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Old 09-14-2014, 09:32 AM   #1
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Electric Toad

Does anyone know whether electric cars can be towed four wheels down? I don't mean whether the manufacturer advertises or warranties this, I mean will it damage the vehicles drivetrain, such as when you tow a car with an automatic transmission.

I know most electric vehicles can be charged with ordinary 110V AC which is available at most RV parks, so I was thinking it might make a great choice as a Toad for short trips.

Thanks
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Old 09-14-2014, 01:52 PM   #2
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Generally no.. The only one I am sure of is the Tesla, but I believe it is generally no.

here is why

You need a braking system on your towed.. Many electric cars use a special electronic braking system that "Recovers" energy for the battery,, Now, in normal operation this is no problem, but when towed you are going to cause damage.

Tesla says DO NOT TOW in the owner's manual.. That is the car of my dream so if I ever find the Prize Patrol camped on my doorstep... I'll go to them and have them custom make one for me that can be towed.

But .. Not holding breath on that PP visit.
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Old 09-15-2014, 01:52 PM   #3
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From what I've read the real issue is overheating the electric motors *IF* the car does not have a "Neutral" mode (i.e. disconnecting the wheels from the motors). This is the issue I am most interested in. Toad brakes are nice, but not always required, although most people here will tell you they are mandatory, and I will probably get flamed for saying I currently pull a 2200 lb Mini Cooper without brakes. I can't even tell it's back there, and this is legal in every state except Nevada, which requires brakes on towed vehicles over 1500 lbs (most states are 3000-ish).

I wonder if it's not possible to activate the EV brakes remotely, and use them to apply proportional braking, with the added benefit of charging up the EV batteries at the same time? That would be awesome, but I am sure I will not find a manufacturer who touches that concept with a 10 foot pole. In fact, I've yet to find an EV that whose manufacturer doesn't unequivocally state "DO NOT TOW". Having said that, there are many ordinary (non-electric) vehicles being towed today against manufacturer advice. But if the vehicle isn't under warranty, and it can be done safely and without damaging the vehicle, then I think we'll start seeing people move into the electric-Toad space.
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Old 09-15-2014, 02:06 PM   #4
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Most electric cars have the electric motor connected directly to the drive train. The wheels turn, the motor turns. That makes it not towable.

While you say, "can't even tell it's back there" your RV does with longer stopping distances. It might be legal in 49 states, but the laws of physics is in effect everywhere. "A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force." That outside force is your RV's brakes. Also, what stops the Mini if it breaks away from the hitch? Take your Mini into a flat parking lot. Push on it to get it rolling, then run around to the front and stop it. As 'light' as it is, it still builds up momentum and force and requires more energy to stop than the RV alone. Your cavalier attitude about safety makes us all unsafe around you.
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Old 09-15-2014, 02:41 PM   #5
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I would have to say No on four wheel down towing. I have a 2014 Cadillac ELR and this is from the manual:

Dinghy Towing

If the vehicle is towed with all four wheels on the ground, the drive unit could be damaged. Repairs would not be covered by the vehicle warranty. Do not tow the vehicle with all four wheels on the ground.

The vehicle was not designed to be towed with all four wheels on the ground. If the vehicle must be towed, a dolly should be used. See the information on dolly towing

Dolly Towing from the Front

The vehicle can be towed from the front using a dolly. To tow the vehicle using a dolly:

1. Attach the dolly to the tow vehicle following the dolly manufacturer's instructions.

2. Drive the front wheels onto the dolly.

3. Put the shift lever in P (Park).

4. Set the parking brake and remove the key.

5. Clamp the steering wheel in a straight-ahead position with a clamping device designed for towing.

6. Secure the vehicle to the dolly.

7. Release the parking brake.

8. Check for adequate rear fascia to ground clearance.

Dolly Towing from the Rear

Towing the vehicle from the rear, with the front wheels on the ground, could damage the drive unit, and front fascia. Do not tow the vehicle from the rear with the front wheels on the ground.
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Old 09-15-2014, 04:01 PM   #6
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Can't help you with your question, but I would encourage you to have a look at this link with regards to your Toad breaking system.
Do we really need a braking system in our toads?
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Old 09-17-2014, 03:41 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by BFlinn181 View Post
Most electric cars have the electric motor connected directly to the drive train. The wheels turn, the motor turns. That makes it not towable.

