By on February 15, 2020

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]

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57 Comments on “Audi e-Tron Range Effectively Halved by 4,000-pound Trailer...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    In other news, 20mpg light truck gets 10mpg when towing big clumsy trailer on the highway.

    Apparently, it will be okay to use your Audi E-Tron to tow your ski boat across town to the local boat ramp or to rent the trailer from Lowe’s Depot. You won’t have to have a pickup truck/SUV/whatever second vehicle if you still want to do stuff like that.

    (shrug)

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Towing a similar trailer, my Silverado with a 5.3 averages about 15mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      qwerty shrdlu

      Oh! Oh! Oh!
      We’ve all seen the Youtube videos of conventional vehicles being dragged backwards down the boat ramp when someone screws up.
      Electric trucks and SUVs are going to be fun.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        EV drivetrain components are mostly sealed, and a vehicle without cylinders can’t hydro-lock.

        It’s possible that they’ll survive boat-ramp mishaps better than regular vehicles. But it’s also possible that they’ll come up with new and entertaining failure modes when underwater.

        We won’t really know ’till someone tries it.

        P.S. It’s inevitable that many Tesla Cybertrucks will suffer this fate, and we’ll get some data (and some schadenfreude-generating video) then.

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      aahhhh. Yes. Launching a boat/skis into a lake with an electric car. Nothing can go wrong there… You first…

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        you’re aware double-sealed electrical connectors exist, right?

        • 0 avatar
          Jon

          Yep, feel free to test them as stated by others above. Ill bring the beer and chairs.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            I *have* tested them, to USCAR standards.

            https://www.uscar.org/guest/teams/10/Electrical-Wiring-Component-Applications-Partnership-EWCAP-

            So please, once you’ve had enough beers, please tell me what I observed. you know, since you think you know better.

          • 0 avatar
            Jon

            Congratulations! Im sure your testing to USCAR standards was indeed accurate.

            “as stated by others above” AKA, the failed boat launch test. Not really USCAR certified but im sure it will produce some interesting results.

  • avatar

    “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.”

    Eh, I wold plan my stops prior to leaving never mind long before I’m almost out of juice. In other words I would do all my “thinking” prior to leaving then follow the plan I had devised.

    It’s called route planning. You should try it one day.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      “It’s called route planning. You should try it one day.”

      Why, there are gas stations all over. There are plenty of solid use cases for an EV. They are improving so the number of use cases is growing.

      However if I were driving across the country with or without a trailer, I’d likely want an ICE vehicle. Maybe that’ll change this decade, but as of now you’d be nuts.

  • avatar
    Zoomers_StandingOnGenius_Shoulders

    LOL and the excuses are already flowing. Cant wait to see this thread progress.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    This should work for contractors who have to haul stuff to work sites on the other side of town. Cutting range from 200 miles to 100 doesn’t matter when your round trip is only 50 miles.

    Construction sites must have electric power to run tools. It’s nearly the first thing to be installed with a temporary meter. At present, it’s only 120 VAC. In time, as EVs become more common, I expect higher voltages will become available so that contractors can recharge their electric trucks while working.

    Of course, this won’t help you do NYC to Miami, Chicago to Denver, or Seattle to LA. You’ll still spend too much time parked at charging stations.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I’ve always heard one of the advantages of EV Trucks in this role was the ability to run tools. Your set up would negate that.

      • 0 avatar
        Kendahl

        I’m an amateur astronomy who runs a laptop computer and resistance heaters to keep dew off the optics. Observers like me are cautioned to use a separate, deep cycle battery as the power source instead of our vehicle’s battery. There is a serious risk of running the latter down too far to start the vehicle when it’s time to go home.

    • 0 avatar
      TimK

      Sure, that site meter and outlet drop nailed to a 4×4 will supply 50kW…lol.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Even in a conventional US setup, you are feeding 220V with 2 hot feeds. To get the 110V setup, you only use one of the hots and a neutral. Ever notice how there’s no transformer in your home, and the same panel has 110V and 220V outputs?

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      Kendahl
      I assume you temporary power panels are at minimum 240V split phase. Split phase is single phase power with a center tapped winding, which is designated neutral and bonded to earth. Temporary panels could just as easily be three phase since all but a residential construction site with have three phase available.

