We've been say for quite some time that 2022 is the year of the EV truck. Alongside a slew of electric sedans and crossovers coming to market in 2022 are a solid handful of new EV trucks, some of which are already making their way into the hands of buyers. The Ford F-150 Lightning and the Rivian R1T are two such EV trucks receiving a lot of media attention as owners and reviewers alike start sharing their thoughts.
One of the topics that enthusiasts and skeptics are hung up on is the towing capacity of EV pickup trucks. Can EV trucks do Real Truck Things™, or are they forever destined to be lifestyle vehicles?
Let’s break it down.
When it comes to towing, 10,000 pounds is often the standard for what a capable truck should be able to manage. For context, the heaviest Airstream, the Classic Travel Trailer, weighs 8,000 pounds fully loaded. Meanwhile, the most popular Airstream model, the Flying Cloud, weighs 6,000 pounds fully loaded. The average ski boat and trailer weigh under 6,000 pounds, as well.
According to the specs for various EV trucks, these weights are well within towing capacity. Due to the comparatively high torque of electric motors, you no longer need a ¾ ton pickup with a big engine to tow 10,000 pounds. The Ford F-150 Lightning with the extended range battery can tow this much, while its standard-range sibling can tow 7,700 pounds. The Rivian R1T can tow 11,000 pounds regardless of trim level.
As a fun aside, if what you're towing is light enough, you can pull it with pretty much any EV - even the humble (but versatile) Chevy Bolt. This couple made a video series documenting how it went and what to expect. Spoiler: the 35% range reduction is on par with what you'd see in cold weather!
Out of everything a driver could do with an EV, towing has the biggest impact on achievable range. Extreme cold weather driving is the only other thing that comes anywhere close to the same effect. Of course, towing with a gas powered truck also comes with significant fuel inefficiencies, while diesels can handle the added weight a little more easily.
The base, non-towing range of EVs – trucks included – depends on many factors, such as the trim level, battery size, weather and terrain.
Manufacturers of electric pickup trucks rate towing range around 50% of non-towing range, assuming a load of up to 80% of the maximum towing capacity. A variety of real-world tests by bloggers, car magazines, and YouTubers alike seems to corroborate this figure.
What does this really mean? If your truck is rated to get 250 miles of range on a full battery, you can expect to actually get around 125 miles of range if you’re towing a 8,500-pound trailer. If you’re towing on a highway above 60 miles per hour – or in mountains – the range may be less in both cases.
The takeaway: if you plan to tow regularly, consider buying the biggest battery you can.
Since towing with an EV will limit your range, charging becomes particularly important. Both the speed and accessibility of chargers is more important when trying to tow a trailer on any sort of road trip.
First, the speed of the charger will have a large impact on how long your pit stops take. As towing uses twice the energy your EV would ordinarily use, you may need to budget for twice the charge time if you’re going far enough to need it. The Ford F-150 Lightning with the 98kWh pack “can charge from 15-80% in about 44 minutes,” according to Ford. The Lightning is capped at a 150kW charge rate at DC Fast Charging (DCFC) stations.
The Rivian R1T, on the other hand, can accept around 220kW of power at a DCFC station. This may seem like a significant difference, but real-world charging speeds will depend highly on the quality of the station used, as well as the charging curve for each vehicle.
Lastly, charger access is a major consideration in terms of whether an electric pickup will work for you. Does your route mostly follow a large interstate, or does it meander through hundreds of miles of backcountry roads? If the latter, you will need to consult a charging app like Plugshare to see what your charging options might be. It’s worth planning this out before you commit to an electric truck, or your particular route.
Another aspect of accessibility is the availability of pull-through charging stations. Standard pull-in parking spaces are still the norm for charging, meaning trailers need to be disconnected in order for the truck to charge. Increasingly, charging providers are rolling out pull-through stations. However, don’t count on this to be a widespread option for at least a few years.
Like so many things, it boils down to what you need to tow and where. Some pickup truck owners need a vehicle that can pull a utility trailer only 40 miles a day – and have the ability to charge at home afterward. This may be the optimal use case for those who want to tow with an EV. The next best scenario is someone who camps only a short distance off of major interstates and can locate pull-through charging stations with ease. We’re sure to see developments and improvements quickly after the inaugural class of electric trucks hit the road, and we’d love to hear about your experience.