From the September 2022 issue of Car and driver.
Last year, at our inaugural EV of the Year event, there wasn’t a single vehicle that could tow more than 5,000 pounds. There are now three such entries: the GMC Hummer EV (7,500-pound towing capacity), the Ford F-150 Lightning (10,000-pound max), and the Rivian R1T (11,000 pounds). To evaluate this emerging phenomenon of electric towing, we each attached the same load, a 29-foot RV weighing 6,100 pounds, the kind of trailer a family of four might take on the typical summer road trip.
We drove all three trucks on the same 85-degree summer day on the same flat freeway loop at 70 mph. Except for the slightly slower speed, which is prudent when driving a 13,000- to 16,000-pound truck and trailer, we conducted this the same way we ran our 75 mph highway range tests, with the automatic climate control set to 72 degrees and running as many miles as we ventured before the battery’s state of charge became dire.
These new electric pickups are wonderful towing companions, using massive horsepower and torque that allow for easy merging with the flow of interstate traffic, and their heavy curb weights (between 6,855 pounds for the F-150 and 9,640 pounds for the Hummer) provide impressive stability when towing a three-ton trailer. But you don’t want to go far, as a full battery will only get you 100 miles in the Lightning, 110 miles in the R1T, and 140 miles in the Hummer. Although the Hummer consumes electricity at the highest rate of the three, its significantly larger battery pack more than makes up for the difference. (As with unloaded range, each number is rounded down to the nearest 10-mile increment here.)
There are some quirks. Electric cars can sometimes be fickle to fill up; The flash was set to charge all the way but instead stopped at 94 percent. But even an increase in the result by the missing 6 percent does not push it past the next step of 10 mil. Adaptive cruise is available when towing in the Hummer and Lightning, but not hands-free Super Cruise or BlueCruise, while the Rivian doesn’t allow the use of adaptive cruise control at all. All of these trucks have integrated trailer brake controls, but none are available with larger tow mirrors that would improve visibility at the cost of a little more drag.
The Rivian’s higher level of regenerative braking is helpful in braking a trailer, while the Lightning disables one-pedal drive mode when towing. Selecting tow mode in the R1T immediately halves its predicted range, then adjusts based on consumption in real time; lightning made a giant downward jump between the first five and 10 miles, from 288 miles predicted to 96; Hummer’s range prediction algorithm did the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling “na-na-na,” refusing to adjust downward even though it lost an average of 12 miles of predicted range for every five landings.
The range of all three trucks when towing was less than half as far as when cruising lightly loaded at 75 mph. But the Hummer fared the best, we suspect because it punched the biggest hole in the air to begin with – and the Rivian, which fared the worst, the least – and was therefore relatively less affected by the blocky trailer.
The physics are no different from towing a combustion pickup truck; in either case, the interval will be roughly split in half. But in the case of these electric cars, the reduced figure can be barely three digits. And low battery warnings start at about 50 miles to drain, when the battery pack is still almost half full. Even if you accept the long charging stops – which will be even longer due to the need to charge the battery longer than when traveling unloaded – most highway charging does not allow pull-through. And unhooking a trailer – especially one like this with a weight distributor – every couple of hours is a big hassle.