While you say, "can't even tell it's back there" your RV does with longer stopping distances. It might be legal in 49 states, but the laws of physics is in effect everywhere. "A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force." That outside force is your RV's brakes. Also, what stops the Mini if it breaks away from the hitch? Take your Mini into a flat parking lot. Push on it to get it rolling, then run around to the front and stop it. As 'light' as it is, it still builds up momentum and force and requires more energy to stop than the RV alone. Your cavalier attitude about safety makes us all unsafe around you.
Can we keep this thread on track? It's about towing electric toads, not lecturing me about how unsafe I am making the world. Thanks.
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Old 09-17-2014, 04:20 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Timbo View Post
Can we keep this thread on track? It's about towing electric toads, not lecturing me about how unsafe I am making the world. Thanks.
I did keep it on track. Your first post was about an electric vehicle as a toad. Post #3 was your post that, "Toad brakes are nice, but not always required, although most people here will tell you they are mandatory, and I will probably get flamed for saying I currently pull a 2200 lb Mini Cooper without brakes. I can't even tell it's back there, and this is legal in every state except Nevada, which requires brakes on towed vehicles over 1500 lbs (most states are 3000-ish)." I responded to both posts in my one entry, #4.

That flaunting of safety, just because the law doesn't require it, is endangering everyone you meet on the roads. Sorry if you can't handle the truth, but you did expect to get 'flamed.'

I guess it shouldn't be a surprise because of the next statement after revealing you don't tow with brakes, "In fact, I've yet to find an EV that whose manufacturer doesn't unequivocally state "DO NOT TOW". Having said that, there are many ordinary (non-electric) vehicles being towed today against manufacturer advice." again ignoring advice of knowledgeable people, i.e. the MANUFACTURER and ENGINEERS of the vehicle.

If you want a towable electric vehicle, check out older VW beetle conversions to electric. They usually connect the electric motor to the input of the transmission so you could put it in neutral and pull it behind your RV.

Of course there's another aspect of using an EV as a toad, do you expect a campground to allow you to charge your car on their pedestal? I've never been to a campground that gives free gasoline or LP to campers, why would you be allowed to charge up your EV on their utility bill?
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Old 09-17-2014, 04:42 PM   #9
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Bob, you sound like me! I know we both understand the engineering concepts, but I had to laugh at your Mini Cooper idea. When I decided to tow this Lexus against mfr's. Blessings, I pushed it downhill to get it rolling and jumped in to find out what happened to the steering with key in/out, aux. brake action, etc. whilst being "towed". I also rode in the car with someone towing me to further test it out. Now I can report this is the third copy of this car I've towed with no issues, so some things can be done if we care to push the envelope....but not all, of course.

I did see a hybrid Caddy Escalade under tow last week, but didn't get a chance to ask him about it. I'm wondering if he's doing like me or if Cadillac sanctions towing this car.
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Old 09-17-2014, 04:45 PM   #10
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Hmmm, $3 extra for AC, $3 extra for an electric heater, $5 extra for an electric towed? It would probably be worth it....

FWIW I wonder how much power they store. It might be worth throwing in extra capacity to charge off the tow vehicle.

I understand regenerative braking. I would sue anybody that put out an electric car that had insufficient braking capacity to stop without it. Blow a fuse and lose your brakes???
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Old 09-18-2014, 12:41 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by BFlinn181 View Post
I did keep it on track. Your first post was about an electric vehicle as a toad. Post #3 was your post that, "Toad brakes are nice, but not always required, although most people here will tell you they are mandatory, and I will probably get flamed for saying I currently pull a 2200 lb Mini Cooper without brakes. I can't even tell it's back there, and this is legal in every state except Nevada, which requires brakes on towed vehicles over 1500 lbs (most states are 3000-ish)." I responded to both posts in my one entry, #4.

