Our camping trips draw quizzical looks and a number of questions. Yes, you can tow an RV with a Tesla. It’s a powerful vehicle and a great ride. The experience is a bit different, but for us, that’s part of the fun.
Here are some questions we get asked frequently by fellow campers.
1. What Made You Decide to Tow With an Electric Vehicle?
We’ve owned electric vehicles since 2015, starting with the Nissan Leaf. We added the Tesla Model X in 2020 and recently replaced the Leaf with a 2021 Chevrolet Bolt. We’ve always liked the performance of electric vehicles, but the minimal maintenance required is the biggest benefit. Since 2015, we’ve only needed to change tires on our vehicles. There’s no transmission, no engine to repair, and no belts or pulleys to wear or slip. And the technology included in most EVs is above and beyond anything we could ever need.
When we started joining our friends who participate in dirt bike racing events, we found that we liked camping, but not necessarily in a tent. Although the Tesla has a camping mode to air condition our SUV tent, we were a bit jealous of our friends who owned toy haulers or travel trailers. We researched the capabilities of our Tesla and discovered that we had the most powerful EV on the market in terms of towing capability. Then began our search for a travel trailer that safely fit the capabilities of our tow vehicle, and we ended up purchasing a Winnebago.
2. How Much Can Your EV Tow?
The Tesla is a powerful tow vehicle compared to other EVs. It’s rated at 5,000 pounds of towing capability with a 500-pound tongue weight. Additionally, its low center of gravity (due to the heavy batteries) and the fact that it outweighs most F-150 models, makes it a very capable towing vehicle. We chose the Winnebago Micro Minnie 2106DS due to its light dry weight and the peace of mind of having a dual axle travel trailer. It’s a comfortable home away from home for us and our dogs, but that doesn’t mean it comes without its sacrifices, or that it’s a fit for all camping lifestyles.
3. How Does an EV Affect Your Travel Range?
The Tesla is a very fast, powerful vehicle. While normally reaching 250 to 300 miles of range, that number is greatly reduced when towing. Our general rule is that we can travel 100 miles without worrying about speed or driving conditions. On a trip involving a mix of highway and city streets, we can comfortably count on 100 miles or more with no charge.
With an EV, slowing actually generates power. EVs have regenerative braking, so they gain power as the vehicle slows down. That’s why driving on city streets will increase our range. When driving on the highway, the battery drains at a constant rate, and higher speeds use more power. Long story short, the scenic route provides more range.
However, this doesn’t mean our camping radius is 100 miles. With Tesla’s proprietary charging network, we know we can always stop along our route with minimal detours. We can use non-Tesla chargers as well by keeping different adapters on hand. Knowing we can charge at any site with full hookups gives us peace of mind.
For example, we took a trip that required mostly highway travel through the center of Florida. We stopped at a third-party charger and plugged in for roughly 20 minutes before continuing our trip. Our destination was 120 miles away and we arrived with less than 10 percent battery remaining. A few weeks later, we traveled up the coast of Florida on a slower, scenic route. Our destination was only 79 miles away but due to the stop and go nature of the route and slower speeds, we arrived with about 45 percent charge remaining.
4. How Does It Ride?
The Tesla is a smooth and quiet ride to begin with, and this carries over when towing as well. With no engine, you don’t hear normal noise associated with an ICE (internal combustion engine). There’s no engine that ramps up when accelerating and the car provides instant torque. Coupled with the responsive nature and weight of the vehicle, the experience when towing is a favorable one. We’ve also incorporated some towing safety features such as a Hayes Pro-Master electronic sway control system which uses gyroscopic and GPS sensors to detect and mitigate sway. We took this route because the manufacturer doesn’t recommend a weight distribution hitch and we wanted to keep our tongue weight to a minimum.
5. Where Do You Charge Your EV?
If there’s electricity, we can charge our vehicle at the campsite. Of course, there are many factors that will affect how quickly we’re able to charge. Level 2 charging stations range from 7 to 11 kilowatts of charging speed per hour. If we’re going on a longer trip and charge with a Tesla Supercharger, we can charge at up to 250 kilowatts per hour, enabling us to quickly replenish our battery.
When we arrive at a site with full hookups, we plug our trailer into the 30-amp outlet and our Tesla into the 50-amp outlet, allowing us to charge at about 8 kilowatts an hour and wake up to a fully charged tow vehicle.
We’ve met a few other EV drivers at campsites (none that have tried towing yet) and based on our experience, EV drivers love talking about their vehicles. If you do see someone with an EV towing a rig, say hello and ask them about it.