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      your ignorance of construction is showing.

  • avatar
    aqua225

    The battery capacity will come — but it is going to take a while yet. And Elon Musk will have the capacity first, just because he has been looking into this technology the longest and has the most experience.

    But yes, towing an enclosed trailer for a vacation is something not even his truck, as specified, is really capable of, at least conveniently. I mean, if you are heading from coastal NC to the NC Blue Ridge Mountains with a camper, you can bet on 4 to 5 hours of charging for your trip. I don’t care if you plan ahead, that is pure inconvenience.

    My friends all want Cybertrucks. I noted I can’t, I tow an enclosed trailer for large distances. They were like “But 14000 pounds!”, and I was like “But How Far?”. Elon did his homework on spec announcement, had everyone fooled!

    But yes, it will get here, through his relentless pursuit of battery improvements, and then I can become a customer (as long as he stops turning off features on used vehicles — if that keeps up, then no Tesla for me!).

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    At least Audi is up front in warning customers this is not a tow vehicle. Most of us already knew EVs are impractical for towing.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    In other news, all these EV trucks will be delayed another year. These trucks will need so much battery capacity to push a heavy, non-aerodynamic vehicle down the road you’ll need to maintain a log book to drive them.

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    Please see TFL truck and Tesla Model X towing a little overland pull behind camper. They took off from Boulder and made it to Loveland for a supercharge. (all down hill) 35 miles. They got to Cheyenne and decided it was a no go. The plan was to go to Oregon. For around town, towing would be great, Family Truckster for summer vacation, that would be like a Griswold affair without Christie Brinkley.

    • 0 avatar
      Ugliest1

      There are those who have actually done it: https://teslaxcanada.com — 33,000km (21,000 mi) in a Model X towing a camping trailer throughout Canada and the US. They took their first trip as an experiment to find out exactly how difficult towing a trailer in an EV would be, then documented lots about their trip.

    • 0 avatar
      dont.fit.in.cars

      The bogey was making Oregon at a certain time. When it came apparent they were behind schedule, they called for the Ram truck.

      EV good for car camping, not good for towing.

  • avatar
    Hydromatic

    Baby steps. EV technology will mature to the point where range anxiety becomes moot.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    The Jaguar I Pace has a bigger range and in Europe is selling in similar numbers to their bigger German competitor. Just saying.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Yeah, the first generation of these EV trucks are not going to be nearly as useful as the gas powered trucks. At least this news is a good reality check for would be buyers.

  • avatar
    downunder

    or a marketing opportunity for Tesla. Buy your X,Y,S approved trailer here! carries a discreet 250kg of battery in the base and enables you to go further between charge stops, supplies extra power for that camping trip and can power your house when the grid fails!

  • avatar
    LeBaron

    I don’t know…Maybe the trailer should have had 2,000 lbs of battery pack instead of the husk of an EV1?

  • avatar

    What a surprise – towing requires more energy. I suppose ICE is not perpetuum mobile either. Much ado about nothing.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The Model X exhibits the same behavior, so this isn’t really news. Towing 5000 lbs behind the Model X cuts its range in half.

    However, I’d rather deal with a tow-compromised Model X, because it has the Supercharger network and a much longer range to begin with.

    By the way, towing a heavy load behind my Sedona cuts its fuel economy in half, also.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      With the X’s greater efficiency and 390 mile EPA range, you’d probably get 200 miles out of it. That’s close to the Audis normal range.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      But I haven’t seen a supercharger station that would allow for charging without disconnecting the trailer. I’m sure they have thought of this with the semi, but it hasn’t yet been addressed on a large scale.

      One of the advantages of towing with a diesel is filling up at truck stops. Much easier to manuver that 30-40 feet behind you.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    What this really means: trying to tow with an EV on long trips will multiply the time penalty from enroute charging that already exists for EVs on long trips.

    How it will get translated for clicks: “EVs can’t tow.”

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    “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?”

    Let me dust off that old Tesla fanboi argument: “What’s the problem? I mean, you have to stop to go to the bathroom and eat anyway, so a cross country trip with charging is no problem.”

