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Road trip with the Thule Cargo Hitch Box (Transporter Combi)

limmerguy

Member
Nov 21, 2018
21
31
Bay Area, CA
Hi All, I wanted to document a recent 2,200 mile road trip with my Thule hitch-mounted cargo box for anyone who is interested.

Notes:
  • 2018 Tesla Model 3 Long Range RWD with 18" Aero wheels. 5.8% battery degredation. Roughly 70 kWh usable at 100% SoC.
  • Stealth Hitches hitch with trailer package + Thule Transporter Combi Hitch Box. I shortened the hitch stinger by 8" to improve aerodynamics and how it looks.
  • Energy consumption for 2,200 miles was great at 259 Wh/mi. I was constantly surprised by the efficiency numbers. I was significantly over the speed limit most of the time and drafting 3-4 car lengths whenever possible. Temperatures were mid-40s on the coldest nights and low 80s for the highs.
  • No problems fitting into any supercharger stalls or parking spaces. I added a wireless FPV camera to the box so I could see behind me.
  • Autopilot still works with the rear parking sensors blocked. I used AP for ~80% of the miles.
  • Got overnight Level-2 charges in 5 places we visited--Los Angeles, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Zion, Grand Canyon South Rim.
  • The cargo box clears high curbs, but the Stealth hitch does not. Ground clearance isn't good with the Model 3 and gets worse with the hitch attached. The hitch bottomed-out two times on steep driveways. Take dips, bumps, and transitions to steep inclines at an angle.
  • The hitch box is easier to access than a roof box. Both the trunk and hitch box can be opened and accessed at the same time.
  • Car camped only one night in Death Valley. I'm a fan, but lady friend is not.
  • Overall, I like it a lot. I can say definitively that a hitch box is much better than a roof box in terms of accessibility, efficiency, and wind noise. The only benefit of a roof box is it doesn't block the rearview camera when reversing. I've been on two road trips with my Thule roof box and the impact to efficiency is severe.
Thanks! Feel free to ask any questions.

IMG_1957.jpeg


IMG_2268.jpegIMG_1898.jpegIMG_2629.jpegIMG_2632.jpeg

IMG_2648.jpeg
 

KenC

Active Member
Sep 4, 2018
3,631
3,301
Maine
Hi All, I wanted to document a recent 2,200 mile road trip with my Thule hitch-mounted cargo box for anyone who is interested.

Notes:
  • 2018 Tesla Model 3 Long Range RWD with 18" Aero wheels. 5.8% battery degredation. Roughly 70 kWh usable at 100% SoC.
  • Stealth Hitches hitch with trailer package + Thule Transporter Combi Hitch Box. I shortened the hitch stinger by 8" to improve aerodynamics and how it looks.
  • Energy consumption for 2,200 miles was great at 259 Wh/mi. I was constantly surprised by the efficiency numbers. I was significantly over the speed limit most of the time and drafting 3-4 car lengths whenever possible. Temperatures were mid-40s on the coldest nights and low 80s for the highs.
  • No problems fitting into any supercharger stalls or parking spaces. I added a wireless FPV camera to the box so I could see behind me.
  • Autopilot still works with the rear parking sensors blocked. I used AP for ~80% of the miles.
  • Got overnight Level-2 charges in 5 places we visited--Los Angeles, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Zion, Grand Canyon South Rim.
  • The cargo box clears high curbs, but the Stealth hitch does not. Ground clearance isn't good with the Model 3 and gets worse with the hitch attached. The hitch bottomed-out two times on steep driveways. Take dips, bumps, and transitions to steep inclines at an angle.
  • The hitch box is easier to access than a roof box. Both the trunk and hitch box can be opened and accessed at the same time.
  • Car camped only one night in Death Valley. I'm a fan, but lady friend is not.
  • Overall, I like it a lot. I can say definitively that a hitch box is much better than a roof box in terms of accessibility, efficiency, and wind noise. The only benefit of a roof box is it doesn't block the rearview camera when reversing. I've been on two road trips with my Thule roof box and the impact to efficiency is severe.
Thanks! Feel free to ask any questions.

