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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Towing w/ A Tesla

Yesterday I moved my camper to a new storage facility. The trip was only about 45 miles and mostly on Interstate 5. This gave me a chance to see the range impact of towing on the Tesla Model X.

2016 Tesla Model X towing a Coleman Tacoma pop-up camper 
Before connecting the camper, I had to go buy a trailer ball mount and ball. The Tesla tow package only comes with a hitch receiver, not the complete tow kit. This is standard in the industry since they don't know what you may be towing and what type of tow kit you'd need. Perhaps you are just getting this for a bike rack and the receiver is all that you need.

Here is the installed tow ball.
Tow Kit Installed in a Tesla Tow Receiver
Now the part of the story that you've been waiting for: How much did this impact the range? Here is the energy data from the Tesla when we finished the trip.

Trip energy info from the binnacle display at the end of our towing trip 
Let's unpack this a little. I usually see around 335 Wh/mi, so 458 is a 27% increase in "fuel" consumption compared to my typical driving. Using just quick math, at 458 Wh/mile with a 90 kWh pack (85.8 usable in the 90D) results in 187 miles of range. Compared to the 257 miles of range rated by the EPA, this is a 27% reduction in range. A 27% reduction in rated range is not bad, I was expecting a ~40% reduction.

To be clear, this was not an EPA range test, it was one short drive on a mostly flat part of I-5. I may not even get the same results if I were to reverse the trip, but it is one example that can give you a good idea of the scope of the range impact.

187 miles is plenty of range for the places where I typically camp and if it is farther, there are Superchargers to extend the range (although this may be complicated with the camper attached). Also, assuming there is service where we're camping, I'll be able to use an RV outlet (NEMA 14-50) as a "destination charger" to recharge the car overnight.

Before signing off, here are three misc. things I learned on while towing for the first time in the X. One, the car automatically switches into tow mode when it detects something plugged into the 7-pin outlet used to control the trailer lights and braking. Two, when the X is in tow mode, Autopilot is not available to be enabled. You have to actually drive yourself when you are towing (#FWP). Third, our X has smart air suspension and it adjusts the suspension height as you drive and it also undoes this adjustment after you have been stopped for a few minutes. We were unhooking the trailer when the car decided to lift up a couple inches. This was annoying and a little dangerous as I was unhooking the camper at the time.

Stay safe, have fun, charge on.

UPDATE: I was informed by a reader that the tow kit shown above has a 2" drop and that is not recommended by Tesla. According to the reader, the ball can be straight or have up to a 3/4" rise. Luckily, the mount kit shown above is reversible and when reversed, it goes from a 2" drop to a 3/4" rise. I have now moved the ball and flipped it over. Next time I pull the camper, the trailer tongue will be 2 and 3/4" higher.