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August 25, 2019

Selecting An EV to Tow -Then Towing it!

By: Rob Lowe

Featured Picture

Selecting an EV to Tow:

Before selecting an EV that you want to tow behind a Motorhome, ensure that the vehicle can be towed. Check the owner’s manual under Towing and see if there are any restrictions or requirements to tow it. For conventional (I.C.E) vehicles some manufacturers have a section in their owner’s manuals referencing Recreational Vehicle Towing. To determine if their vehicles can be towed, they conduct tests after consulting their engineering staff. They then provide information, which is printed in the manuals reporting by which method their vehicles can be towed, either flat towed (four wheels down) or on a dolly (rear wheels down) or trailer (not towable).


Check the Owner’s Manual, then the Dealer or Vehicle Maker:

Generally, EVs cannot be flat towed and most that are rear wheel drive cannot be towed, even on a dolly. This is often because there would be undue wear and tear on the electric motor when it is being towed. Many EVs have a parking brake that engages as soon as the vehicle power is turned off. Thus, the rear wheels remain locked and unable to free wheel when being towed, even if the front wheels are placed on a dolly. If the EV is an all wheel drive (AWD) or rear wheel drive (RWD) then it is unlikely to be able to be flat towed. Some front wheel drive (FWD) vehicles can be dolly towed, provided that their rear wheels can be left on the ground and the parking brake does not engage. Since it is unlikely that the maker considered Recreational Vehicle towing when writing the owners manual, one needs to carefully read the Service or Emergency Towing sections. Since the towing referenced is not Recreational Vehicle Towing, it is important to consult the latest owner’s manual under the towing section for the vehicle you are considering towing to confirm that it may be towable with certain restrictions or conditions, then reconfirm this with the service department for the brand of vehicle that you are considering. This process will eliminate a lot of potentially towable EVs and greatly reduce the options available.


Trailer or Tow Dolly?

As of this writing in the Fall of 2019, there are no flat towable EV’s. While almost all EV’s can be trailered around, the hassle of moving a heavy trailer when not attached to the RV is something most RVers want to avoid. The most popular way to tow an EV is using a Tow Dolly. There are a limited number of Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vehicles that can be Dolly Towed. The Kia Niro EV, is the one we selected. The owner’s manual shows that it can be emergency towed with the rear wheels on the ground and the front wheels off the road. After reviewing the manual, talking to the dealership personnel it looked like it could be dolly towed. Note: No Dealer or Kia Canada, specifically approved that the Kia Niro EV can be Dolly Towed.  We made the decision to tow it based on the best information available to us. The reader should make their judgment independently. RV Parts Plus and/or the writer make no representation that the Kia Niro EV is Kia approved for Dolly Towing.

Selecting a Tow Dolly is a whole new experience for those that have always flat towed a vehicle. I’d select one that is more than wide enough for your EV. It is amazing how much those vehicles move on a dolly while towing and if there is not a fair amount of clearance between the dolly fenders and the vehicle doors, an impact between Dolly Fender and the EV could occur on a tight turn.

 

Campsite Considerations:

While lightweight may be a consideration when having to move the Dolly when not connected to the RV, few are really ‘light weight’, most are in the 180-250 Kilograms (400 to 550 pounds). Generally EV makers do not approve of any form of hitch attachment, thus using the EV to move the Tow Dolly is unlikely. With an assistant to provide some pushing power, it is possible to move a dolly short distances with the tongue (hitch attachment end) raised, by pushing it into a suitable out-of-the-way location. This may be not be an issue if you can find a drive-through campsite which will allow leaving the dolly connected to the RV, it will be important if you must move the dolly independent of the RV for back in campsites and in some resorts that do not allow trailer or dolly storage on your campsite. Note: To load and unload the towed car on a Tow Dolly, it MUST be connected to the RV towing vehicle.


Selecting a Tow Dolly:

 

Tow DollyI prefer a Tow Dolly that has a lot of lighting (preferable LED type) on it and a self-contained braking system. Braking systems consist of Surge and Electric brakes. Surge braking depends upon the towed vehicle on the dolly, pushing forward into the hitch assembly of the motorhome compressing a movable section that applies the brakes. Electric brakes require a battery on the dolly to power the brakes and wiring to provide 12 Volt power to charge the battery on the Dolly. This wiring will run between the dolly and the front of the RV where an electric brake controller is installed. There is also a need to have a breakaway system in the event the dolly breaks away from the towing RV. Each brand and style of Tow Dolly has its advantages and disadvantages, routine maintenance and setup procedure. Given the additional weight of an EV’s battery pack (often 450 kg or about 1,000 lbs.), it is significantly heavier than a gas-powered vehicle of similar size. A braking system is required to safely stop the dolly and the EV on it. Light locations

