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Towing an Alto F1743 trailer with a Model X

Discussion in 'Model X: Driving Dynamics' started by ecarfan, Sep 16, 2018.

  1. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    #1 ecarfan, Sep 16, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2018
    In February 2018 I took delivery of a Safari Condo “Alto” F1743 trailer, empty weight 1743 lbs. An ultra-lightweight trailer in the 17 ft size class. See Caravanes (Alto) – SÉRIE F17 – 1743 | Safari Condo . Safari Condo is located in Quebec, Canada.

    I’ve now accumulated enough towing experience that I thought I would share my thoughts and also the extensive modifications I’ve had made to the trailer.

    I had never owned a camper trailer before buying the Alto, nor had I ever towed anything! So it has been a learning experience in many ways. But my wife and I are enjoying our trailer travels more than we thought possible.

    We chose the Alto because of it’s modern styling, high quality, light weight, and compact size while still offering a permanent queen size sleeping area, two person dinette, full kitchen with sink/stove/fridge/microwave and lots of storage, plus a bathroom with toilet and shower. In this blog post I describe the various Alto models and why we decided on the F1743 version:
    A “Safari Condo” is not an apartment in the Serengeti…

    Safari Condo offers a number of options, many of which are not described adequately on their website. In this post I explain why we chose the options we did and how they are working out for us:
    For Alto enthusiasts: factory options I recommend

    Since I have a 9.8kW home solar system, and drive 100% electric, I knew from the beginning of my trailer research that I wanted to install as much solar as possible, as well as lithium ion batteries in the trailer, with the goal of not using any propane on trailer trips. The first step was to source flexible solar panels — since rigid panels would be an aerodynamic disaster on a curved trailer roof — and figure out the various sizes needed to maximize the system output. That proved to be more challenging than I anticipated! See this post for the story:
    Flexible solar panels: how NOT to buy them for your Alto

    I used a local company, Quality RV Solar (Qualityrvsolar.com) in Fremont California (close to the Tesla factory, just a coincidence) to design and install the solar/battery system for the trailer. They did an amazing job and I highly recommend them. This post describes the system in some detail: Camping 100% electric = no propane

    In addition to the solar/battery install, Quality RV Solar also made a number of other very worthwhile modifications to the trailer, including a cell signal booster and router in the trailer so I have convenient WiFi, better ventilation in the trailer bathroom, additional trailer taillights to improve rear visibility, a storage box on the trailer tongue, and more. See this post for more information
    Improving the already impressive Alto trailer

    As a guide for those considering buying an Alto and towing it with a Model X I wrote this post to offer some general advice and specific comments about the Alto, drawing heavily on several very helpful TMC threads and linking to them. See
    Towing with a Tesla

    If you have any questions after reading those posts I’ll try to answer them as best I can when I have time; currently preparing for a three week trip to New Mexico with the trailer. Here’s a photo from our first day of Alto trailer ownership, picking it up in Canada in February. It was a bit nippy...

    A163D4FC-725C-4103-85B1-7CB3F6990DDE.jpeg

    And a few months later in a warmer location:

    68BD6191-B725-466D-B8AB-31A735C4F841.jpeg

    The flexible solar panels:

    1B784A16-F482-4722-BDE0-30E214794634.jpeg
     
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  2. supomglol

    supomglol Member

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    There is some great information in here. Thanks! I knew of the 5k towing capacity limit, but I hadn't ever heard of the 500lb tongue limit, or the Weight Distribution stuff. Also picked up a tip to shop around for a weight measuring ball to deal with that first issue.

    I have a ~2500lb dual-axle 7'x16' work trailer I plan to tow around on occasion once I get my X.
     
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  3. Misterbee

    Misterbee Member

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    Your rig sounds awesome. any updates, now that you have had it a while?
     
  4. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    My wife and I love our Alto. As the Supercharger network expands, towing with a Tesla is just getting easier. It of course takes planning, and for that the EV-TO app is invaluable.

    Have made many multi-day trips with the trailer over the past year, including a trip to New Mexico last fall. Currently on our way to Arizona with trailer in tow...
     
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  5. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    Sometimes my Alto trailer surprises me with unexpectedly low Wh/mi numbers. I’m now in Sedona, AZ. Part of my route here was a possible concern: the Supercharger “gap” between Barstow and Needles. I began that section 25 miles east of Barstow in the Newberry Mountain RV Park. Started eastbound with 282 rated miles (100% charge in my X100D after almost two years of ownership) and initially kept my speed to 50. After 20 miles I was surprised to see that energy usage was 412Wh/mi! No wind that I could see, flat dry road, but still that number seemed unreal. I increased to 55mph and arrived at Kingman with 100 miles of range remaining, averaged 473Wh/mi for that 118 mile segment. The EVTO app had predicted I would use 609Wh/mi at 54mph (I have the Power Factor set to 25 and normally that is about right). I can’t explain the discrepancy. Typically EVTO is very good at predicting my energy usage when towing.

