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High-end RV builder Bowlus takes a look at electric vehicle towing range debate

Do you suffer from “range anxiety”? If you’ve given any thought to purchasing an electric vehicle, you undoubtedly suffer from this newly emerging malady.

The potential purchase of an EV gets even more complicated when you begin to contemplate hitching a travel trailer to the vehicle’s rear bumper (if EVs even have bumpers anymore). Many RV enthusiasts fret that an EV towing a trailer won’t have the range to get them out of town, much less to where they might find the next charging station.

Tesla and other leading EV makers are rapidly expanding charging networks across the country. Federal and state incentives will likely accelerate installations and shrink the distances between EV “filling stations.” Tesla already says it has more than 25,000 Supercharger stations in the U.S. They can add about 200 miles of range in around 15 minutes and give you a full-range recharge in less than 30 minutes.

But what happens to an EV’s range when you strap an RV on the back?

Enter the original aluminum trailer

Even longtime RVers may not be that familiar with the Bowlus brand. Shiny aluminum Bowlus trailers have been cruising down the nation’s highways since the 1930s. The trailers with the pointy backs were invented by Hawley Bowlus, an aircraft engineer who had a hand in the creation of Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis.

Bowlus completed construction of his first travel trailer in 1934. It was revolutionary and caught the eye of movie stars and copycats including Wally Byam of Airstream fame. That’s right, folks. If there hadn’t been a Bowlus, there wouldn’t be any Airstreams.

Bowlus is still in business, cranking out beautifully customized RVs that can be yours for the starting price of $235,000 for their Endless Highways model. The Endless Highways RV has a 7,680-watt-hour lithium iron phosphate battery of its own that delivers 600-amp hours and has the ability to stay off-the-grid for up to two weeks. That’s enough to get you from Los Angeles to Miami on a single charge.

But all that battery power is just for the trailer. What about the towing vehicle?

Bowlus tested the towing range with a Tesla Model X electric SUV

The Bowlus company recently hitched up one of its Terra Firma RVs (they go for $285,000 a pop) behind a Tesla Model X electric SUV. They towed their trailer with the EV across parts of California and Nevada.

What they found was that they were able to pull their Terra Firma 235 miles with the Model X on a single charge. The Tesla Model X SUV has an established non-towing range of 330 miles.

Bowlus executives were pretty excited by that result.

“The evolution of the electric car has finally made it to utility,” said Geneva Long, founder and CEO of Bowlus. “We chose to test the leading electric SUV towing a Bowlus because with the size, shape and weight of our travel trailer, we felt confident you could use your EV and maintain the majority of your range pulling a Bowlus. Our hunch proved correct.”

Bowlus is light weight and aerodynamic

Long credited Bowlus’ light weight and aerodynamic design for a lot of the trip’s success. The trailer with the pointy rear end has a base weight of about 3,200 pounds and a net carry capacity of 800 pounds. That makes for a GVWR of 4,000 pounds with a hitch weight of 300 pounds.

“Not only does this prove practical for luxury land travelers, but as younger generations continue to view technological conveniences as luxury, we feel we are positioned to enhance land travel experiences for anyone who drives an EV,” Long said.

The Bowlus/Tesla test was conducted using the same driving style used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in fuel economy tests. Speeds of 55 mph were maintained in California and reached 55-60 mph in Nevada.

Good results regarding towing range

In all, the Tesla SUV dragged the Bowlus trailer over 930 miles, including through a wind advisory and from sea level to 4,730 feet while maintaining 71% of the Tesla Model X SUV’s range.

To mimic the test equipment, you’d have to plunk down $285,000 for the trailer and about $125,000 for the Tesla, so we don’t think we’ll be seeing them crowding campgrounds anytime soon. But the recent test does show that the RV industry – even those manufacturers on the boutique side of the business – have their eye on the huge emerging market of potential electric vehicle buyers.

Stay tuned. Bowlus isn’t done yet. Next, they plan to hitch their shiny rig behind EV trucks like the Ford F-150 Lightning and Rivian’s long-anticipated R1T and R1S models when they are ready for the road.

##RVT1053b

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Daryl
1 month ago

When are they going to get serious and put motors on the trailer axles that can help tow vehicles and charge the trailer batteries on deceleration. I think these trailers would look bad with solar panels on them.

Phil Davis
1 month ago

For the cost of car and trailer I can buy a earth roamer or comparable that a lot more comfortable and useful, you can also live in them off grid for long periods.

Cliff
1 month ago

Thanks for the article. Despite the negative comments I believe there are many of us who appreciate the opportunity to read about alternative ways of “doing things”.
Change sometimes comes quickly as with flat screen TV . Use of seat belts ( oh the horror- I’ll be trapped) or the smoke free restaurants and hospitals ( darned if THEY will tell me what to do….they can just not breathe my effluent) took a bit more time to drag the science non-understanders into our social contract. Science and logic seem to have given way to ” opinion”, and this is sadly a bad reflection on our failing education system.

