Electric Vehicles and Teardrops: Part 1
First published in the May/June 2022 issue of Cool Tears
The summer camping season is fast approaching in the Northern Hemisphere and it looks like the biggest threat to the season is fuel prices. Unfortunately, there is no relief in sight.
Gas and diesel prices continue surging around the world as demand jumps ahead of the summer driving season. Prices were already high due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as governments turned away energy supplies from Russia. Prior to this, three key North American refineries closed between 2019 and 2021 further reducing the continent’s ability to produce gas and diesel, according to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at gas price app GasBuddy.
In May 2022, the average price of gasoline in the United States was over $4 per gallon in all fifty states and over $5 for diesel. Canada’s gas prices have topped $2 per liter for the first time. That translates to about $7.60 per gallon. European gas prices are double what they are in the United States.
Is now the right time to think about owning an electric vehicle (EV) for towing? There are more electrified cars, trucks, and SUVs being manufactured now than ever before, and many are designed to tow up to 4,000 pounds or more which is significantly higher than most teardrop or squaredrop trailer owners require. There are even some electric SUVs that are approved for towing (per the manufacturer): Volkswagen ID.4, Tesla Models Y, X, and 3; and Audi e-tron. Each of the above has a towing capacity of at least 2000 pounds. EV towing is possible, but is it realistic? Cool Tears and Tiny Campers will publish more on this topic during the year.
The ABCs of EVs
There are three main types of vehicle propulsion systems, but they work in different ways. There are hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV), and battery electric vehicles (BEV). We will focus solely on the BEVs. A BEV is all electric with the power supplied by a set of rechargeable batteries. BEVs convert over 75% of the electrical energy from the power grid to the wheels of the vehicle, while a gasoline engine converts only 12%-30% of the energy from the gas, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). BEVs are environmentally friendly in that there are no tailpipe emissions, although the power plant that produces the energy to charge the vehicle may. An added benefit in today’s environment is that electricity is a domestic energy source.
What is MPGe?
The United States’ EPA publishes certified fuel mileage data for all vehicles sold in the United States, including EVs. The EPA's Miles Per Gallon equivalent (MPGe) helps you compare the fuel economy of vehicles that don’t use gasoline. It represents the number of miles that can be traveled using a quantity of fuel with the same energy content as one gallon of gasoline. In the United States, we assume that 33.7 kWh of electricity is equal to one gallon of gasoline. It should be noted that many BEVs have a MPGe rating over 100 miles, which puts the average fuel (electric) cost per year around $650. I drive a diesel truck that gets about 25 MPG, which is great for a full size truck. With current diesel prices, I would exceed $650 in about six to eight weeks! You can find the data at www.fueleconomy.gov then click on All-Electric Vehicles.
MGEe and Towing
As a general rule of thumb, all data compiled says to cut the expected driving range in half if you’re planning to tow a trailer near the maximum rated trailer weight rating. So that means that if you have an EV like the Audi e-tron that can tow 4000 pounds or the Tesla Model X that can tow 5000 pounds and you tow an RV or boat that is 3500+ pounds, then assume the MPGe will be cut in half. But let's say you have one of the two BEVs mentioned above and you have a teardrop or squaredrop trailer that weighs only 1500 pounds fully loaded. The expected drop in MPGe with a smaller load should be nearly equivalent to their gas guzzling siblings. So a 25% - 40% drop in efficiency would be expected, instead of the 50% drop for a heavier trailer. So is EV towing possible? Absolutely. Is it realistic? For a teardrop or squaredrop trailer owner, it does look realistic.
Range and Charging
Driving range varies from EV to EV, but many new models fall in the 200 - 300 mile range (321 - 482 km). Most EV manufacturers offer an option to upgrade the size of the battery packs which provides additional range. The larger, longer range battery pack may be a good investment if you intend to pull your teardrop or squaredrop regularly. It’s important to note that BEVs typically get worse MPGe when driving long distances on the highway as opposed to stop and go city traffic because they use regenerative braking systems that feed kinetic energy back to the batteries when the car slows or stops. This is opposite to a gasoline powered vehicle.
The U.S. Department of Energy has a map of the EV charging stations across the US and Canada at this website. To date, they list over 54,000 charging stations. This website even allows you to map your route so you will know where to charge the EV batteries. A major drawback of charging the batteries versus filling up with gasoline is time. EVs take longer to charge than simply filling a gas tank; although, the majority of new EVs can recharge their batteries to 80% in a relatively short amount of time. Right now, you would have time for a bathroom break and take a nap or grab a quick bite to eat while your EV charges. The good news though is that the auto manufacturers are continuously working to improve the battery range and charging speeds.
If your camping typically involves a campground with electric hook-ups, then this could be the best of both worlds. Many campgrounds will allow EV charging at the campsite (some may ask for an additional fee). Keep in mind that charging at a campground is best for overnight or multi-day stays because these are not the quick chargers that can get you on the road in 20 - 40 minutes. You may need an adapter in order to plug in your EV to the campground electric. It’s best to call the campground before making a reservation to confirm if they allow EV charging.
EVs and Teardrop Campers
With current gas and diesel prices at global all time highs coupled with lower priced EVs in the market, it may be time to seriously consider an EV as your tow vehicle for a teardrop or squaredrop camper.
Cool Tears will be interviewing EV owners in the coming months, so stay tuned to get more information from people using their EVs to tow their teardrops and squaredrops this camping season. If you would like to provide information for the upcoming article, please contact us at Lisa@cooltears.com