TMC is an independent, primarily volunteer organization that relies on ad revenue to cover its operating costs. Please consider whitelisting TMC on your ad blocker or making a Paypal contribution here: paypal.me/SupportTMC

Lightweight trailers a Model 3 might be able to tow

Discussion in 'Model 3' started by ecarfan, Sep 15, 2016.

  1. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2013
    Messages:
    10,326
    Location:
    San Mateo, CA
    While we know that Elon has stated the Model 3 will the capability to tow a trailer, we of course don't know the trailer weight limit (we know the X is limited to 5,000 lbs). This was briefly discussed here Towing

    Thought I would start a thread focused on compact and lighter weight trailers that a Model 3 might be able to tow. Here are some I have found. Anyone with direct experience with any of these, please contribute!

    The new Airstream Basecamp model looks very compelling to me. It's about 2,600 lbs.Basecamp - Airstream

    The Alto is much lighter at 1,700 lbs. and has a much lower roofline so presumably more aerodynamic. It is also wonderfully bright inside because when the roof is raised it exposes a huge amount of window area Safari Condo. A couple are traveling across Canada towing one of these behind their X.

    The Bowlus Road Chief at a bit less than 2,500 lbs has been discussed in this thread Test Report: Towing the Bowlus Road Chief
    It certainly seems to have a lot of advantages. One major disadvantage is the high price, about the same as a Model X!

    Any other candidates?
     
    • Like x 4
    • Love x 1
  2. Zaphod

    Zaphod Galaxy President (former)

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2015
    Messages:
    422
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    While the 3 will be allowed to tow, I just don't see people towing a camper or travel trailer with it. My take is that the towing intent would be for small utility trailer or be able to use a hitch mounted bike rack or something along those lines. I imagine the aerodynamics of pulling a camper with the 3 with its lower profile will even be worse than with the X. More frontal area of the camper would be exposed.

    If someone will really tow a camper, I think they need to be looking at smaller pop-up camper. Cheaper, lighter, low-profile. Somehow I don't see the typical 3 buyer plunking down another 40K on an Airstream.
     
  3. CTreast

    CTreast Member

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2016
    Messages:
    31
    Location:
    Georgia
    I hear ya. I'm trying to think about why someone who wants to tow anything is looking at an all electric car. I just sold my FJ Cruiser for a leaf to get into the electric spirit and there are several things I no longer do including towing and getting lumber from home depot. At some point you just have to come to terms with opposing hobbies and make a decision. I know I'll have to get some old F100 someday to fill that gap or get an SUV for my wife.
     
  4. dsvick

    dsvick Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2016
    Messages:
    456
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Elon already said the M3 would have towing, not an accesory hitch for bike racks and the like, he actually said "towing". Sure, he could have misspoken but odds are it'll be a real towing hitch.

    Why wouldn't they? An electric car will tow more than a comparable ICE and I'm not going to buy a truck for a few times a year towing. My M3 will be my every day car. I'm certainly not going to go out and buy another vehicle just for towing and I'd like to avoid having to rent something to do it too. Sure it'll reduce range and maybe the speed I can go, but with the SC network all that means is that it'll take me longer to get there. If it even means that, since there a tons of places I can go with 100 - 150 miles.
     
    • Like x 1
  5. Red Sage

    Red Sage The Cybernetic Samurai

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2014
    Messages:
    2,393
    Location:
    Los Angeles CA
    Please don't overlook that if you are towing something somewhere, just about any place you can park a trailer or camper legally will also have a decent plug on hand that you can use to recharge. NEMA 14-50, 6-50, 6-30, or whatever.
     
    • Like x 2
  6. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2013
    Messages:
    10,326
    Location:
    San Mateo, CA
    Elon said the Model 3 would have "towing" capabilities. That doesn't mean a tiny utility trailer or a hitch mounted bike rack.
    I don't see why I am not a "typical Model 3 buyer" (and since so far no one has bought a Model 3, who knows what the "typical" buyer will turn out to be).

    It seems reasonable to imagine a Model 3 buyer spending $40 to $50K (lots of options) to be interested in a very nice but compact trailer like the Alto or BaseCamp. They are very light and can be towed by a Subaru. You don't need a big car like a Model X to tow one, that simply isn't necessary. The Model 3 will certainly be powerful enough to tow a 1,600 lb trailer and it will also be more efficient than an X because it will be much lighter and have much less frontal area.
     