View attachment 663486

View attachment 663483View attachment 663485View attachment 663488View attachment 663489

View attachment 663490
Awesome info, thanks! How do you think the efficiency 259Wh/m compared to your normal non-cargo box driving, without drafting?
 
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ChadS

Last tank of gas: March 2009
Jul 16, 2009
3,346
2,728
Redmond, WA
Thanks for all the details. I like the approach too. Here is what I was using a decade ago:

IMG_20160912_165548.jpg


I had a box that was similar in size to yours, and it fit on the Roadster...but it blocked the taillights, and the rear view (your wireless camera is a good idea), and I didn't need all the space, so I didn't use it. Instead I used this lovely Rubbermaid box that was a perfect fit between the taillights, and below the trunk - I could just barely see the lid when I looked in the rearview mirror. It doubled my cargo capacity, ha. I mounted it to a Stowaway platform cargo carrier, and it had a perfect sized spot to mount my license plate too.

I also cut the shank to make it fit snug to the car. It's hard to measure small differences, but my best guess was that it was a 3% hit on range.

It wasn't pretty, but I was very pleased with the hitch box functionality. More unnecessary details HERE.
 
Last edited:

limmerguy

Member
Nov 21, 2018
21
31
Bay Area, CA
Awesome info, thanks! How do you think the efficiency 259Wh/m compared to your normal non-cargo box driving, without drafting?
It's hard to say with the changing weather, but I recall getting around what the car is rated for (240Wh/mi) last year in warmer months. I drove from CA to TX without the cargo box just this past weekend and got 253Wh/mi after 1,670 miles. But keep in mind that the allowable speed limit in texas is 85mph which I took full advantage of.

I also did some testing with and without the box a few months ago and the range hit was about -8% but with inconsistencies. I did a short 30~ mile loop at twice at 60mph and twice again at 75mph. Then twice again at each speed with the box on. I could gather those results and post them too.
 
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limmerguy

Member
Nov 21, 2018
21
31
Bay Area, CA
Thanks for all the details. I like the approach too. Here is what I was using a decade ago:

View attachment 663609

I had a box that was similar in size to yours, and it fit on the Roadster...but it blocked the taillights, and the rear view (your wireless camera is a good idea), and I didn't need all the space, so I didn't use it. Instead I used this lovely Rubbermaid box that was a perfect fit between the taillights, and below the trunk - I could just barely see the lid when I looked in the rearview mirror. It doubled my cargo capacity, ha. I mounted it to a Stowaway platform cargo carrier, and it had a perfect sized spot to mount my license plate too.

I also cut the shank to make it fit snug to the car. It's hard to measure small differences, but my best guess was that it was a 3% hit on range.

It wasn't pretty, but I was very pleased with it. More unnecessary details HERE.
Oh hey, that's pretty cool! I was debating a DYI version before I ended up going with an off-the-shelf, lockable cargo box.

I've been on a 5-person road trip in my model 3 and extra cargo space is definitely necessary. With this setup, I don't feel compelled to upgrade myself to the Model Y since I beat it out in range and cargo space.
 

limmerguy

Member
Nov 21, 2018
21
31
Bay Area, CA
Awesome info, thanks! How do you think the efficiency 259Wh/m compared to your normal non-cargo box driving, without drafting?
Adding some more thoughts to this, drafting (and warmer weather) definitely helps range especially in gusty/windy conditions. You can hear a difference in wind resistance even at 5 car lengths behind another car when changing lanes. You can hear the same difference with hot and dry weather. Both situations sound/feel like the car just slips through the wind.

I'm just guessing, but 5 car-lengths might boost range by 5%. 3-4 lengths by 15%. 1-2 lengths by 30%, especially if it's an 18-wheeler or big truck. If the car says "Stay below 65mph to reach destination" I can usually go 75mph just fine if I draft 3-4 lengths behind another car.

Note: I don't like following anyone too closely since I'm sure they get annoyed. Hence 3-4 lengths is a good compromise.
 
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ChadS

Last tank of gas: March 2009
Jul 16, 2009
3,346
2,728
Redmond, WA
With this setup, I don't feel compelled to upgrade myself to the Model Y since I beat it out in range and cargo space.
I know what you mean...I've been thinking I "should" trade my 3 in for a Y for a long time, but I really don't want to because the 3 is quicker, more efficient and more fun to drive.

