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Range and Charging While Towing a Trailer - 2016 Tesla Model X Long-Term Road Test

Edmunds.comEdmunds.com Posts: 10,059
edited July 2016 in Tesla
imageRange and Charging While Towing a Trailer - 2016 Tesla Model X Long-Term Road Test

Serious range and charging issues on the Supercharger network are revealed when towing an Off the Grid Rentals teardrop trailer behind our long-term 2016 Tesla Model X.

Read the full story here


Comments

  • daryleasondaryleason TexasPosts: 501
    Great write-up on the Tesla Model X. So...as a non-EV person...can you give me an idea of what the energy consumption equates to in MPG (they call it e-MPG, right)? Frankly, while I doubt you'd be "that guy" when the stalls were needed by others, I expect to see a lot of posts on Facebook of people calling out other drivers for blocking charging stations with a trailer if towing with an electric vehicle ever really becomes a thing. At lease, until they change the layouts.

    Y'all might want to look at creating an extension cable for extending out the connecting port.
  • adamb1adamb1 Cookeville, TNPosts: 122
    55 mph towing limit would drive me crazy. In Tennessee, I'm accustomed to towing a 6500#, 16' enclosed tandem trailer with the cruise set at 75 mph on the interstate. But, I'm also accustomed to getting 9 mpg while doing so.
  • daryleasondaryleason TexasPosts: 501
    adamb1 said:

    55 mph towing limit would drive me crazy. In Tennessee, I'm accustomed to towing a 6500#, 16' enclosed tandem trailer with the cruise set at 75 mph on the interstate. But, I'm also accustomed to getting 9 mpg while doing so.

    I've driven in Tennessee. I made the mistake of driving from Texas to Northern Georgia by going through Arkansas and Tennessee just so my son could see more of our country than the I-20 Corridor of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia. Tennessee is the most infuriating state I've ever driven through. I've literally observed Tennessean's stop at an intersection when the light was green, then go when it turned red. Also, turn signals (which I'm bad about NOT using), seems to mean "if you see the left signal blinking, than you can bet I'll either drive straight for 20 miles, or I'm actually telling you I'm going to go right." That, on a regular basis, would drive me crazier than being limited to 55 mph with a trailer.

    Side note for Texans driving through Arkansas. Don't get caught smoking a cigarette with a kid in the car. You will get stopped for it. I was lucky, and didn't get a ticket, but only because I had my windows down and the cop understood that I had no idea they had a law about it up there. I'm NOT bashing the cops on this. I was violating their law, he was extremely polite. Just FYI.
  • Excellent write up.
  • 5vzfe5vzfe Posts: 161
    Great write up and I like seeing the numbers. As much as I want to fully embrace electric cars, I can't imagine stopping every few hours - for a few hours. I hate stopping on road trips unless it's for gas or occasional food/rest stop, and the required hour+ charge time would kill me. Sometimes if I'm feeling too lazy to drag out the tent or want to go somewhere really remote, I'll fold the seats down into my 4Runner and toss a mattress into the back and call it good. Could the tesla accommodate something like that to avoid the trailer?
  • bankerdannybankerdanny Posts: 1,021
    Very interesting and about what I expected. Towing with a Tesla is really something that should be limited to around town one day use as this point.
  • actualsizeactualsize Santa Ana, CaliforniaPosts: 451
    edited June 2016

    Y'all might want to look at creating an extension cable for extending out the connecting port.

    Can't really do that. The length of the cord is critical. Supercharger cords are short (and very fat) for a reason: They're doling out 400+ volts at 400+ amps. These cord get very warm to the touch as it is. Any extra cord length would be a resistance problem that would--at best--slow things down even more or--at worst--cause damage to the car or the charging equipment up to and including fire. It could be done, I suppose, but in order to add no appreciable resistance such a cord would have to be as big around as a pool noodle, which would make it expensive, utterly un-coilable and quite heavy.