  7. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2013
    Messages:
    10,326
    Location:
    San Mateo, CA
    Because a Tesla has plenty of torque to do it and with the increasing density of the Supercharger network, plenty of places to DC fast charge. And for those of us who have completely kicked the gasoline addiction and no longer own any ICE vehicles, we would never consider anything else but an EV even if we want to tow a camper trailer.

    There are already multiple threads on TMC about people using a Model X to tow a big camper trailer, and they are making it work.

    My post starting this thread said, quote: "Thought I would start a thread focused on compact and lighter weight trailers that a Model 3 might be able to tow. Here are some I have found."

    That is what I would like to discuss. If you think the idea of towing a camper trailer using an EV makes no sense, you are welcome to ignore this thread. Thank you.
     
    • Like x 2
    • Love x 1
  8. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2013
    Messages:
    10,326
    Location:
    San Mateo, CA
    #8 ecarfan, Sep 17, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2016
    Of the three trailers listed in my post starting this thread, the Alto interests me the most. A Model X husband/wife owners have one and have blogged about taking it across Canada. See Crossing Canada in a Model X towing a Camping Trailer

    That owner blogged about adding 800 watts of solar panels to the roof of his Alto (there is a factory option for 200 watts of solar panels but that wasn't enough for him) with a LiFePo battery system, see Solar Charging for Nerds . He describes the reasons he chose that Lithium battery type instead of Lion.

    That is very cool. I am reading his blog trying to figure out if that many panels allows him to run his fridge electrically rather than having to rely on propane. In a video interview with the couple that I found on another website, the wife stated that they use a portable single burner induction cooktop to cook but it isn't clear to me if they use that all the time or only when they are plugged in at a campground.

    At the bottom of that page, someone named Leo Zalewski posted a comment saying he has an Alto trailer that he tows with a Subaru Outback and stated that he has a Model 3 reservation.

    Edit: here is the X owners additional blog post about his solar power setup on top of his Alto trailer. See Battery Power for Electric Car & Camping Trailer Charging Set-up . He can run the trailer off his solar powered batteries and he can even charge his X and get about 20km of range if needed. Of course that is a tiny amount of range and the charge rate is very slow.

    I am impressed with his setup, which he built himself.
     
    • Informative x 1
  9. Red Sage

    Red Sage The Cybernetic Samurai

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2014
    Messages:
    2,393
    Location:
    Los Angeles CA
    I have no personal need for towing things. My personal mantra is that 'If it doesn't fit in the car, it ain't going!' That's why I don't use roof racks either, by the way.

    I fully agree that towing is a necessary option for Tesla Generation III vehicles. Because it must be demonstrated that an EV can handle the normal, ordinary, everyday tasks that are expected for any other vehicle in a given market segment. So I will be following this post because it is informative.
     
  10. ohmman

    ohmman Maximum Plaid Member

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2014
    Messages:
    4,790
    Location:
    North Bay, CA
    I've been following this topic closely in the X forums and have a little input.

    First, you seem to be asking mostly about travel trailers, not just any trailer. That makes sense, because there is a huge variety of lightweight utility trailers to choose between. I'd like to address this first, though. In the X forums, I've been a big proponent of the towing package because it was relatively quite inexpensive (same as upgrading the interior trim), but offers a lot of utility. Utility trailers are easy to hitch, keep dirty things out of the car, and allow for vastly more hauling capacity than the car itself. It effectively can turn a Model 3 into a "moving/hauling" pickup truck on an as-needed basis. Note that I'm not saying it has the utility of a working pickup, just that it can move mulch, compost, furniture, groups of bikes, ATVs (electric ones ;)), etc.

    As far as travel trailers go, the Alto is one of the most interesting choices for a hard-sided trailer. One of the problems is that unless you can find one used, you have to take delivery of the vehicle at the factory near Québec City. That might work for those on the East Coast, but for many, it represents a pretty big journey. I did find a new one for resale in BC a while back, but it disappeared before I could contact the seller. Users considering the Alto Safari Condo should assume a price in the range of $35k-$45k USD for a reasonable build. I had some communication with the sales force there, and received this reply:
    I've also drooled over the Bowlus Road Chief that you linked. Realistic pricing for a moderately optioned vehicle is $145-$150k pre-tax, though, which dried up my drool relatively quickly. The other concern is that they're a newish manufacturer with an uncertain future. Though, for those of us buying Teslas, that's not really breaking any new ground.

    I have the need to sleep 4, so the BaseCamp, while very attractive from a compact towing perspective, won't meet my needs.

