Towing an Electric Car - What You Need to Know

If you’re looking to get an electric car, you are not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that in 2035, a quarter of the vehicles sold in the United States will be electric!

In joining the electric revolution, many things about daily driving will change. Of course, there’s the change that comes to your home, having a charging system to plug into, and the lack of engine noise to get used to.

One thing you don’t want to get caught unprepared for is, what happens if your electric car breaks down? This article will give you all the information you need about towing an electric car.

Different Types of Towing

Before determining how to tow an EV, take some time to get familiar with the different tow trucks that are usually dispatched. This will be handy if you need to call a tow or transport company as you will learn which tow truck is best for electric car towing.

Hook and chain trucks are some of the more popular tow trucks. Their smaller size makes them more convenient and allows them to get the job done quicker. They hook onto the undercarriage of the vehicle and drag the car. Two wheels will always be touching the ground during the journey.

Similar to hook and chain trucks are wheel lift tow trucks. With this method, a hydraulic yolk holds two wheels of the car, while the other two are either on the ground or hooked up to wheel dollies, if available.

Then there is the flatbed trailer. An entire vehicle can fit on the elevated flatbed of this, where it is then secured in place for the journey. None of the wheels are on the ground as the flatbed truck is transporting the vehicle.

Flatbed tow trucks are not to be confused with flat towing. This is the exact opposite. With flat towing, all four wheels of the vehicle touch the ground. Usually, this is done behind RV’s and campers. The vehicle is in neutral, being pulled along by the vehicle in front.

Some have considered the possibility of flat towing electric cars to allow them to charge quickly due to this charging mechanism. However, both the electric vehicle manufacturers and AAA highly advise against this as it has not been sufficiently tested.

The best way to tow an electric vehicle is on a flatbed where no wheels will touch the ground.

Why Tow an Electric Car?

With all the technology, additional features, and quirks electric cars are known to have, why would you ever need to tow one? Despite all the changes and differences in electric vehicles, they are still subject to break down and be parked on the side of the road like gas-powered vehicles.

Electric cars are subject to flat tires. Many electric and gasoline-powered cars today are ditching the spare tire in the car to allow for more room. With this, if you get a flat tire, you’re going to need a tow.

Gas-powered vehicles can run out of gas; electric vehicles can run out of battery charge. If the battery on your electric car dies while you’re on the road, the car will stop running. Like a phone, it will just stop working completely until it gets plugged in and has some juice.

Brakes are necessary for both electric and gas vehicles. If you notice issues with the brakes while driving, or your car alerts you to any brake issues while driving, it’s best not to risk it. Safely pull the vehicle over and call a tow to bring your car to the nearest place it can get serviced.

You may also need to transport your electric car if moving to another state. To save time and a vehicle's overall condition, it’s common to request auto transport for both electric and gasoline cars to the new location.

Finding Neutral

It's important to note that since electric vehicles have no gearbox, none of them have actual neutral gear. Some though, have a neutral mode which acts like the neutral gear found in traditional engines. The Tesla models and the Nissan Leaf are electric vehicles that have this mode.

Some electric cars have a dedicated transport mode that also acts as neutral but offers extra features. The transport mode in the Tesla for example will limit the speed output of the vehicle to prevent misuse or accidents. It also disables the smart air suspension of the vehicle and restricts the battery drain so the vehicle has a charge when it's unloaded.

If your electric car has a transport or tow mode, it should be engaged only to load the vehicles onto a flatbed and not for a longer journey at higher speeds.

Towing an Electric Car

Even gasoline-powered counterparts can suffer from severe transmission or engine damage from being towed incorrectly. An electric vehicle that has computers on the tires, batteries, and sensors, has many things that could go wrong.

When towing an electric vehicle, if the wheels are spinning, that spin continuously generates power to a battery that isn’t being used. Technically, the battery isn’t even on yet power is being pushed to it.

Since flatbed trucks fully eliminate wheel movement, they eliminate the potential hazards that can arise from this motion with the vehicle turned off.

Nissan clearly states that the Leaf should never be towed with the front wheels on the ground or its four wheels on the ground. They can be towed with two wheels on the ground as long as it’s the rear set.

But just because they can, does not mean that they should be. The guidance from all-electric car manufacturers currently is that they all need to be towed on a flatbed to avoid potentially catastrophic damage to the vehicle.

To determine what wheels can be on the ground, you must know what drivetrain the vehicle has. Since the Nissan Leaf is a front-wheel drive, the front wheels should never be in movement unless the car is being driven.

Most Tesla’s are all-wheel drive, meaning that power goes to all 4 wheels of the car. Some of them are rear-wheel drive. With this, the rear wheels of the Tesla should not be in movement unless the car is being driven.

The Tesla manual states to tow their vehicles with all four wheels off the ground. Tesla Model 3 wheels should not spin unless it’s under 3mph and for 30 ft. In the manual for the Model S, there is a fire icon on the tow warnings.

The icon alerts users to just one of the catastrophic hazards that could occur should it be towed incorrectly.

Loading It Up

Consult your specific vehicle’s manual to locate where tow chains can be securely and safely attached to your vehicle.

The Tesla has a tow hook, called a tow eye in Tesla language, conveniently located on the lower left-hand side of the front fender. The slot for the tow eye is hidden behind a cover that can be removed with a small flat screwdriver. Insert the screwdriver into the slot to gently snap the cover off.

With the tow eye slot exposed, attach the tow eye to the slot by rotating it counterclockwise until it’s secure. Once secured, attach a winch cable or tow chains directly to the tow eye. Place the vehicle in neutral, or tow mode, and allow the truck to load the vehicle up onto the flatbed.

Some vehicles do not have a dedicated tow hook, or even if they do, do not recommend pulling the car from it. The Nissan Leaf has both front and rear tow hooks attached permanently but says they are to be used for securing the car during transport and not for towing.

For these vehicles, the winch cable or tow chains must be attached underneath the vehicle to the main structure of the car.

Safely Transport Your Electric Vehicle

Buying an electric car is a big financial investment. Learning all the new guidances and issues that could come with it also requires a big investment of time.

Knowing the basics when towing an electric car or requesting a company to do so, like stating that you need a flatbed trailer, can help tremendously in protecting your vehicle and saving money as well.

Contact us today to discuss the transport of your electric car or continue reading our blog to learn more!

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