Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) noshockzone.org with the subject line – JAM. Today I’m discussing electric vehicles to be towed, and charging EVs at the campground.
We’ve been anxiously following your GoGreenRV postings about EVs for towing (maybe a few years in the future) and EV toads (possibly sooner rather than later). So my husband and I are really thinking about some kind of small EV for towing behind our Class C RV.
Do you have any info yet on possible candidates for an EV toad that can be towed 4-down?
And what about charging them? Are any manufacturers designing them so your EV toad can be recharged while being towed?
How about charging them at a campground? Can you simply plug an EV into a pedestal outlet overnight? Any info would be great! —Millie and Dan
Dear Millie and Dan,
First of all, thanks for watching my EV adventures on the GoGreenRV Facebook group and YouTube channel. As you probably know, I’ve already done towing tests with a Volkswagen ID.4 EV and a Ford F-150 PowerBoost hybrid truck.
I have lots more tests and demonstrations planned this fall and winter, as soon as more EVs become available from the media pools.
What I don’t know…
Because a lot of what we’re seeing on television ads for EVs is basically vaporware, and there’s a tremendous shortage of silicon chips and other parts, the dates when these promised electric vehicles will hit the streets have been pushed back by a year or more.
So I can’t answer your questions about EV 4-down towing yet, nor will any manufacturer commit to an EV toad that can be charged while towing. But I keep asking for more info all the time. So stay tuned!
What I do know…
There’s a class of Level-2 EV chargers that are not only weather-resistant, they also come with a standard NEMA 14-50 plug. That’s right, this is the same connector found on 50-amp RV shore power cords and campground pedestals. Neat-o!
These Level-2 chargers all work on 240 volts (which is what any campground pedestal or home charger outlet should be wired for) and up to 40 amps of current (that’s 9,600 watts).
Now, if a campground will allow you to use the extra electricity (most likely with a surcharge), that suggests you could completely recharge a toad with a 75kWh battery from 0 to 100% SoC (State of Charge) in about 8 to 9 hours. So an overnight recharge would easily charge your EV-toad.
Do I have one to test?
You bet your sweet bippie I do. I just received a demo Level-2 EV charger from Mustart which has the appropriate NEMA 14-50 connector. This model has adjustable charging rates from 15 to 25, up to 40 amps at 240-volts. That’s great because you don’t have to overload your local power grid with a quick EV charge, when an overnight charge at lower amperage will suffice. I call that being a friendly EV neighbor.
In any event, a kWh is kWh so it will cost the campground (or you) the same amount of money from the power company no matter if you charge it at 40 amps or 15 amps. That’s just like filling up your ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle’s gas tank at a pump.
When will you test it?
Soon, but I’m not sure exactly when. I have a local campground I can try out, so I’m just waiting on another loaner RV for the experiment. So, as soon as I get an EV to try this out on, I’ll kick the tires and light the fires, as it were. If you can’t wait for me to test one, you can purchase one from Mustart on Amazon HERE.
I’m on the short list (I think…)
I’m on the short list of the Rivian, Ford, GM and Volkswagen EV media pools, so as soon as they can free one up for me for a week I’ll snag it and do a few mileage and charging tests. I REALLY want to test the Rivian, but the GM EV Hummer would be a real crowd pleaser.
However, beggars can’t be choosers, so I’ll take anything I can get to play with. Right now I’m at the tender mercies of the EV media departments, but I’m working on it!
OK, everyone. Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it.
Let’s play safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
And you don’t want to miss Mike’s webcasts on his YouTube channel.
For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign
Am I the only one who thinks Jeep should make an EV version of the Cherokee and Wrangler, with a dual motor system that feeds the transfer case, and you can flat tow them as easily as you currently do. Now, a question for you Mike. Will the EV industry settle on a single adapter plug? With CHadeMo, J1776, Tesla and other formats, can’t we come up with a standard like the tank inserts for gas and diesel have universal (albeit different) fitting?
Edit: That link goes to the extension cord. Do you mean that we should buy these instead?? That link you posted appears to attach to this product.
The link is to a portable Level-2 charger you can use in a campground. Yes, it’s essentially a NEMA 14-50 to J1776 extension cord with the appropriate control and safety circuits that talks to the EV’s charge controller. Would be nice if everyone had adopted a single EV charging standard, but Elon Musk doesn’t play nice with others and pretty much does his own thing.
In the 11+ years I’ve been RVing I’ve stayed in LOTS of campgrounds / RV parks. In all that time, I’ve NEVER seen an “EXTRA” 50A pedestal (say in an overflow parking area or just in a “regular” RV site). I HAVE seen where, usually during a rally, TWO or more RVs are jammed in so that multiple RVs can get electricity from one pedestal (usually one RV on 50A one on 30A and one on the 15A outlets). I’ve wondered just how safe this “gang bang” is. I won’t be surprised if “extra” pedestals / EV Charging Stations are installed at some future time IF enough RVers get EV toads. I do NOT expect that to happen in the foreseeable future though. Now that I think about it, I’ve read where some SUPER high end RV parks that welcome Prevost and other super high end RVs that can use 240VAC power has that capability of providing 240VAC BUT, I don’t know if said power is provided in one pedestal or two (yes, I am aware that a properly wired “standard” RV pedestal does provide 240VAC).
I’ve heard of a number of RVers who use the 30-amp pedestal outlet to power their RV and the 50-amp outlet to charge their EV. Still a lot of extra load at 40 amps, but not too bad at 15 amps EV charging.