If I instead add a hitch to my 3 (which I obviously did with the Roadster; and in 2012 Torklift used my wife's Model S to design an Eco Hitch for the Model S) then I can carry my bike or a cargo box, and I won't really have a reason to get a Y. I thought the taller doors on the Y would help my Mom get in and out after surgeries, but she's shrunk about 5" (some of them were significant spine surgeries) and so getting in to my 3 isn't a problem for her even when her mobility is poor. So why Y?

My Roadster's cargo box was awfully small, but thanks for sharing the details of a larger box on the 3. That looks like a setup I would be happy to live with.
 
Last edited:

Tedkidd

Member
I have a SRY, which I definitely liked better on the test drive than the LRY. Lighter, more nimble, less boaty.
Both cars feel slow compared to the 3. Hoping to drive a boosted Y soon.

But still prefer driving my model 3 most of the time. (good thing too, the girlfriend likes the Y better)

That said, Y is WAY WAY WAY WAY nicer for car camping.
(did a 13 day 4800 mile road trip, we slept in the car 11 nights. 3300 mile road trip in the 3 couldn't take more than 2 nights in a row)
 
Last edited:
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pnwadventures

@bpr1de on Instagram
Mar 3, 2021
128
131
Pacific Northwest
I have a SRY, which I definitely liked better on the test drive than the LRY. Lighter, more nimble, less boaty.
Both cars feel slow compared to the 3. Hoping to drive a boosted Y soon.

But still prefer driving my model 3 most of the time. (good thing too, the girlfriend likes the Y better)

That said, Y is WAY WAY WAY WAY nicer for car camping.
(did a 13 day 4800 mile road trip, we slept in the car 11 nights. 3300 mile road trip in the 3 couldn't take more than 2 nights in a row)
Pains me to hear this, which I suspected was the case; I was forced to buy my 3 when my old car died, prior to the Y being available, let alone the 7 seater, which is what I really wanted. Caught in the ongoing existential debate about whether to swap now that the 7 seater is out.
 

TeeeeeeDub

Member
Jun 16, 2020
182
88
SoCal
Thanks for sharing. I'm considering getting one of these for my MX. I have a skybox already for my other SUV but obviously can't use it on the X. This Thule model is the next best thing, or better.

How do you store this when not using it? I have my Skybox mounted to the ceiling of my garage using a rope an pulley system that I picked up on Amazon. Get is off the ground and out of the way when stored.
 

limmerguy

Member
Nov 21, 2018
21
31
Bay Area, CA
Thanks for sharing. I'm considering getting one of these for my MX. I have a skybox already for my other SUV but obviously can't use it on the X. This Thule model is the next best thing, or better.

How do you store this when not using it? I have my Skybox mounted to the ceiling of my garage using a rope an pulley system that I picked up on Amazon. Get is off the ground and out of the way when stored.
I definitely advocate for hitch-style cargo boxes/platforms since they, in general, don't affect efficiency as much as roof-mounted boxes. I don't believe you have to go for a fully-enclosed version, either. The enclosed version just provides you with a lock mechanism, waterproofing, and built-in trailer lights. But a platform style is lighter, cheaper, and if it's short enough, you probably don't need extra trailer lights, won't have to move your license plate, and your rear-view camera will still be somewhat usable.

My box is typically stored in my storage unit on its small side and against a wall making its footprint effectively 3'x2'~. I've used it three times so far this spring/summer, so I have it in my living room for easy access. It's on top of two folding camping chairs so that the hitch stinger straddles them.

FYI: The cargo box is bottom-heavy since the hitch and supporting frame are 2" and 1.25" steel square tubing. The rest of the box is ABS plastic. I can carry and mount the box comfortably by myself, but others may struggle.

You could definitely hoist the box up and off of the floor with some ceiling pulley system and straps. However, if I had my own garage, I would probably mount a dummy 2" hitch receiver to a wall stud and hang my box from there. Here's a sample 2" receiver. I'd probably mount it in this orientation, too.

simple hitch receiver.jpg


Good luck!
 