    The less-sexy but more functional options are (as @Zaphod mentioned above) hard-sided or soft-sided pop-ups. Because these collapse for travel, they significantly reduce drag. Drag, not weight, will generally have the biggest impact on towing range. Pop-ups are generally lightweight and should be easy to unhitch for Supercharging. They're much more affordable than the options listed above, and relatively liquid as far as buying or selling used. I think they'd be my choice for towing with a 3. With the X, I will continue to consider the other aluminum options.
     
    • Like x 2
    • Informative x 1
  11. SuperDragon

    SuperDragon Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2016
    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    United States
  12. animorph

    animorph Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2016
    Messages:
    94
    Location:
    Scottsdale, AZ
  13. Zoomit

    Zoomit Part 3 Awaiter

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2015
    Messages:
    313
    Location:
    SoCal
    Wow, do you know how much additional energy these trailers will need to be towed? It could be an additional 300-400 Wh/mi, even at 60 mph. That would turn the ~200-250 Wh/mi Model 3 into a towed combination that needs 500-650 Wh/mi.

    Bjorn pulled a slightly larger travel trailer and needed 650-800+ Wh/mi with his Model X.
    And that Model X conveniently pushes more air out of the way ahead of the trailer than a Model 3.

    So these trailers could easily decrease range by 60%. Assuming the Model 3 normally has 200 mi of highway range, that decreases it to <80mi. A "big battery" Model 3, that normally does say 250 mi on the highway, could be reduced to 100 mi.

    Are you ready for an effective range of ~70-90 mi at slow highway speeds on level ground?

    If you're climbing into the mountains, oh boy, best be careful. Bjorn averaged over 1500 Wh/mi on the uphill leg of his trip, twice what he saw during the flat portion.

    The bottomline is that the towing range for a highly aero efficient car like the Model 3 is very sensitive to trailer aerodynamics. I think the only, marginally viable option would be a <2,000 lb (loaded) pop-up style trailer and for rough planning purposes assume a 50% range hit.
     
  14. SuperDragon

    SuperDragon Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2016
    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    United States
    Luckily my family and I enjoy camping locally so range isnt that large of a issue for us. Plus all the camp grounds we like have 30 amp service so I can charge my Tesla at the campground when i get there or before leaving :)

    I remember years ago reading about people taking the first cross country trips in a Teslas and charging them at camp grounds/KOA'S

    As the super charging network expands this will become less and less of a problem for everyone but definitely something people should take into consideration before making a purchase. For us a ICE vehicle is not a option.
     
    • Like x 1
  15. wycolo

    wycolo Active Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2012
    Messages:
    2,422
    Location:
    WY
    You will spend a lot of time at each SuperCharger due to the taper as you approach a full battery.

    If the trailer has electric brakes you will need to install a brake controller near driver's knee. Trailer should have a battery box and break-away switch if it does have brakes.

    Car manufacturer towing rating limits have more to do with stopping capability of the car + trailer than pulling capability and handling.

    4x6 and 5x8 mini flatbed trailers with wire mesh floors are dirt cheap at Tractor Supply etc and are great for hauling crap to the dump or other obnoxious loads. These trailers can stand up against garage wall for out of the way storage.
    --
     
    • Like x 1
  16. SuperDragon

    SuperDragon Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2016
    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    United States
    Like i said my family likes to camp locally so range will not be an issue with us and we will not have to use superchargers to get to our destinations.

    I was told by a tesla sales associate (right after the X came out) that a brake controller was built into the software of the vehicle when you purchase the tow package. Is this correct?

    Either way a brake controller will definitely be needed but worse case scenario they are less than $200
     
    • Like x 1
  17. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2013
    Messages:
    10,326
    Location:
    San Mateo, CA
    There is an RV dealer in London, Ontario Canada that sells the Alto. As it happens, my spouse is from London, Ontario, and was just there this past week visiting her mother and family. Next time she goes for a visit she is going to go see that RV dealer.

    But yes, it's a long way to go to take delivery even in Ontario.
    Agreed, but those seem archaic compared to the Alto. And obviously, much cheaper. :)
     
  18. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2013
    Messages:
    10,326
    Location:
    San Mateo, CA
    Yes, I think anyone who has been paying attention to the Model X towing threads is aware of the high energy usage. This thread is about what lightweight travel trailer choices are available and that might be usable with a Model 3.

    I hope that Tesla offers a 90kWh battery option for the Model 3. That's what I am going to want for my 3.
     
