The question, can you tow an electric car, might seem straightforward as we are used to towing our petrol cars whenever they break down. But the answer is more complex than you might think!
In this guide to towing EVs, we will delve into how you can tow an electric car, the potential risks, and provide a step-by-step guide for safe towing.
Can you tow an electric car?
Yes, you can tow an electric car, but not with a tow rope like you would use to tow a petrol car. To tow an electric car you need to use a flatbed tow truck or a trailer, to make sure that all the wheels are off the ground. Never tow with the driving wheels on the road.
Why can’t you tow an EV like a normal car?
It’s not possible to tow an EV with a rope like you would a petrol car, this is because the drivetrain of an electric vehicle is almost always connected to the wheels. This means when the wheels move, the electric motor also moves.
If an electric car is towed with the wheels on the ground, the turning of the wheels will cause the electric motor to spin and this would lead to serious damage to the car.
How to tow an electric car: A step-by-step guide
How do you tow a dead electric car? Well, towing an electric car is something you need to approach with caution in order to avoid damaging the car’s electrical systems. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Read the car manual
Before anything else, consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual. It will detail the exact instructions for towing your particular make and model of electric car.
- Engage neutral mode (tow mode or service mode)
Strictly speaking, EVs don’t have a neutral mode in the same way that petrol cars do, because there is no transmission in an EV, EVs work on a kind of Automatic transmission. So the term “neutral mode” for an electric car refers to a setting that disengages the regenerative braking and deactivates all systems controlling the vehicle’s motor.
This essentially puts the electric car in a state of ‘rest,’ comparable to the neutral gear in a conventional vehicle. Instead of a neutral gear, many electric cars feature a “tow mode” or “service mode”.
- Find the right kind of towing vehicle
Use a flatbed tow truck or a trailer to tow your electric car. These methods ensure that all wheels are off the ground, which is crucial for preventing damage to the vehicle’s electric motor and transmission. Breakdown cover providers use special equipment to tow EVs with all 4 wheels off the ground, so you can still call your very nice AA man to assist!
- Properly secure the car on the flatbed
Ensure that your vehicle is securely fastened to the flatbed or trailer. Use tow straps or chains to firmly anchor the vehicle, but be careful not to damage the vehicle’s bodywork.
- Disconnect the 12v Battery
Some manufacturers recommend disconnecting the 12v battery before towing. Check your owner’s manual to see if this is something that you need to do with your car.
The best towing companies for electric cars
Typically there are more local towing companies compared to national chains. So a quick ‘towing service near me’ search on Google is definitely a good starting point. Most towing companies are small, locally-owned businesses. These local companies know the area well and can often provide quick and personalised services.
However, national breakdown cover chains will provide extensive coverage across different regions. If you have breakdown cover that specifically covers electric vehicle recovery, then this is your best option. They have a larger fleet of vehicles and can offer more comprehensive services, such as roadside assistance and repairs, in addition to towing.
Can you push an electric car?
It’s possible to push an electric car in an emergency, but you can only push an electric car if it has a neutral, towing or service mode. This will disconnect the drivetrain from the wheels of the car and make it safer to push.
Electric cars are generally heavier than conventional cars due to their battery packs, which can make them more difficult to push. Remember that some electric cars automatically engage the electric parking brake when the car is switched off, you need to switch this off before the car can be moved.
Can you tow a hybrid car?
You can tow a hybrid car, but like electric vehicles, you need to make sure the electric motor does not engage when the car is being towed.
Again, it’s best to use a flatbed tow truck that can lift all four wheels off the ground – or a wheel lift tow truck that only leaves the non-driving wheels on the ground. You need to double-check if your vehicle is a rear or front-wheel drive, if it’s an all-wheel drive vehicle you will not be able to use a wheel lift tow truck.
Can you tow an electric car behind a motorhome?
If you want to tow an electric car behind a motorhome, the safest method would be to use a car trailer where all wheels of the car are off the ground. This means that the car’s electric wheels will not move and cause the motor to spin, if the motor spins it can lead to overheating or damage to the regenerative braking system.
Can an electric car be towed using a normal tow truck?
Yes, an electric car can be towed using a normal tow truck, as long as you use a flatbed tow truck, where all wheels of the car are off the ground.
If a flatbed tow truck is not available, a wheel lift tow truck can be used, provided that the non-driving wheels are the ones touching the ground. For example, if the electric car is a front-wheel drive, the tow truck should lift the front wheels off the ground, and vice versa for rear-wheel drive vehicles. However, using a flatbed tow truck is still the best option!
The final word on towing an electric vehicle
Having explored this topic we now know that is it possible to tow an electric car, however, these cars cannot be towed in the same way that you would tow a petrol or diesel vehicle. If you tried to tow it with a rope behind another car you would cause the motor to spin and cause damage to the vehicle.
The safest method for towing an electric car involves using a flatbed truck or a trailer that lifts all wheels off the ground, thereby eliminating any potential issues with the electric motor or the regenerative braking system.
Always take advice on the specific vehicle, you can refer to your vehicle’s owner manual, speak to the local service centre or call the manufacturer’s helpline for professional assistance on how to safely tow your EV.
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John is the Editor and Spokesperson for Electric Car Guide.
With over 20 years of writing experience, he has written for titles such as City AM, FE News and NerdWallet.com, covering various automotive and personal finance topics.
John’s market commentary has been covered by the likes of The Express, The Independent, Yahoo Finance and The Evening Standard.