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TeeeeeeDub

Member
Jun 16, 2020
182
88
SoCal
I definitely advocate for hitch-style cargo boxes/platforms since they, in general, don't affect efficiency as much as roof-mounted boxes. I don't believe you have to go for a fully-enclosed version, either. The enclosed version just provides you with a lock mechanism, waterproofing, and built-in trailer lights. But a platform style is lighter, cheaper, and if it's short enough, you probably don't need extra trailer lights, won't have to move your license plate, and your rear-view camera will still be somewhat usable.

My box is typically stored in my storage unit on its small side and against a wall making its footprint effectively 3'x2'~. I've used it three times so far this spring/summer, so I have it in my living room for easy access. It's on top of two folding camping chairs so that the hitch stinger straddles them.

FYI: The cargo box is bottom-heavy since the hitch and supporting frame are 2" and 1.25" steel square tubing. The rest of the box is ABS plastic. I can carry and mount the box comfortably by myself, but others may struggle.

You could definitely hoist the box up and off of the floor with some ceiling pulley system and straps. However, if I had my own garage, I would probably mount a dummy 2" hitch receiver to a wall stud and hang my box from there. Here's a sample 2" receiver. I'd probably mount it in this orientation, too.

View attachment 684261

Good luck!
Thanks for the reply. I do like the idea of being able to lock the cargo down, like a roof-mounted system. I did some searching and it appears that this particular Thule unit is either no longer available or is on backorder.

I think I'll just go the route of a Curt foldable hitch-mountable storage platform. Pretty inexpensive and should get the job done for me.

Thanks again for your input!
 
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limmerguy

Member
Nov 21, 2018
21
31
Bay Area, CA
Documenting another 2.1k mile road trip and efficiency numbers with the Thule box.
  • Same notes as my original post. (RWD Tesla Model 3 Long Range. Aero wheels. Hitch + Thule Hitch Box, etc etc)
  • Brand new Sentury UHP tires
    • New tires are >1% larger in diameter due to dread depth. Old tires were bald on the inner edge. Odometer readings and efficiency should be adjusted when comparing numbers to my previous road trip. Side note: These were the cheapest tires at America's tires @$66 a pop + taxes, hazard protection, and installation. Overall, great tires. I could make a separate post about them.
  • Trip was 2,091 miles @ 257 Wh/mi. Oddly, my lifetime average efficiency is higher @ 265 Wh/mi
  • No drafting for ~50% of the miles since I couldn't find a speeding buddy on some routes
  • Weather: between 80ºF and 112º F. Significant headwinds on some legs this time. Almost no tailwinds. AC was on blast the 90% of the time. Even sweltering hot weather seems to give better the efficiency when at highway speeds
  • Spent just $87 towards Supercharging
  • Car camped one night ($30). Tent camped three ($30, $30, $40). Motel/Hotel for three ($70, $140, $200). For every night except for one, we had destination charging or plugged into a 50 amp RV plug
  • 150kW superchargers are sometimes painfully slow. SC congestion, overheating equipment, an unconditioned battery were not factors in some of my observed slow charge rates. Maybe some of the v2 superchargers are just getting tired and old
  • My hitch bottomed-out only once
  • I can pretty much reverse without the aid of my wireless camera now
  • I still like the hitch box very much. A definite keeper. I sold my rooftop cargo box this past weekend since I'm sure I won't use it anymore
IMG_0808.jpeg


Lifetime efficiency (since my HW 2.5 install)
IMG_0899.jpeg
 

limmerguy

Member
Nov 21, 2018
21
31
Bay Area, CA
Thanks for the reply. I do like the idea of being able to lock the cargo down, like a roof-mounted system. I did some searching and it appears that this particular Thule unit is either no longer available or is on backorder.

I think I'll just go the route of a Curt foldable hitch-mountable storage platform. Pretty inexpensive and should get the job done for me.

Thanks again for your input!
Yeah, this style of cargo box isn't very popular which might make it even harder to get. A hitch platform with a soft-sided bag or some footlockers is a good alternative.

A locking box gives peace of mind, but if your trips is mostly in rural areas, national parks, or state parks I'd say it's not necessary. Even with a locking box, I get a little nervous in metropolitan areas like Bay Area, LA, SD, LV where theft is high.
 

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