    • Like x 2
  19. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2013
    Messages:
    10,326
    Location:
    San Mateo, CA
    Unless you are a vehicle aerodynamic expert (if so please cite your qualification, thank you) I am not sure if the larger size of the X means a useful gain in range because it "pushes more air out of the way" compared to the smaller size of the Model 3 which means it uses less wH/mi compared to the X and therefore might overall use about the same wH/mi when towing compared to an X. I am not a vehicle aerodynamic expert so I really don't know.
     
    • Like x 1
  20. Zoomit

    Zoomit Part 3 Awaiter

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2015
    Messages:
    313
    Location:
    SoCal
    #20 Zoomit, Sep 18, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2016
    Well I suppose I do know a little about aerodynamics, but the concept is not really that complicated. It all comes down to the size of the wake created by the tow vehicle. Let me illustrate the concept with approximate but somewhat plausible numbers. All of this is simplified and assumes a steady-state cruise, no winds, flat ground, same trailer, etc.

    Let's assume a trailer needs 200 Wh/mi to overcome tire rolling resistance and, if the trailer were magically rolling along with no tow vehicle, needs 800 Wh/mi to overcome aerodynamic drag. Therefore, the total energy usage to move only the incredibly aero inefficient trailer is 1000 Wh/mi.

    Case 1
    Truck by itself uses 2000 Wh/mi
    Truck pulling trailer uses 2300 Wh/mi
    Difference due to trailer: 300 Wh/mi [=2300-2000]
    Truck wake saves 700 Wh/mi [=1000-300]
    Impact to Truck energy usage: 1.15x [=2300/2000]
    Impact to Truck range: 13% loss [=1-1/1.15]

    Case 2
    Model X by itself uses 350 Wh/mi
    Model X pulling trailer uses 700 Wh/mi
    Difference due to trailer: 350 Wh/mi [=700-350]
    Model X wake saves: 650 Wh/mi [=1000-350]
    Impact to Model X energy usage: 2x [=700/350]
    Impact to Model X range: 50% loss [=1-1/2]

    Case 3
    Model 3 by itself uses 200 Wh/mi
    Model 3 pulling trailer uses 600 Wh/mi
    Difference due to trailer: 400 Wh/mi [=600-200]
    Model 3 wake saves: 600 Wh/mi [1000-400]
    Impact to Model 3 energy usage: 3x [=600/200]
    Impact to Model 3 range: 67% loss [=1-1/3]

    In all cases, the tow vehicle significantly reduces the aero drag on the trailer. The tow vehicle saves between 600 and 700 Wh/mi that would be needed to move the trailer just by itself. This savings is due to wake from the tow vehicle. But the point here is that more efficient tow vehicles have a smaller wake and so the smaller wake vehicles need to expend more energy to tow the trailer. The energy usage grows from 300 Wh/mi to 400 Wh/mi.

    (This is very similar to how an EV needs to expend more energy to heat the cabin verses an ICE vehicle. The ICE vehicle normally has excess heat energy that can be redirected to the cabin but an EV needs to pull that energy from the battery. In the towing case, the truck is wasting energy creating it's wake and when towing is able to use that otherwise wasted energy to reduce the energy needed to tow. An aero efficient EV needs to use more battery energy to tow because it has a smaller wake.)

    The other effect to recognize is that the smaller wake vehicles lose a much higher percentage of their range. This is because the energy to tow the trailer is higher relative to the vehicle traveling only by itself. The range loss grows from 13% to 67% in these three cases.

    We shouldn't quibble about the numbers used here as they're for explanation purposes only. In fact, the results are probably exaggerated using these numbers, but the overarching effects are real.

    To take it back up a level...since the Model 3 will be a very aero efficient highway cruiser, using it to tow an aero inefficient trailer will have significant impact on range. To minimize this impact, place a high priority on choosing a trailer that has 1) good aero efficiency and 2) minimizes being outside the wake of the Model 3.

    One final note about the size of the wake behind the Model 3. The Model 3 is 56.5" high and 74.2" wide. If we ignore a couple of things, like that the smooth roof line pulls the wake down, we can multiply these two dimensions to have a reference wake area of 4,192 sq in. A short pop-up trailer, such as Chalet Classic at 66" high and 82" wide [5,412 sq in], has a frontal area 29% larger than the Model 3 wake. The Chalet XL, mentioned previously in this thread, is 73" high and 87" wide [6,351 sq in] and has a frontal area 52% larger than the Model 3 wake. (PDF Brochure) So even the smallest travel trailers will significantly reduce aero efficiency and range.
     
    • Informative x 2

Share This Page