I would like to add a word of caution. Given the poor record that RV parks have for installed electrical supplies, I think it will be difficult to have a large constant load on any single site without all the others suffering from low voltage. Most 50 amp loads are intermittent, and we all know what happens in an RV park when all the sites have two air conditioners running.
Campground electrical infrastructure is pretty much stuck in the ‘80s when air conditioners were rare and parks weren’t at 100% capacity for the entire season. And now we have EVs that need to be charged. Something’s gotta give…
It may present an opportunity for campgrounds with old infrastructure as there will likely be government subsidies they can access and upgrade the whole campground electrical system at little or no cost to the owner. At the very least the subsidies should provide separate charging stations in a separate area where campers would park their EV toads to charge.
With all the talk of EV’s the facts are a car with a 4 cylinder gas engine vs a EV from an ecological stand point is much greener. When you factor in the mining of rare earth and the processing which is the dirtiest mining there is plus the problem of recycling lithium batteries and the manufacturing of the car, the gas 4 cylinder wins.
You have good points, but over a car’s lifetime the EV wins out. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/26/lifetime-emissions-of-evs-are-lower-than-gasoline-cars-experts-say.html
Agreed. But initial ‘losses’ or negatives are not a reason to not try.
Edison burned through a 1000 filaments before perfecting the light bulb.
Methane capture on quadriped farms really does work but is hard to scale and still releases carbon when you burn it (but not as much). Are these reasons to stop trying?
Have you read my article on the new Lithium Extraction Pilot Plant at the Salton Sea in California? It could provide 1/3 of the world’s need for Lithium, and reduce emissions from traditional mining methods by 98%. https://www.rvtravel.com/rv-electricity-salton-sea-lithium/
I believe that American ingenuity is the best in the world, and we can figure out how to make this work without going broke!
So are you an advocate of Aluminum-Air batteries instead? You throw up a classic Strawman argument, but offer zero solutions.
An enterprising full-timer set his rig up to charge his Tesla using the same plug his coach was plugged into simultaneously. Interesting approach.
Looks like a great article and lots of links to other RV projects. Will read further when time allows.
However, when we use RV pedestals to obtain hundreds of Ah’s for free we accelerate the time when electricity at the RV park will no longer be included in the price.
Just like most people I would love to drive my toad for free, I’m just asking people not to do that.
If your EV toad could recharge itself only while your motorhome is decelerating or braking on a down grade, your toad charging could be completely free due to regenerative braking.
New to EVs here, so I hope this isn’t too dumb a question. I read somewhere that the Rivian you showed has four motors – one for each wheel. Wouldn’t towing require somehow disconnecting all four motors from the drive shaft?
No need to disconnect the motors. All EV electric motors are generators when coasting or during dynamic braking, so this is just a software change to tell the motor/generators how to behave while being towed.
There’s a Youtube video out there of someone tow charging his Tesla with a Mercedes. He gets it done, but it may have cost him a transmission in the Mercedes. Some people’s kids.
As of right now there are no EVs that can be flat towed because there is no way to disconnect the drive motors from the wheels, I would imagine a FWD EV could be towed with a tow dolly just as FWD ICE cars are now.
Now thinking about it I do remember a few years ago seeing a Nissan Leaf being towed that way. I didn’t get a chance to talk with them so I don’t know anymore.
Ford was awarded a patent this year that would allow their EVs to be recharged while being flat towed, and use regenerative braking when the tow vehicle decelerates. No word yet on when that technology will hit the streets, but I keep asking my Ford media contact.
was really surprised on this one. Rivian showed this a few years ago on the TV Show Long Way Up, but never requested a patent. They towed the Rivians to charge them. The patent game is out of control. It’s like amazon’s patent on one click checkout. Should be common sense.
No need to disconnect the electric motors since they spin all the time while coasting or regenerative braking. It’s a software change to do this.
Thank you Mike. No-one knows the answers until someone tests! Will 4 wheel generation ‘cost’ more in drag and wear than paying for a plug in? Especially from renewable or clean grid generation.
I’ve been following the subject of towing an EV for many years, currently tow and charge a CMAX at every campsite and am an early order holder for a Rivian, primarily because they originally said the Rivian would be towable 4-down. However in a recent letter to some of us, RJ (CEO) recently stated that the Rivian is not towable 4-down. While Yes you can tow it for a while to recharge, (a few miles), you will do damage to the electric motors if towed for extended miles. Exact numbers were not provided of what ‘extended’ means.
From an engineering perspective (Yes I am an engineer with a masters degree) this is do-able. But it requires design decisions from the automaker (Software and hardware) and no EV vehicle has been made yet that can do this. The closest thing is the Ford CMAX Energie, which I’ve owned for the last 8 years. Great little toad and I do charge it at the RV pedistal from the 110-15a plug. Since it’s just a plugin-hybrid it works great and doesn’t take that long, small battery. I have had friends visit me at an RV site with their EV and we simply unplug my coach (a Prevost) and plugin their charger. Works great. Like all of our electricity infrastructure it needs to be upgraded to support a significant shift to EV vehicles, including RV facilities. I’m still waiting on a real 100% EV Motorcoach, but I’ve been told by the big guys (Prevost & Newell) that this will be a while yet. In the meantime i’m still hopeful we’ll soon have a true EV as a toad. Ford, Rivian, GM? Come on guys!
Watched a Prius being towed on a 2 wheel dolly today. Roaring down I-10, heading into Florida.