Can Tesla Cars Tow Trailers? The Facts Explained


towing with a tesla

In the United States, around $18 billion worth of recreational vehicles are sold in any given year. A fifth of that are trailers. With the growing popularity of Tesla’s electric cars, many people are wondering if these vehicles, which are designed to travel light and rely on batteries, can tow trailers.

A Tesla Model X can tow trailers. This Tesla car can easily tow trailers up to 5,000 pounds (2,267 kilograms) in weight. The tow package was made standard some time in 2018. When ordering a brand new Tesla Model Y, a tow package can be added for $1,000. The Model Y has a towing capacity up to 3,500 pounds (1,587 kilograms).

If you’ve considered buying a Tesla car, but wondered if it can tow your trailers, then this guide could provide much-needed answers.. Your next trailer-towing vehicle could be an electric-powered Tesla.

Tesla Factory Tow Packages and Specs

The Model X currently comes standard with the tow package. The Model Y has an optional tow package. In Europe, the Model 3 also has an optional tow package. There are also aftermarket options.

Additional Energy Use

Among the different vehicle types, electric vehicles (EVs) are probably the most limited when it comes to towing. One of the biggest limiting factors is the energy required. Towing a trailer will use a substantial amount of additional energy, drastically reducing your battery’s range. Long distant towing will require a lot more stops to charge.

Range Anxiety

Towing requires more power because of the additional work your electric car does. As such, towing puts a strain on your batteries, and will almost certainly shorten the driving range you get on your electric vehicle. This is similar on an internal combustion engine vehicle. You’ll get less mileage when towing, but it can be magnified on an electric vehicle.

Most consumers tend to prefer electric cars that can deliver the most range, allowing them to drive longer on a single full charge. Show them an electric vehicle with a shorter range, and not only do people refrain from buying the car, but those who own them also tend to give a low satisfaction rating.

With the shorter range, especially while towing, it’s easy to scare off potential buyers. Especially if they plan on doing a lot of towing with the vehicle.

Tesla Model 3 Towing

Other Electric Car Models Can Be Used for Towing

There are quite a few choices if you want to buy an electric vehicle that can also tow a trailer. Some of the most popular include:

  • Audi e-Tron
  • Mercedes EQC
  • Jaguar I-Pace
  • Rivian R1T

While basic towing capability is a plus, it’s important that your car can tow something on the heavier side; for example, a tow trailer. 

Tesla Cars Can Tow Trailers

The Tesla Model X SUV has enough room for seven seats and a range of 340 miles (547 kilometers). This SUV goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour (0 to 97 kilometers per hour) in just 2.5 seconds with a peak power of 1,020 horsepower.

Tesla states that the Model X can handle up to 5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms). The Tesla Model X even comes with its own tow bar that you can hide away when you’re not using it.

Trailer Mode

Connecting a trailer to your Model X will trigger Trailer Mode to activate when the wiring harness is connected. When this happens, your vehicle’s:

  • Rear parking sensors, auto park, and autosteer are disabled.
  • Location-based and automatic height adjustments are disabled.
  • Autopilot steering will not work.
  • The AEB brake force is significantly decreased.

Power Concerns

Range is one of the major concerns people have about electric cars. Towing a trailer or camper uses up a lot energy than a regular drive or joyride. But how does the Tesla Model X address these issues?

The long-range versions of Tesla’s models have an estimated range of:

Model 3: 353 miles (568 kilometers)

Model S: 412 miles (663 kilometers)

Model Y: 326 miles (525 kilometers)

Model X: 360 miles (579 kilometers)

These estimates show that the Model X has the second longest range in Tesla’s current lineup. Its range is only beaten by the smaller Model S, which only has five seats and 28 cubic feet (0.8 cubic meters) of cargo capacity, as opposed to the Model X’s seven-seat and 88 cubic feet (2.5 cubic meters) capacity.

However, towing with your Tesla Model X will mean a much shorter range. The reduction in how far you can go on a single charge can differ depending on how heavy the trailer is, as well as the added weight of everything inside the trailer. The range will also be shortened depending on the kind of terrain you’re driving on.

Should You Use the Tesla Model X for Towing?

Sure, the Tesla Model X can tow a trailer. But it might not be an excellent idea to buy a Tesla if your main purpose is to tow a trailer. 

Tesla Model X loses a significant amount of driving range when it’s towing. A real-world test conducted by Australia’s Car Guide shows that towing halves the Tesla Model X’s driving range. Driving on its own, it will use up to 21.4 kilowatt-hours for every 100 kilometers (62 miles). 

But towing a 1,746-kilogram (3,850 pounds) trailer, it needed 48.1 kilowatt-hours to travel the same distance, almost doubling the amount of charge required. Road conditions can affect towing performance, and you’ll spend more fuel when towing, even if you use something with a combustion engine. 

Car Guide brought a Landcruiser VX along for the ride, and with the trailer attached, it needed only 10.35 liters (2.7 gallons) of gas for every 100 kilometers (62 miles). It then required 17.2 liters (4.5 gallons) to cover the same distance with a caravan attached to it. That’s only a 66 percent increase, compared to the 112 percent raise for Tesla.

A Word of Caution: Towing = Longer Charging Time

One of the things that one should consider when traveling in an electric car is that you will spend a significantly longer time refueling when compared to a gas car. A short trip from Phoenix, Arizona, to Gallup, New Mexico, in a Tesla Model X Long Range (a distance of 419 miles or 674 kilometers) takes at least eight hours when factoring in recharge time. 

During a trip of this distance, you would need to spend an hour and 20 minutes recharging your car at two different stops along the way. And that’s just the estimated time for an unloaded Tesla Model X. 

The total time for a trip that far while towing a trailer would be significantly longer, as your range would decrease (and force you to recharge more often). One Model X user found that towing a 5,000 pound trailer decreased the range by 45% – 60%. 

You’ll typically notice that your estimated range also drops has you travel along your trip. While Tesla does adjust the estimated energy required to reach your destination when in Trailer Mode, you’ll almost always find it continues to lower that number. Error on the side of caution and charge longer to be safe than sorry. On a recent trip in colder weather, traveling up a mountain pass, I saw my estimated range go from 47% remaining battery down to 0%. And that was after changing my destination from our cabin to the nearest Supercharger. I likely would have ran out of battery if I tried to continue to the cabin.

Trailer Aerodynamic

When towing a trailer, especially with an electric vehicle, aerodynamics play a large factor. Our 6×12 enclosed cargo trailer only weighs a couple hundred pounds more than our SylvanSport Go trailer, yet the energy used is substantially greater. It’s almost as if we’re pulling a parachute behind us the aerodynamics are so bad. We see a lot more energy used when towing the enclosed cargo trailer.

Conclusion

You can use a Tesla Model X to tow a trailer, even on long hauls. But it might be a lot quicker to travel with a typical combustion engine SUV. Electrical vehicles can take hours to recharge, and charging stations are still somewhat scarce. 

Tesla Model X owners might be able to tow a trailer behind their SUV, but range anxiety and charging concerns can become a problem. Still, it’s nice to be able to use your Tesla for those towing trips once in a while. It really depends on what, how often, and how far you plan to tow.

Fabville

Kevin has been involved in the custom automotive scene since he bought his first mini-truck in high school and began modifying it. He also has interest in sustainability, DIY projects, and various forms of fabrication. Seeing improved technology of batteries, he has made a concentrated effort over the last few years to transition away from fossil fuels. From lawn care to automotive.

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