That flaunting of safety, just because the law doesn't require it, is endangering everyone you meet on the roads. Sorry if you can't handle the truth, but you did expect to get 'flamed.'

I guess it shouldn't be a surprise because of the next statement after revealing you don't tow with brakes, "In fact, I've yet to find an EV that whose manufacturer doesn't unequivocally state "DO NOT TOW". Having said that, there are many ordinary (non-electric) vehicles being towed today against manufacturer advice." again ignoring advice of knowledgeable people, i.e. the MANUFACTURER and ENGINEERS of the vehicle.

If you want a towable electric vehicle, check out older VW beetle conversions to electric. They usually connect the electric motor to the input of the transmission so you could put it in neutral and pull it behind your RV.

Of course there's another aspect of using an EV as a toad, do you expect a campground to allow you to charge your car on their pedestal? I've never been to a campground that gives free gasoline or LP to campers, why would you be allowed to charge up your EV on their utility bill?
<Sigh> Calm down bro. Whether it's "flaunting safety" or not is subjective - You could say that about a lot of things. The point I was making when I referred to going against manufacturers advice was that many of the vehicles people commonly pull today are perfectly acceptable Toads, yet you'll find that many of their manufacturers state in writing NOT to tow them, or they don't mention it either way. My point is that does not mean they are not perfectly acceptable as Toads, nor that their owners are reckless.

Would it be OK to tow that converted VW you mentioned even though the owners manual did not say it was "approved" for 4-wheel towing, let alone an electric conversion? Of course. Why not?

As far as charging an EV at an RV park goes, I don't really know if they would allow that. They might, they might not. They let you run your A/C, microwaves, big-screen TV and all that without measuring usage. I fill my water tanks, use their Wi-Fi, and dump my poop -- and I pay them for it all. My guess is it would be fine at the moment, but if EV's catch on you'd find they start charging an extra fee, which would seem fair enough.

Thanks for the idea about the VW. I had one back in the day and had the engine out several times. Piece o' cake. Now if I can only set it up for regenerative braking, I could make you really happy -- I'd have Toad brakes and I could charge the batteries at the same time.
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Old 09-18-2014, 12:53 AM   #12
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Hmmm, $3 extra for AC, $3 extra for an electric heater, $5 extra for an electric towed? It would probably be worth it....

FWIW I wonder how much power they store. It might be worth throwing in extra capacity to charge off the tow vehicle.

I understand regenerative braking. I would sue anybody that put out an electric car that had insufficient braking capacity to stop without it. Blow a fuse and lose your brakes???
Wikipedia says a Nissan Leaf costs around $2.44 for a full charge, and it will charge off a standard 110V circuit. I have to think that those big Class A rigs with all their power-hungry toys and A/C on 50A circuits would take more than my lil old EV.

Good point about the fuse, but hell, you would lose many of the best braking systems on the market today with a blown fuse.

EV's never use just regenerative braking -- it's always blended with traditional hydraulic friction brakes. Tapping into them safely? Now THAT's the challenge....
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Old 09-18-2014, 01:18 AM   #13
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One thing people don't fully realize is that those charts out on the Internet are usually compiled by companies that want to sell you a braking system. In fact most are wrong. Here in WA a motorized vehicle being towed is NOT a trailer and it changes the two to a "combination vehicle". That also changes the braking requirements to a performance standard. Stop in XX feet from XX mph and you don't need aux brakes.
But, the laws of physics also come into play. It takes more force to stop more weight and the best way to add more force is to add a braking system.
Another thing is that even if you can pass the performance test for braking the law still says the towed has to be able to hold itself in place for 15 minutes any any normal road grade. How does one do that if there is no auxiliary braking system.
Also, you must comply with each and every states laws on braking, not your home state. There is no reciprocity on braking requirements like there is on drivers licenses and insurance.
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Old 09-18-2014, 01:20 AM   #14
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Good point about the fuse, but hell, you would lose many of the best braking systems on the market today with a blown fuse.
We have the RoadMaster BrakeMaster, an all air system with proportional braking, no electricity involved.
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