,000, this small SUV can drive 300 miles on a full charge. Other notable examples include the Kia e-Niro, Nissan Leaf, and Jaguar I-Pace.
EVs do tend to be pricier than their conventional engine equivalents. However, they are much cheaper to refuel, and there’s an exemption from road tax and the London Congestion Charge for EVs with a list price below £40,000. With an estimated 30,000 charge points throughout the UK (and growing), it is also becoming much easier to plan your journey without running out of juice.
Across most of the big manufacturers, there are also ‘hybrid’ models to consider, which combines conventional petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor and battery. They work on regenerative braking, whereby the electric battery is recharged when the brakes are used. With typical stop-start town driving, there’s plenty of scope for the electric motor to kick into play, helping you to keep your fuel consumption down. However, once you get onto the open road, there’s less scope for regenerative braking, so your fuel consumption increases.
Hybrid cars don’t allow you to go petrol-free, but if you do a lot of urban driving, they can go a long way in helping you reduce your fuel consumption and carbon footprint.
Can you tow a caravan with an electric car?
When purchasing any vehicle – conventional, EV, or hybrid – you must check its towing limit before towing a caravan with it. For more information on this, check out our guide to towing a caravan.
That said, for the time being at least, towing options among pure EV models are especially limited. Here are the reasons why:
Type approval (homologation)
Homologation is the testing process that ensures new models meet all the requirements to be driven on the road. This includes type approval for specific tasks; one of which is towing.
At present, most manufacturers have not sought type approval for their EVs to declare them fit for towing. The adjustments needed for type approval would mean a reduction in the full-charge mileage range. While it is annoying for caravan enthusiasts, towing capabilities are not a priority for manufacturers.
There are some exceptions, however, although they are all at the luxury end of £60,000+. For instance, the Jaguar I-Pace can legally tow up to 750kg, so could certainly handle trailer tents and other micro-units. The Audi e-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQC can both tow 1800kg, which should cover most 4 and 6-berth units (depending on spec).
With a caravan in tow, an EV battery has to work a lot harder, which means the headline charge-range can be reduced substantially. Indeed, the range issue is another reason why so few EV models carry approval for towing.
Tip: if you do opt for an EV capable of towing your caravan, refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for an accurate mileage range. For long journeys, use an app such as PlugShare or Zap-Map to identify charge points along the way.
Charging at caravan sites
The Caravan and Motorhome Club says it now offers EV charging at £8 a day and hybrid charging at £2 a day “across the majority of our campsites”. To avoid being stranded, it’s best to check the availability of charge ports before you arrive at your specific site.
The future for eco-friendly driving
For the moment at least, a hybrid opens up a much wider range of caravanning opportunities over an electric vehicle. The hybrid SUV offerings from the likes of BMW, Volvo, and Mitsubishi (among others) are definitely worth a look.
As far as ‘pure’ electric vehicles go, it’s a case of watching the space. When it comes to eco-friendly tech, last year’s luxury has a habit of becoming next year’s mainstream. While towing capabilities are currently limited to the top end of the market, it’s only a matter of time until more budget-friendly options come our way.
Want to stay fully up-to-date for the best caravanning experiences this year? From post-Brexit travel advice to our guide to touring caravan insurance costs, we have everything you need in our blog. Check it out here.