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Do electric trucks need to tow? Rivian R1T trip raises towing questions

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The slew of electric trucks coming into the market has raised a variety of questions on how they will replace their internal combustion engine counterparts that have been a staple of truck life for decades. One of those big questions involves electric trucks and towing, and thanks to a real-world example, we are getting some answers.

Recently, a couple took their new Rivian R1T on a cross-country trip from LA to Detroit, towing their Ford Mustang Shelby GT. Thanks to their postings on Instagram under the name @gideontherivian, we are able to see how the trip went — and how often they charged.

Our friends at TFLTruck first documented the story, and suggested the trailer, by itself, came in at around 6,000 pounds. This is an average towing operation for most half-ton trucks and a rare towing experience with a midsize truck. Since the Rivian R1T is smaller than a half-ton and larger than a midsize truck, this seems like a good real-life towing experience.

The truck and trailer had a gross combined weight of 14,260 pounds according to the Instagram posts. This would suggest the couple, their luggage and loaded trailer came in at 7,112 pounds with the truck’s curb weight of 7,148 pounds (according to Edmunds) accounting for the rest of the weight.

How often did they charge?

Enough about the specs, how did the trip go with charging? In short, they stopped. A lot.

Looking at the first leg of the journey which was about 2,000 miles from LA to near Sikeston, Missouri, they stopped 20 times. This works out to every 100 miles.

The second leg of journey showed similar stops and around 100 miles of towing between each stop.

Most of the stops occurred at Walmart shopping centers since they used either the PlugShare or ABRP (A-Better-Route-Planner) app to find charging stations, and those charging stations are located in parking lots of big box stores currently. They used Electrify America fast chargers where they could and reported one day, when those fast chargers were free, they saved around $75 in charging fees.

 

 

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A post shared by @gideontherivian

Charging frequency not the whole story

Another part of the story, which has been brought up by numerous journalists and ourselves, is about the charging stations themselves. Like the couple documented, they aren’t always ideal.

First, not all charging stations were operating at peak efficiency all the time. Nor were all the charging stations always working. For example, one charging station may have a 350kW charger while another could have just 85kW — in the same row of chargers.

Second, most charging stations are designed in such a way to pull in to charge and not a drive through like a gas station. This is fine for a sedan, but a truck with a trailer, and you have some obstacles. For example, they reported numerous times they had to unhook the trailer to charge the truck — or they simply blocked an aisle in the lot while charging. This is just part of the deal with the designs of EV charging stations.

Third, charging station availability altered their route. For example, when trying to go through St. Louis, they had to change their route since one way had very few charging stations. This added 4 hours onto their route to go another way with more charging stations.

Is this story bad news for electric trucks?

One of big unknowns for electric trucks is about towing, and these real-world stories are helpful to learn more on how towing will work. While automakers are touting the 0-60 times, the features and the environmental benefits of EVs, the fact is trucks, which are designed to tow and haul, are going to be a tougher sell if you have to stop so frequently to charge.

Now, staunch EV advocates will argue the point about towing as an unnecessary metric. They contend most truck owners don’t tow anyways. Besides, they argue, if you need to tow, just go rent a truck. For them, the idea of a truck being used as a multi-tool in a variety of situations is overkill. You are just wasting your money by buying overcapacity to do a big job (like towing your Mustang to Michigan) once in a blue moon.

Truck fans will push back on all of these points since you simply never know when you need to tow. It could be today, tomorrow or never. However, having a truck on hand when the need arises is far better than scrambling to find a friend with a truck. Plus, you can’t rent trucks all the time and a rental truck doesn’t work for every situation. Finally, if you can afford to buy or want to have only one vehicle, why wouldn’t you overbuy for your needs so you are covered for whatever happens?

The bottom line on electric trucks and towing

The reality is we need everything about EVs to improve from infrastructure to battery chemistry for these new electric trucks to be the future. There seems like a real race going on with governments and automakers pushing hard for full-on EV adoption, yet stories like this one, really show how far we are from taking a dream and turning it into a reality.

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Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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2 Comments

  1. Jimmy Dinsmore December 1, 2021

    I think towing will be extremely important for the F-150 Lightning. What will towing do to the range? That’s the question nobody has the answer to. As you showed here, nobody wants to stop every 100 miles to recharge. That will be a deal breaker in my opinion.

    Reply
  2. Jalashuk December 19, 2021

    Yeah, it’s pretty clear long distance trips are just not ideal for BEVs. Disappointing, but at the same time long distance road trips like 2000 miles are just so rare I think it’s one of those things that will have to peter out over time as the infrastructure and tech grow. I am excited because a BEV truck does cover all needs… Well outside of road trips. But I’ll either keep a gas powered vehicle around for that or rent one since it’s a a once a year kinda thing.

    Reply

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