In addition, proper lighting is required. Most Tow Dollies have fender mounted rear facing lighting, for taillight/marker and brake/signal lights. Some have additional marker lighting across the rear of the dolly, and a light mounted on the front of each fender that mimics the lighting on the rear side of the fender. Some have lighting on the long front tongue and the area where the licence/tag is mounted. The rear facing fender mounted lights are located just beside the front wheels of the EV being towed. The arrows on the photo show the multitude of light locations on this Tow Dolly. In many States and Provinces, there is a need to have lighting on the back of the vehicle. In years past, magnetic lights (often LED equipped) were attached to the rear roof or trunk of the vehicle being towed. EVs often have aluminum or plastic air deflectors making these magnet mount lights unusable. Lights attached by integral suction cups are an option, however it is difficult to find suitable ones, that can be safely and dependably attached to the towed vehicle.


Lights on carI looked at options and selected an accessory lighting strip used on the rear of pick up trucks which provide left and right brake, signal lights and taillight/running lights. These strips are mounted on the rear of the pickup truck box in the space just above the rear bumper, immediately below the box floor. Some of these strips have an integrated backup light as well. I measured the width of our Niro and located an area where one of these strips would mount (using the included 3M self adhesive tape) and would look to the casual observer as if it was lighting for the car. The wiring could be connected to a typical flat four wire that is part of most RV tow vehicle wiring kit. I had already decided that I did not want to tap into the EV’s existing LED rear taillights, so separate lighting units were the only viable option.


The wiring was run from the left front area ahead of the left front tire with ample wiring length and a proper connector to fit a new connection on the tow Dolly. It ran over the left front inner fender and into the passenger compartment through the main electrical wiring grommet between the motor and passenger areas. The wire was then run under the left kick panel, left front, door pillar cover and rear sill plates then to the rear area along the driver’s side carpet trim. In the rear compartment the wiring was run along the inner rear fender and out one of rubber water drain plugs in the driver’s rear fender behind the rear tire. The connections were made inside the rear area and the ground wire was attached to a nearby stud in this area.  The white strip LED light was connected in the driver’s rear bumper area to the car’s back up light system. This provides additional white backup lighting when the Niro EV is put into Reverse. This connection was the only one made to the car’s wiring. All other lights in that strip are powered from the RV wiring.


Dolly Wiring ConnectorWiring Exiting Kia FrontThe wiring on the tow dolly was modified by adding an additional flat four socket to accept the plug from the front of the EV. In my original plan, I was going to use a two into one flat four connector right at the RV to Dolly connection. Doing so would have left about 3m (10 feet) of unprotected wiring and given that the rear of the dolly drops for loading it would have been difficult to safely secure the wiring. After carefully examining the routing of the wiring and where the connections were made, I decided to make an additional connection where the tongue met the central ramp support. This kept the wiring enclosed within the tongue for safety and after the connection was made the exposed socket with a 0.6M (a couple of feet) of wire was able to be safely secured. In the photo it is shown looped in the Red handle of the Dolly drop release (tilt) pin for retention when not towing the car. The wire from the front oCar wiring connectionf the car, exits the "motor” area through a hole and is shown fully extended. It and can be connected to the socket on the new dolly wiring keeping the connection up off the ramp and road area. It is simple to connect when securing the tire straps and ensuring that the dolly drop release pin is secured.

 

One of the features I like about this dolly is that the front facing LED signal/marker light is easily visible in my driver’s mirror. It is a check on the fact that the wiring is connected. The Dolly is powder coated paint and it is easy to keep rust free even though it was a couple of years old when I acquired it.

   

 

  

TPMS

IIn order to monitor the tire pressure of the dolly and tow car tires, we placed tire monitor sensors compatible with our RV Tire Pressure Monitor System on the rear tires of the car as well as the dolly tires. On our coach, we monitor the dolly tires as the front tow vehicle tires and the rear tires of the tow car as such on the graphic display. This arrangement allows turning off the tow vehicle in the display for those trips when we are using the RV and not towing the tow vehicle on a dolly. 

RV & Niro Read to Tow

 

 

 

 

Towing the car with it, does point out the difference between flat towing and dolly towing. The most obvious difference is that the towing combination is about 2m (7 feet) longer with the car being back that distance. That affects the turning radius of the RV and tow car and requires driving straight ahead further before turning. Using a dolly also limits sharp turns since the tow dolly and car cannot be turned as sharp as when flat towing, it does require more space. In addition, the width of the towing assembly is wider since the dolly tires and fenders are significantly wider than the car alone. We have learned that after driving a short distance while towing, we must stop and recheck the straps for tightness. They become loose after a very short distance. Each stop will require specific attention to check the straps for security.

 


I’ll update this Blog posting and write additional ones as we gain more experience towing an EV behind our RV. One topic that I will cover is EV charging in an RV setting. Check out the photos in this posting and if you want, please post comments on this article.  

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