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Can I tow a caravan with an electric or a hybrid car?

You need to choose your model carefully if you want to tow a caravan or trailer with a hybrid or electric car

Volvo XC40 P8

The amount of electric and hybrid cars offered by manufacturers has jumped massively in recent years, so it's very likely you'll be considering one as your next purchase. Those who need to pull a trailer or caravan on a regular basis may have questions about their towing abilities, so we've put together this guide to help.

Electric motors (which feature in both hybrid and fully electric vehicles) are known for producing strong torque the instant you press the accelerator, so in one respect they're ideally suited for towing applications. Hybrid and electric cars are also generally cheaper to run than diesel or petrol-fuelled alternatives, so initially it looks like good news for those who need to tow.

But a quick look at some specifications will tell you that a number of electrified models aren’t rated to tow a heavy trailer, or any kind of braked trailer at all. This is because all cars must be officially approved for towing by the authorities, and some brands don't go through this process, even if their electric or hybrid cars are on paper up to the job of towing. Read on to find out which EVs can tow – and why some models can't.

Which electric cars can tow?

Many electric cars on sale right now can tow a trailer or caravan – mostly at the more expensive end of the market. The BMW iX has a 2,500kg capacity and the Tesla Model X is capable of pulling 2,250kg. Tesla has also included a ‘trailer mode' that shuts off some of the car’s driver-assistance features and can apply brakes to individual wheels if it detects the trailer swaying behind.

Meanwhile, the Audi e-tron and Mercedes EQC can both tow up to 1,800kg, while the Volvo XC40 Recharge can tow up to 1,800kg in twin-motor guise or 1,500kg with a single motor. The Tesla Model Y Long Range can manage a 1,600kg trailer, as can the Kia EV6 and its sister model the Hyundai Ioniq 5.

The Polestar 2 is rated for towing up to 1,500kg, while the Audi Q4 e-tron can handle 1,200kg in four-wheel-drive 'quattro' form or 1,000kg as a two-wheel drive. Its sister model the Volkswagen ID.4 SUV can haul up to 1,000kg and the Jaguar I-Pace is also suitable for towing – although only up to a maximum of 750kg.

Why can some electric cars not tow?

The main reason you can’t tow a caravan with some hybrid or electric cars is because of something called 'type approval'. This is the certification process that carmakers go through with new models, and many decide not to have these models certified for towing safely.

One reason for this is weight, which plays a big part in the approval process for towing. Having batteries on board means that these models tend to be heavier overall, and allowing for the extra weight of a caravan or trailer on top of that could mean stronger brakes are needed. This bumps up the cost of making the car in the first place, and since most motorists don’t tow, the manufacturer may not consider it worthwhile to do this.

There’s also the matter of regenerative braking, a system that most EVs and hybrids use. This is calibrated to the braking force needed to slow down just the vehicle itself, so any extra braking force that a caravan or trailer would require might complicate things for the electronics. This isn't an insurmountable problem, though, and in time manufacturers may be able to develop systems that can factor in different weights.

Another issue is range. Caravan owners often undertake long trips, which can be an issue for some electric models. Not only would drivers have to recharge regularly, but they'd also face significantly shorter real-world range than the car's published figure,  due to the added weight and wind resistance of the caravan.

Can plug-in hybrids be used for towing?

Because plug-in vehicles use a combination of electric and engine power, the issues discussed above that affect pure-electric vehicles are less pronounced. In fact, several plug-in hybrid vehicles have been certified for towing, including the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Volvo XC90 Recharge, Volvo XC60 Recharge and BMW X5 hybrid, among others.

They come with impressive towing capacities, too. The Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 has a 2,100kg limit, going all the way up to 3,500kg for the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid. Smaller models like the Volkswagen Golf GTE can tow up to 1,600kg, while the Land Rover Defender P400e is rated at 3,000kg.

Many non-plug-in hybrid cars are also certified for towing, but their limits are smaller. The Toyota Prius and C-HR are limited to just 725kg, for example, while the Toyota Corolla can manage 750kg. The Toyota RAV4 can haul 1,650kg in all-wheel-drive hybrid form, while the plug-in version of the same car has a towing limit of 1,500kg.

Can an electric car be towed?

If your hybrid or electric car breaks down, it shouldn’t be towed away, but instead placed on a flatbed trailer. This is to avoid harming the electronics on board, such as the traction motor that generates electricity when coasting. Most manufacturers recommend owners contact their breakdown provider and specifically ask for a flatbed truck. However, in some instances, an electric car can be towed with the front wheels lifted, but this is often limited to a short distance. Consult your manual to find out what your manufacturer recommends.

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