    Here’s my campsite in Sedona, at the Rancho Sedona RV Park which is a great place!

    F549F7FD-1A1B-4B41-BDED-BAE713B1DD81.jpeg

    Sedona scenery is extraordinary.

    180B3214-0FCF-4C27-83E2-94F112D33FA7.jpeg
     
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  6. Borntorad

    Borntorad New Member

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    how easy (or difficult) is it to charge at the supercharger station? Do you have to unhitch the Alto most of the time and park it somewhere? Or does it seem like most of the stations are pull throughs with enough space for the Alto? Contemplating your similar set up but feel like the charging on the road aspect would be the most cumbersome.
     
  7. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    @Borntorad there are some Superchargers where I can charge without unhitching if they aren’t too busy (Petaluma, Fairfield, Bakersfield, Kettleman City sometimes, Baker all the time) but most of the time I have to unhitch to charge. It takes me about a minute to unhitch and two minutes to hitch up. And at most Superchargers I can find the space to park the trailer very close to the charging stalls.

    Really, it’s no big deal. Don’t let it deter you from towing a trailer with your X!
     
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  8. Misterbee

    Misterbee Member

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    Have you tried charging your Model x from a 50 amp circuit at an RV Park? I know it can be done from a 30 amp circuit, but I am a total newbie, and don’t really understand how all the pieces fit together.
     
  9. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I regularly charge my X on an RV 50A outlet. Works fine. Those plugs are NEMA 14-50 and all Teslas come with the necessary adaptor. The car charges at about 20 miles of range per hour.

    An RV 30A outlet is a TT-30 plug. You will need to buy an adaptor that inserts into the plug and then you insert your NEMA 14-50 adaptor into it. Works fine, but very slow, about 9 miles or range added per hour. You will need one of these TT-30P to NEMA 14-50R Adapter for EV Charging at Campgrounds

    I had one California RV campground inform me that it was “illegal” for me to simultaneously use their 50A and 30A outlets at a single campsite. An hour later they returned to apologize and say that the law prohibited two “trailers” or RVs plugging in at one campsite. So I could plug my car in and plug my trailer in at the same time. I have no idea if there is such a law. It is possible they were simply confused.

    I had an Arizona campground tell me that I could not plug my car and my trailer in at the same time at the same campsite (which had both the 50A and 30A outlets) but they would not tell me why I could not do that. I just couldn’t. Since I otherwise liked the campground and didn’t want to aggravate them, I complied. I had been doing it, charging the car on the 50A (of course the car only pulls 40A from that size circuit) and used the 30A to power the trailer (ran the microwave, cabin heat on electric power, never coming close to the 3000W rating on my trailer inverter) and no breakers had tripped. I think they just weren’t used to seeing a single campsite draw that much power and they became concerned for some reason.

    The vast majority of campgrounds that I have visited that provide a 50A and 30A at a single campsite have not prevented me from using both at the same time. If my campsite only has a 50A and I need to charge the car I run my trailer on battery power. If it’s really cold at night I have to reluctantly heat with propane. I hate that. :mad:

    One campground that only had 50A service at each site let me plug my car into the empty site next to me and didn’t charge me anything extra. Other campgrounds would not let me plug my car into an empty site even when I offered to pay them extra.
     
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  10. DCGOO

    DCGOO Active Member

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    #10 DCGOO, Mar 17, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2019
    The reason it is not allowed is technical, not necessarily a legal reason. Each campground pedestal (50 amp anyway) is fed with a single 240v circuit. That circuit is sent to the 14-50 outlet that 50 amp RVs need. It also is split and fed to the TT-30 120 V outlet and typically a standard 15 or 20 amp outlet (5-20). But all of them are on the same circuit. If you try to plug the car in to the 14-50, and your RV into the 30 amp RV outlet, you will very likely pop the circuit breaker in a central cabinet somewhere else in the camp ground.

    Yes, the pedestals are technically overbooked, but campgrounds do not expect multiple campers to connect in any one site. You could turn the charge rate down to a very low level, like 10 amps, or use the 120 20 amp outlet to charge your car. Otherwise unplug the camper while you are charging the car. Most campers have decent capacity batteries on board anyway for lighting and electronics. Just no air conditioning or microwave oven when the RV is unplugged.
     
