Payload and Towing Capacity on Electric Vehicles

F-150 Lightning towing a trailer in snow

As electric pickup trucks arrive on the market, you may wonder about their towing and hauling capacities. Previously, most electric vehicles on the market have largely been small hatchbacks and luxury sedans, which aren’t typically associated with towing. However, the electric SUV and truck segments are growing fast, and they must have some towing muscle to compete with tried and true gas-powered haulers.

In this guide, we’ll answer all of your questions about towing and hauling with an electric vehicle (EV).

What Is Payload and Towing Capacity?

Towing capacity is self-explanatory: it’s how much weight a vehicle can tow. More horsepower in a truck or SUV often translates to more towing capacity, but there’s more to it. Since an engine has to work harder while towing, vehicles designed for towing often have improved cooling systems that help increase the towing capacity.

Payload refers to how much weight a vehicle can carry. Part of the reason why pickup trucks have beefier chassis and suspension components than regular cars is to increase the payload capacity. Like the towing capacity, horsepower has a lot to do with the payload rating of a truck, but so does the suspension, which can only carry so much weight before bottoming out.

For example, the Ford F-150 has a max towing capacity of 14,000 pounds and a max payload capacity of 3,325 pounds. That means, when properly equipped, it can tow up to 14,000 pounds. It can carry up to 3,325 pounds in the bed and the cabin, just not at the same time as towing.

For more information on how payload and towing capacities are calculated, you can read our complete in-depth guide to payload and guide to towing.

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Can EVs Tow?

2022 GMC Hummer EV

Automakers build electric SUVs and trucks with towing in mind. However, we wouldn’t recommend towing a boat or a camper with a Tesla Model 3 or Nissan Leaf.

From what we’ve seen so far in electric pickup trucks, they have pretty good tow ratings that are similar to their gas-powered counterparts. However, payload ratings are comparatively unimpressive. Electric trucks are good at towing because they put up considerable power and torque numbers. They deliver instant torque to the wheels without needing to rev up, and they don’t need the heavy-duty cooling systems of gas or diesel trucks.

The GMC Hummer EV boasts a 7,500-pound tow rating, and the Rivian R1T can tow up to 11,000 pounds. The Ford F-150 Lightning and the upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV claim a max tow rating of 10,000 pounds. Chevy says its electric truck will be able to tow up to 20,000 pounds later in its production run.

Payload is an issue because electric vehicles are very hefty. The payload ratings for electric trucks are adequate for most drivers. However, they can’t carry as much weight as comparable gas and diesel trucks. The reason is that an EV’s chassis already carries tremendous weight from electric motors and battery packs.

For example, the electric Ford F-150 Lightning has a max payload capacity of 2,000 pounds in the Standard Range model. The Extended Range model is rated at 1,800 pounds. Meanwhile, a regular F-150 with an old-fashioned V8 has a max payload rating of 3,325 pounds. A Ford Super Duty can carry a whopping 7,850 pounds.

How Towing and Payload Affect Range

Towing significantly impacts an electric vehicle’s range, even if it isn’t that much weight. A Rivian spokesperson has admitted that towing a heavy trailer with the R1T pickup will cut its estimated 314-mile range by about half.

Some real-world testing has shown an even worse outlook for how towing impacts range. Motor Trend tested the towing range of the Ford F-150 Lightning, specifically a Platinum model with an estimated range of 300 miles in mixed driving and an 8,500-pound tow rating.

With a small travel trailer weighing 3,140 pounds, the truck’s range dropped to 115 miles. When pulling a middle-weight 5,260-pound camper, it could only go 100 miles. Towing a heavy 7,218-pound camper dropped the truck’s range to only 90 miles.

It’s a similar story with payload, but the impact on a vehicle’s range isn’t as significant. Since pickup trucks have modest payload ratings, an F-150 Lightning carrying 1,800 pounds doesn’t have to work as hard as the same truck towing more than double that weight.

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Downsides of EV Towing

Blue 2024 Chevy Silverado EV

We don’t want to dampen enthusiasm around electric vehicles. However, we’d be remiss if we overlooked the downsides of towing with an EV. As we covered above, towing has a severe impact on the range of an electric vehicle. You’ll need to plan your road trip carefully when towing a boat, camper, or another heavy load over a long distance.

A best-case scenario involves towing with a truck capable of DC fast charging. However, even with good charging infrastructure on your route, it will be a pain to charge your vehicle. Most charging stations are like pull-in parking spaces, so you may need to drop off your load elsewhere in the parking lot. Then you can pull up to the charger without blocking anyone. Once you plug in, you’ll need to wait a half hour or more to recharge, depending on how much juice the battery drained.

Compare that to a conventional gas or diesel pickup truck or SUV. A full tank may provide enough range for your whole trip. Even if it doesn’t, filling the tank at a gas station (which is much more common than a charging station) is quick and convenient because it won’t require detaching your load.

Hills and weather further impact towing with an EV more than with a gas or diesel truck. Steep uphill climbs on your route will have a small impact on fuel economy with a gas or diesel engine. However, uphill driving significantly affects EV range. Electric vehicles also tend to get the best range in fair weather conditions. Extreme heat or cold can make your towing range even worse with an EV. However, outside temperature has little to no effect on the efficiency of a gas or diesel engine.

List of EVs Built for Towing

Here are some EVs capable of towing more than 5,000 pounds that are available today or arriving soon. We included their maximum towing capacities, according to the manufacturers:

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