In many ways, Tesla is ahead when it comes to building EVs. The company dominates the U.S. EV market, offers an incredible charging network, has best-in-class software, extremely good battery management tech and a new 800-volt architecture for the Cybertruck. But none of its tech prowess can help with long-range towing. As Engineering Explained's Jason Fenske lays out in his newest video, long-haul towing is about one thing above all else: Battery size.

All of the existing electric trucks are well-suited to towing over short distances. Electric motors have gobs of low-end torque and no fussy transmissions, with plenty of power for on-ramp acceleration. The Ford F-150 Lightning, GMC Hummer EV, Rivian R1T, Tesla Cybertruck and Chevy Silverado EV can all tow between 10,000 and 12,000 lbs. But put a 6,100-lb trailer on the back of the Rivian or Ford and it'll cover only about 1/3rd of its advertised range before running out of juice. The GMC Hummer, despite its higher weight and bulkier tires, has a comparatively smaller reduction in range. It goes from 329 miles of unladen endurance to 140 miles of range with a trailer.    

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The EV Towing Problem

Towing is terrible for efficiency. That's just as true for gas and diesel trucks as it is for EVs, but EVs take longer to refuel and depend on less mature infrastructure. Efficiency tweaks can help extend their endurance, but in the end, it's really about one thing: How big of a battery can you squeeze into your truck while keeping the price within reach?

That's right, the heavier, blocker truck with the worse drag coefficient does the best. That's because regardless of how slippery your truck is, there's still a trailer behind it. Fenske lays out how a sleeker car or truck actually produces more drag against a trailer, negating any benefit. You could design a truck for maximum range with a trailer, but it'd suffer without one. So in terms of towing, the Cybertruck's trapezoidal design and power tonneau cover don't pay off. Fenske calculates that its range should fall right in line with the Rivian and the Ford, another area where the Cybertruck is roughly in line with its competitors.  

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning towing Airstream camper trailer

The number one thing that does matter is battery size. Towing consumes a ton of energy regardless of how well you've designed the vehicle. If you want a long range while towing, you need to make an even bigger battery. "Even bigger" is sort of the guiding principle behind legacy OEM truck design, so it's no surprise that Chevy takes the lead here. The Silverado EV has over 200 kWh of usable battery capacity. That makes it far less efficient in everyday driving than the Rivian, Ford or Tesla, which all have packs between 120 and 135 kWhs, but much better for long-range towing. That's why the Silverado EV was able to tow a 6,500-lb trailer for 232 miles on one charge in a Fast Lane Truck test.

2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV Work Truck towing a John Deere tractor

With solid fast-charging infrastructure that includes pull-through spots for trucks with trailers, that is a workable number. It doesn't make long-distance camper-hauling as easy as a gas truck, yet, but it's at least feasible in the fast-charging, long-endurance Silverado EV. If you need to go even further, though, you'll just have to wait for the upcoming Ramcharger.

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