Audi E-Tron Range Effectively Halved by 4,000-pound Trailer

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
audi e tron range effectively halved by 4 000 pound trailer

Audi engaged in a publicity stunt this week to prove electric vehicles can be legitimate workhorses, capable of towing sizable items long distances without issue. While most EVs aren’t actually rated to tow anything, Audi’s e-Tron is supposedly able to haul a few thousand pounds worth of whatever behind it.

Audi Tulsa and Audi ONE, Audi of America’s Herndon-based electrification strategy team, supported the all-volunteer Oklahoma Chapter of the Electric Auto Association in testing that theory by taking one from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to the Fully Charged Live electric-car event at Circuit of the Americas in Texas.

Under idyllic circumstances, the 500-mile journey should have depleted the crossover’s 95-kWh battery pack twice. However, Audi’s press release seems to indicate using an EV to tow a trailer is anything but ideal, and the resulting figures prove it.

The e-Tron towed a trailer containing a surviving General Motors EV1, kissing the model’s maximum tow rating of 4,000 pounds as it made its way through inclement weather. That’s bound to do a number on a vehicle’s maximum range, which in the Audi’s case isn’t all that high to begin with (204 miles). The manufacturer stated that the e-Tron’s average efficiency came in at 1.3 mi/kWh with an average speed of 60 mph.

Using those metrics, the Audi would have been able to run for about 123 miles before someone had to leave it by the side of the road. However, InsideEVs and Green Car Reports remembered that the e-Tron only uses about 88 percent of its battery in an effort to mitigate battery degradation over time. Depleting a battery isn’t great for its longevity, though neither is having to frequently recharge it. But the point is that Audi’s functional battery capacity is actually closer to 84 kWh, making the more accurate range estimate for the e-Tron’s EV1 tow test 108.6 miles.

Anybody who has ever taken an EV cross country knows that you have to start thinking about finding a charging point long before you’re almost out of juice — as they often require a modest detour from your intended route. The e-Tron used CCS-compatible fast chargers from Electrify America and Francis Energy charging networks, allowing the car to replenish 80 percent of its battery in 30 minutes using 150-kW quick charging. So it at least proved that it was possible to use the vehicle to tow something on a 500-mile trip.

We bet it felt a lot longer than the odometer read, however.

Whoever was driving would have had to make frequent stops to top off the battery. Audi wouldn’t say how many, but five would have been the absolute minimum if the efficiency numbers are accurate. Let’s pretend those stops didn’t require the car to drive a single mile out of its way and never took more than thirty minutes. Do you still want to make that 500-mile trip?

If a $74,800 electric Audi saw its maximum range effectively halved by a 4,000-pound trailer, this raises questions as to the capabilities of the flood of electric pickups slated to arrive over the next handful of years. It’s neat that EVs can tow heavy things, but who’s going to buy Ford’s electric F-Series, Rivian’s R1T, or Tesla’s Cybertruck if adding weight means you’ve just doubled the duration of your trip. Yes, these are just baby steps taken in the infancy of automotive electrification, but we wouldn’t hire a toddler to haul around a bunch of gravel and expect everyone to be impressed.

EVs posses a number of unique qualities, but towing definitely isn’t among them. Not yet, anyway.

[Images: Audi]

Join the conversation
2 of 57 comments
  • JMII JMII on Feb 17, 2020

    But how many people buy SUV in general (EV or not) actually tow? Very few. Serious tow rigs are diesel everyone knows this. Next in line are gas V8s (myself included). I need to tow about 2,000lbs about 200 miles round trip each weekend. And it not just the weight, the aero (drag) penalty is massive. A boat is an upside down wing, even a small boat like mine feels like a parachute on a windy day. I can watch the gas gauge on my V8 drop at highway speeds if I have a head wind!

  • Jagboi Jagboi on Feb 17, 2020

    Ah, Chryslers in the 70's. A common sound in parking lots was their distinctive starters as owners cranked and cranked because the cars never started once they warmed up. My Dad had a 77 and he was into the dealership once a week for the warranty period, as they never could get it running right. Started fine when cold, generally refused to start when hot. Drunk fuel like a sailor on shore leave, couldn't go over 150 miles on a tank. Pure garbage.

  • Jeff S Corey--We know but we still want to give our support to you and let TTAC know that your articles are excellent and better than what the typical articles are.
  • Jeff S A sport utility vehicle or SUV is a car classification that combines elements of road-going passenger cars with features from off-road vehicles, such as raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive.There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of an SUV and usage of the term varies between countries. Thus, it is "a loose term that traditionally covers a broad range of vehicles with four-wheel drive." Some definitions claim that an SUV must be built on a light truck chassis; however, broader definitions consider any vehicle with off-road design features to be an SUV. A [url=]crossover SUV[/url] is often defined as an SUV built with a unibody construction (as with passenger cars), however, the designations are increasingly blurred because of the capabilities of the vehicles, the labelling by marketers, and electrification of new models.The predecessors to SUVs date back to military and low-volume models from the late 1930s, and the four-wheel drive station wagons and carryalls that began to be introduced in 1949. The 1984 [url=]Jeep Cherokee (XJ)[/url] is considered to be the first SUV in the modern style. Some SUVs produced today use unibody construction; however, in the past, more SUVs used body-on-frame construction. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the popularity of SUVs greatly increased, often at the expense of the popularity of large [url=]sedans[/url] and station wagons.More recently, smaller SUVs, mid-size, and crossovers have become increasingly popular. SUVs are currently the world's largest automotive segment and accounted for 45.9% of the world's passenger car market in 2021. SUVs have been criticized for a variety of environmental and safety-related reasons. They generally have poorer fuel efficiency and require more resources to manufacture than smaller vehicles, contributing more to climate change and environmental degradation. Between 2010 and 2018 SUVs were the second largest contributor to the global increase in carbon emissions worldwide. Their higher center of gravity increases their risk of rollovers. Their larger mass increases their stopping distance, reduces visibility, and increases damage to other road users in collisions. Their higher front-end profile makes them at least twice as likely to kill pedestrians they hit. Additionally, the psychological sense of security they provide influences drivers to drive less cautiously. the above definition of SUV any vehicle that is not a pickup truck if it is enclosed, doesn't have a trunk, and is jacked up with bigger tires. If the green activists adhere to this definition of what an SUV is there will be millions of vehicles with flat tires which include HRVs, Rav4s, CRVs, Ford Escapes, Buick Encores, and many of compact and subcompact vehicles. The green movement is going to have to recruit millions of new followers and will be busy flattening millions of tires in the US and across the globe. Might be easier to protest.
  • Sckid213 I actually do agree that most Nissans are ultimately junk. (I also think many BMWs are also). I was talking challenging the 3 in terms of driving dynamics. Agree all were failures in sales.
  • THX1136 More accurately said, we are seeing exponential growth in the manufacturing capabilities in this market. Unless, of course, all those vehicles are sold with customers waiting until more a produced so they can buy. Indeed, there are certainly more EVs being purchased now than back in 2016. Is demand outstripping manufacturing? Maybe or maybe not. I sincerely don't know which is why I ask.
  • ToolGuy The page here (linked in the writeup) is ridiculously stupid, seriously stupid, e.g., A) Not sure that particular Volvo is killing the planet as quickly as some other vehicles we might choose. B) A Juke is "huge"??? C) The last picture shows a RAV4 Hybrid?