Why are electric cars not allowed to tow?

I want to go greener and buy an electric car, but the model I was interested in is not permitted to tow anything and I have a caravan. Why are electric cars unable to tow?  F.J.

26 June 2019
By Oliver Rowland

Not all electric cars are unable to tow but it is true that most are. 

Authorisation to tow comes from the government when the manufacturers submit the technical papers for homologation of the vehicle.

The specifications for towing can be checked on the carte grise and if it does not allow you to tow, you cannot legally do so.

The part to check is line F2 (poids total autorisé en charge) compared to F3 (poids roulant total autorisé).

The latter is the total weight including any trailer or caravan and the former is the maximum laden weight of the car.

The total combined weight of car, trailer, passengers and baggage must not exceed the figure in F3. If the two figures are the same, you cannot tow.

One reason many electric cars cannot tow is autonomy – most do not have more than 300km or so of real autonomy, and towing increases the energy consumption.

Hyundai’s French office confirmed that its two electric vehicles, Ioniq and Kona, could not be used to tow.

A spokesman said: “It is not something which was thought of with the first electric vehicles. There are no design or safety reasons why a tow bar cannot be fitted but it was not asked for during the homologation process and so there is no possibility of towing in France.

We might include it in later vehicles but we do not want to change the homologation once it has been approved.”

At Renault, they said technical reasons in the design meant that it was not possible to have tow bars fitted to the Zoe.

“We are at the limit of the towed mass for the vehicle, and have no margin to tow anything other than the weight of the vehicle,” a spokeswoman said.

Nissan said they decided at the design stage not to allow towing with the Leaf because its customers all said range was most important, and towing reduces that.

With the new version having 60% better range, they are now considering adding towing capacity at some time in the future, the firm said. In the meantime, they increased the boot space and added the possibility of carrying up to 35kg on the roof.

BMW said its i3 was designed for city driving and engineers worked hard to have a light body shell made out of carbon fibre to compensate for the weight of the batteries.

“Fitting a tow hook will add weight and this weight is the reason why it is impossible to fit a tow hook with this model,” a spokesman said. “The extra weight will impact on range and also mean reinforced brakes to cope with the weight of the trailer.”

Expensive electric cars such as the €93,000 Tesla X or the €80,000 Jaguar iPace are, however, able to tow, respectively up to 2,250kg and 750kg. Nissan’s e-NV200 Evalia, which comes in five or seven-place versions, can tow between 150kg and 450kg, depending on the version.

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