    This reminds me of when the Prius V came out. Larger car, same drivetrain. And its fuel economy stunk in comparison to the Prius. It was clear to me that the technology didn’t scale upwards well at all, and that Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive was highly tuned specifically for the regular Prius platform.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Let me dust off that old Tesla fanboi argument: “What’s the problem? I mean, you have to stop to go to the bathroom and eat anyway, so a cross country trip with charging is no problem.”

      That argument never made any sense to me, I can get gas, pee, and get food to go and be back on the highway in 15 mins, maybe 20 depending on how long it takes to get the food prepared. And once I do that I’m good for another 300 miles, rinse, repeat. It doesn’t make any sense to have to periodically pull over and sit on my arse for 30 minutes waiting for a part charge. And then my food choices are limited to the gas station or anything within walking distance – horrible idea.
      Then you have to plan your route, who plans minute details on a trip? You get in the car and point it in the right direction and go, if you find something along the way you detour, the detours are the best part of any trip, most of my best family memories were made detouring off onto back roads. Last summer we pulled off the road in the blue ridge mountains to wind up a curving mountain road, at the top was one of the most amazing views I had ever seen. We were above a small private plane and the interstate from above looked so tiny.

      No planning a route on a trip dependent on where I could charge my battery would make for a pretty shtty trip.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    I really wish that both the manufacturers and the EV fans would recognize that you need the right tool for the job, and right now, EV technology isn’t going to fit the drivetrain needs of those who buy trucks to do truck things.

    • 0 avatar
      Zoomers_StandingOnGenius_Shoulders

      BBBBBBut but but…supercharger networks and and and planning ahead….

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      This article is about a car, not a truck. The upcoming trucks can be bought with 400 to 500-mile ranges. So, 200 to 250 miles range in this case. They will fit the needs of a lot of truck buyers, but not everyone.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Range claims aside, I’ve said before that EVs will be mainstream when they are purchased by Texas ranchers, soccer moms, grandmothers, and apartment dwellers.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @SCE: I agree. In addition to the groups you mentioned, in certain parts of town, there will be a plague of extension cords out of windows stretched across sidewalks to the street.

        I still like my idea of a combination of quick-charge and laundry facilities for apartment dwellers. Charging and washing once a week.

        Toyota’s official solid-state battery announcement will be July 24th. I don’t know the spec of their battery, but it’s still a few years from mass production as far as I know. That battery along with the Tesla Maxwell technology is what will get EVs to the mainstream. Batteries with less weight mean lighter weight EVs getting more range out of a battery with less capacity. Less capacity for a given range means more miles/minute on charges and lower costs as well. That gets us closer to EV dominance in the marketplace.

        For the future, IBM’s new battery technology looks promising. It’s 800 Wh/l and can be charged to 80% capacity in 5 minutes. That means the cells for a 100 kWh battery like in the Tesla Model S 100D would weigh 275 lbs. The cells for a 60 kWh battery would weigh 165 lbs. It has the specs needed to replace ICE. Hopefully, it’s not the miracle battery of the week that never sees mass production. I have a little more faith in IBM than random small labs, but we’ll see. Mass production is a tough step to take. Even if this battery tech doesn’t make it, someone will do it eventually.

        https://www.ibm.com/blogs/research/2019/12/heavy-metal-free-battery/

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    And in other news water is wet.

  • avatar
    craiger

    Not to turn this into a general argument about EVs, but one thing I don’t hear people talk about is what about charging station capacity as the number of vehicles grows? What happens to your trip time when you have to sit and wait for a port to became available?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      This subject has been discussed at length on other forums.

      Living in the EV wilderness of a non-CARB state (PA), competitive charger access isn’t really an issue. To be fair, I’ve only used public chargers a few times in 5 years of EV driving.

      But I’ve read that in CA they can fight over EV chargers like wild dogs, and charger ‘squatting’ is a problem. Heck, squatting annoys the heck out of me at gas stations.

      A related issue is the overall strategy of charger placement. Since homeowners like me charge their cars at night, I don’t need a charger down the street – I need it on the highway near a distant destination.

      Such a strategy requires a different kind of planning than that which has prevailed for the last century for gas stations, since nobody fills their gas cars at home.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      It takes longer. Something something restroom break route planning something something.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    TFL did a test with the garbage Model X towing from Denver to Portland I think.

    All they did was prove that EVs are a very very long way from being useful. The trip took FAR longer than it should have.

  • avatar
    JMII

    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!

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    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.

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