KellyR
1 month ago

Excellent article. Someone is currently experimenting and looking into the future. I will be driving a gasoline powered RV and cars the rest of MY life, but most likely not my grandkids. We are at the starting point where my grandparents were when they bought their first kerosene tractor to augment their stable of horses, BEFORE they got a car. Did you get that? – grandparents! – just two generations from me. My dad sold his horse (his only mode of transportation at the time) to have enough money to go to college on the train. Being at the dawn of a new era should be fun and amazing.
Oh, those darn charging stations being too close together for large rigs. I’ll bet that someday someone will have the bright idea to position them to accommodate big rigs, sorta like they figured out at truck/RV stops. ??

Jeffrey L Kirk
1 month ago

What is not disclosed is the fast majority of charging stations are NOT pull threw they are single vehicle pull in spots at businesses. Meaning if you are towing and you need a charge before charging you have to locate a spot to leave the trailer after you unhitch then go to the charger then come back and then rehitch. In addition, if the range before recharging is 235 miles and you only get 80% charge your TRUE range is 188 miles now if you want to recharge when you are at 10% charge you will be recharging every 170 miles or every 3 hours.

Rob
1 month ago

Let’s say you really do get a 330 mile range. That means towing resulted in a 28.8% loss of range. You need to fuel up before you run out of power, so would probably have a max range of 295 or even less. Subtract 35 miles from each of those figures and you’ve lost 1/3 of you maximum range if towing. And that is under the best of conditions.
Is that and acceptable loss of range?
What kind of loss is there using gas or diesel? I think that would be a good way to compare this.

1HasBeen
1 month ago

No time soon. Pfft.

captain gort
1 month ago

That bot is turning this into a typical clickbait rag. Too bad. Time to spam it.

captain gort
1 month ago

More BS. It just ain’t so. Those “tests” are in perfect conditions, brand new hardware, and doubtlessly slanted (as in downhill). Besides- the prices for these things- its like talking about a lush, earth-like planet with mountains of solid gold just waiting for greedy humans to exploit….and only1 light-year away! Lastly- AND IMPORTANT- these charging stations are NOT set up for rigs with trailers! You’ll have to unhitch our rig somewhere to hook up to the charger- or block all of the other spaces with REALLY ANGRY impatient drivers glaring at you, Mr. Yuppie- or worse!

garrett fricke
1 month ago
Reply to  captain gort

Those tests are BS. Read Road n Track or Car and Driver to get real results. Your new f150 EV will get not much more than 100 miles pulling a trailer. Pull into the EV recharge station and hope there isn’t a line then once you start “filling up”, what then? Sit down for lunch? Remember most EV’s do not charge nearly as fast as Teslas. 15 min is only going to get you 80% full then start looking for another filling station immediately.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

I still contend that electric vehicles are NOT the wave of the future. They are what the government is pushing – currently. The future propulsion for vehicles is not yet here or even being tested, though I like the hydrogen idea. The deciding factor will be the cost to the consumer – WITHOUT government subsidies. In the meantime, let’s stick with what works. Petroleum.

captain gort
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Electric is fine for SOME people. But these wild-eyed, myopic zealots currently occupying Washington are doing their darnest to force them down EVERYONE’S throat. Vote these nutscases out!

Thom
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

I still think hybrids are a good option. Excellent fuel economy, electric help when you need a few extra horsepower. Took our Prius to AZ with us last winter. DW followed me because car trailer was full of Harley and Rzr. Fuel mileage for the whole 6 month trip, lots of sightseeing, 10K miles, 50.1

Bob p
1 month ago

This article must’ve been written by the new robot journalist. There are so many off the wall comments it’s not even humorous. First you take a combination $410,000 RV that 90% of the public cannot afford, and you drive it like the EPA does for their testing. Duh! The EPA doesn’t drive on highways, they rely on manufacturers to give them the info, when they did do testing way back in the beginning it was done in a lab that didn’t even account for wind resistance. Second the trailer has enough electricity to drive cross country no stop. What’s it going to do? Push the Tesla after its battery dies. Time to unplug the bot for 30 seconds so it can reset. In stead of printing all this hoopla about EVs why don’t you start asking pertinent questions and getting real facts. You are misleading the general population terribly about EVs. Until the power companies start spending billions on upgrading the grid, recharging companies start installing stations that an RV could get its a dream.

Jim Prideaux
1 month ago

Technology is being refined. Electric is the coming thing. Internal combustion engines will go the way of steam engines.

Dave
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Prideaux

100%. Less parts, less maintenance, better features, and gets you from a to b in the same manner. The process in which we get there is disturbing though. Please government readers, keep drilling until electric is actually available, meets range needs, and more manufacturers exist.

JFrench
1 month ago

LOL my 22′ R-Pod weighs more than that Bowlus. Let’s hitch the Tesla to a 7000 lb less-aerodynamic unit and tow at 65 mph. Oops…never mind. The X has a 5000-lb towing limit.

Last edited 1 month ago by JFrench

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