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  11. Misterbee

    Misterbee Member

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    C31CD5F5-919C-4AFA-81FE-AF48424DB9F9.jpeg Great information, thanks. I am pulling a trigger on a teardrop trailer, to pull with my LR Dual Motor Model 3. I know, uncharted waters. I have been told by some RV folks that you can’t always trust the campsites to have “clean” power and they recommended carrying a surge protector like this one: https://www.progressiveindustries.net/ What do you think?
     
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  12. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    #12 ecarfan, Mar 17, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2019
    Thanks. As far as I know I have never triggered a breaker with my car and trailer both plugged in. At least I’ve never been told I have triggered a breaker, and I have never had a pedestal lose power with my car charging and trailer connected and using things like microwave, coffee maker, cabin heat (on electric), etc.
    I have modified my trailer and added a total of 600 amp hours of LiFePP battery power, and have a 3000W inverter. No problem running the microwave on battery power. I can also run my heat pump for AC, but not for long.
     
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  13. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    I have a Progressive Industries surge protector in my trailer. Highly recommend it. Campground electrical systems can be poorly maintained.

    Please start a thread in the Model 3 Driving Dynamics forum about towing your trailer! I’m curious to know your Wh/mi numbers on a flat road at 55mph. I expect you will see about a 40% increase in energy usage.
     
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  14. Brave Ulysses

    Brave Ulysses Member

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    2825745A-50EB-4B5C-B2B8-12DC39717837.jpeg
    Nice tag trailer. Lot of tabs in that lot. Where did you buy it from?
     
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  15. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    I assume the photo you show in your post is your trailer that you pull with your X. Nice! Looks just a bit smaller than mine; what are the dimensions?

    I’m curious as to what Wh/mi number you get towing at 55mph on a level dry road with no headwind. Thanks.
     
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  16. Brave Ulysses

    Brave Ulysses Member

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    Hey, yea. That's my trailer. It's actually a Tab/[email protected] trailer. I think yours is a little larger than mine This is a 2005 Model that I renovated so its weight (1,700 lbs) is unique compared to a new model [email protected] that you would drive off the lot today (2,100 lbs+). It is 17' long. 7' 9" in exterior height.

    As for the Wh/mi I get..... Unfortunately I have not really had a drive with ideal conditions like that yet. Winter camping (mostly at ski resorts) in Colorado means a lot of elevation gain and drop, snow, wet roads, and winds. Even outside of snowy drives, wind is usually a factor here. I would say yesterday was the calmest conditions and while I did not get on a highway, my 15 mile excursion with the trailer averaged about 575 wh/mi.
     
  17. Misterbee

    Misterbee Member

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    I am getting it from a dealer in Ventura, CA. They carry the full range of NuCamp stuff. Waiting for the solar to be installed, and then we take delivery. How do you you like pulling the [email protected] with an X? What kind of range are you getting?
     
  18. Misterbee

    Misterbee Member

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    Thanks, I will definitely do that. BTW, about an hour after I left the dealer, I saw an Alto in the wild. Same model as yours, parked by the side of the road, with Quebec plates. That is a *nice* trailer! It was hitched to a Toyota of some sort, with some very nice towing mirrors clamped to the stock mirrors. I left them a note, and they emailed me the info on the mirrors. I have ordered a set for my M3, which is just barely wider than the teardrop.
     
  19. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    That is very close to the size of my Alto. What did you do to get the weight down?

    Snowy/icy roads will increase rolling resistance and significantly increase Wh/mi numbers even at low speeds. I suspect that when you get your trailer on a level, dry road at 55mph with no headwind and in warm temperatures you will use about 475 to 500Wh/mi.
     
  20. Reddy Kilowatt

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    As noted by DCGOO is the main reason. The NEC allows circuits to be "derated" in certain conditions. I'm not sure but a stall may in fact share one circuit to feed all the outlets in that one bay. So the 50 amp plug would be 100% rated and the 30 AMP might be shared on that same 50 amp outlet. I'm not sure, but the main panel downstream is definitely derated. They are not expecting a lot of power to be consumed by a single trailer. So they allow percentage drop at the main panel based on how many camp sites are there. The more sites the larger the derating. It usually works for all the campers. Have a bunch of Tesla's show up and start charging breakers are going to start popping at the main panel. Plus the wiring will start deteriorating over time.

    Did you guys add brake controllers to your cars? I'm running electric brakes on the trailer and still want them. I don't have a surge brake on my trailer. Test driving this morning i still have the regen stopping the car, but want them for insurance.
     

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