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Say what? EV towing and hauling range doesn’t matter?


There is an ongoing battle in forums, social media and comment sections about EV towing and hauling range. There’s no question range drops dramatically under a load — in both electric and gasoline vehicles — but the argument a lot of pro EVers want to make is this: EV range doesn’t matter. Say what? To anyone who tows or hauls, that’s just plain ridiculous.

Before I go much further, I should point out I have a deposit on two EV trucks, one Chevy and one Ram, and I bought a Chevy Silverado 1500 with the wildly efficient 3.0-liter Duramax diesel for the channel for this year. In prior years, I have bought both gas and hybrid trucks. In other words, while I’m currently steeped in the gasoline (or ICE) world, I have an eye toward the EV future, which includes installing a 220V plug to charge at home.

The pro-EV argument

Spend any amount of time online in automotive groups and the topic of EVs will undoubtedly come up. It should. As with any new tech or feature, the pros and cons are often debated vigorously. The push from governments around the world only amplifies this debate. EV fans see the many benefits outweighing the cons, and they are incredulous when you don’t see things their way. To be fair, we know through experience that EVs provide superior towing capability with more torque and better center of gravity. Plus, they require less maintenance than an ICE vehicle and, hello, no buying gas.

In sum: EVs are cheaper to operate as well as have better performance and interior quietness. Plus, they’re just all around cool. According to a video pushed out by EV advocate EVPulse, that makes electric trucks a dream vehicle –especially for those “75% of people who don’t actually need a truck.” Instead, if you go electric, you can get a much better truck for your needs.

It is a convincing argument from their point of view.

EVs towing and hauling range

2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV WT (photo courtesy of Chevrolet)

The problem with EV towing and hauling range

While the pro-EV argument seems to make all the logical sense in the world, there are a few massive problems with it.

This biggest: range lost while towing and hauling. As we have learned from a recent AAA test, EVs lose 25% of their range when fully loaded. Based on towing tests, we have learned EVs can suffer even greater losses depending on what you are towing, the speed you are driving, the ambient temperature, the terrain, etc. There are so many factors involved in range loss, it is nearly impossible to put an exact number on it. So, we’d say: EV range drops at least 25% when fully loaded.

Though these are similar losses to what you’d see in ICE vehicles, EV towing and hauling range is a bigger deal. Here’s why: The current infrastructure sucks. Time and time again, we have seen broken chargers and a failing infrastructure with too few charging stations on road-trip routes. So the real problem: EVs aren’t good for everyone right now. Especially when you’re talking about towing and hauling. Not everyone is towing a boat 10 miles to a boat launch. Some people actually need to tow their boats or cars or horse trailers from places like California to Michigan. And we saw how that went in a Rivian.

While EV advocates will say you don’t have to buy an EV if it doesn’t work for you, it certainly feels like we being pushed into buying them, and the massive spending on infrastructure and tax credits means everyone is paying for them whether we want to or not. That is also a problem.

Let me say that more clearly: Taxpayers are paying billions to support a technology that doesn’t work for everyone.

Will it some day work for everyone? Maybe. While there are experts who say we’ve hit a wall on improving battery technology, Toyota just announced we will see solid-state batteries with 900 miles of range in just a few years.

Ford F-150 Lightning Pro

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Pro. (Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Co.)

Commercial operators’ dream vehicle?

Looking at this from a business owner’s perspective, the math is about spending as little as you can on capital to increase profit. Business owners, like consumers, want EVs, and they are really trying to figure out how to use them.

Let’s take the Ford e-Transit Cargo Van as an example. It starts at $51,495 while the gas Transit Cargo Van starts at $44,455. This is about a $7,000 difference, and the e-Transit doesn’t currently qualify for the $7,500 Federal Tax Credit.

OK. Still, $7,000 isn’t much to overcome with all the savings from fuel, right? Not exactly.

First, as we’ve seen with dealerships, there is a considerable capital expense to install chargers — not just adding more breakers in a breaker box. As an Automotive News story points out, it requires a massive expense in infrastructure to bring in additional power: “Dealers are spending $400,000 to $750,000 to install infrastructure for Level 3 chargers — the fastest type, which takes 15 to 20 minutes to refill most of an EV’s charge. They are adding transformers, switchgears and panels, a process that typically involves drilling through parking lot pavement or even through a public road or alley, consultants and dealers said.”

Second, businesses will truly need to consider if a commercial EV would work for them. Commercial and delivery operations typically have robust fleet telematics systems that provide precise data surrounding each truck. So, owners would have to take a close look at something like the Ford e-Transit, which has an estimated range of 126 miles. Considering that estimated range and real-world range aren’t the same and the fact that you’ll lose at least 25% of that range when fully loaded, will 95 miles of range truly be enough? Don’t even get us started on the potential 10% battery degradation over a 10-year period. But business owners need to think about that, too.

Lest you think that spending 20 to 45 minutes during the day to charge is an option for these work vehicles, consider the old adage: Time is money.

The bottom line

We all should all agree we need EVs. Yup, there I said it. We need EVs. We need them especially in commercial operations where fluctuating fuel costs push the prices of goods, like food, higher. We need them to help improve air quality. We need them to reduce our dependence on oil. We need them to reduce how much we spend on fuel and oil changes.

The problem isn’t any of that. What we need is for them to be better at, well, everything. And we need an infrastructure that works. EVs present so many obstacles, I’d sure be hesitant as a fleet manager to push them on my employees without careful consideration.

I want more options — and better ones. You should, too.

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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