    Twitter: @Edmunds_Test

  • legacygtlegacygt Posts: 599
    I guess, as with most vehicles, most owners will never tow anything. Also, despite the supercharger network, which makes for good PR and nice road trip write ups by people who are paid to do this kind of thing, most EV owners are not taking long trips in these cars going from charger to charger. Just because it can be done, doesn't mean that many people will do it. EVs, for the time-being are best for shorter trips within 50-100 miles of home. Venture any further and your trip starts to be about the battery and not about whatever you were hoping to do. Finally, I'd point out that, thanks to the Falcon Wing Doors , Model X owners will have plenty of experience with annoyance, inconvenience and things taking longer than they should.
  • bloodyrbloodyr Posts: 11
    This sounds like my own personal hell. It's difficult to imagine EVs becoming mainstream until battery technology has drastically improved. If you could get 500 mile (non-towing) range and it charged in 30 minutes or less, then EVs would really take off. Until then, they will remain a niche product.

    Excellent writeup though!
  • kirkhilles1kirkhilles1 Posts: 860
    Wow, great details. Clearly the vehicle is not adequate for towing (might be cheaper to just ship the trailer there LOL) and spending almost as much time charging as driving would be completely unacceptable for a family trip. Great details though.
  • handbrakehandbrake Posts: 99
    I'm wondering why anyone would want a Model X, other than that minority of people who have little kids and want to use those gimmicky doors to make getting kids in and out of the car easier.

    The Model S makes plenty of sense for many people (I'm one of them...I have a Model S). The Model X seems to me to be an answer to a question nobody really is asking. You can't tow with this thing (unless you're willing to undergo the automotive equivalent of waterboarding). You can't put a roof rack/storage system on the thing because of those idiotic doors. If you have 5 people in that Model X, you won't have much room left for luggage and no roof racks or trailers means no road trips.

    With a traditional SUV/Crossover, you have no such concerns. If you want a Tesla, I can see getting a Model S. The Model X, however, has no obvious purpose other than conspicuous consumption. I see nothing that makes this an alternative to an SUV/Crossover.
  • bolotiboloti Posts: 47

    Great write-up on the Tesla Model X. So...as a non-EV person...can you give me an idea of what the energy consumption equates to in MPG (they call it e-MPG, right)? Frankly, while I doubt you'd be "that guy" when the stalls were needed by others, I expect to see a lot of posts on Facebook of people calling out other drivers for blocking charging stations with a trailer if towing with an electric vehicle ever really becomes a thing. At lease, until they change the layouts.

    Y'all might want to look at creating an extension cable for extending out the connecting port.

    The 612 Wh/mile converts to 54.6 MPGe. So better than a new Prius while towing.
    I agree that this was nail-biting experience. I would think a pop-up trailer would do better. Or not having the upper frame on top of this tear-drop. Perhaps lower-resistance tires on the trailer ? While I understand the choice, those a couple of things which were used to make this trip harder.
  • actualsizeactualsize Santa Ana, CaliforniaPosts: 451
    edited June 2016
    MPGe is not a cost metric. It is a BTU equivalency. It has more to do with greenhouse gasses. It has nothing to do with money. The relationship is 33.7 kWh = 1 gallon of gas. We should instead be talking about how many kWh it takes to go 100 miles, which is also on the label. But even that number is based on Level 2 charging and includes charging losses. Those are left out of the Wh/mile display on the dash.

    There's no point in trying to think of electricity in terms of gallons of gasoline, especially on the Supercharger Network, where the electricity is free anyway. The Model X is infinitely cheaper than a Prius on that basis, but so what?

    But my TIME is worth something. My time and the time of my vacation companions. Life's too short to spend two hours charging for every two hours spent driving -- at a snail's pace, no less.

    Twitter: @Edmunds_Test

  • fengshuifengshui Posts: 5
    You arrived at a number of your charging stops with over 60 miles of range left. That extends charging times quite a bit over arriving with less cushion. Do you feel your experience would have been different if you had driven it closer to zero? Do you think the usage was predictable enough that you could do so? What was the Tesla routing software telling you here? Was it recommending shorter charge intervals that you were just exceeding for caution, or something else?
  • handbrakehandbrake Posts: 99
    fengshui said:

    You arrived at a number of your charging stops with over 60 miles of range left. That extends charging times quite a bit over arriving with less cushion. Do you feel your experience would have been different if you had driven it closer to zero? Do you think the usage was predictable enough that you could do so? What was the Tesla routing software telling you here? Was it recommending shorter charge intervals that you were just exceeding for caution, or something else?

    The 60 miles of "range left" isn't actual miles of range. Take a look at what was happening....the Tesla would indicate a range of 250 miles (or so) with a full battery but it would only get about 130-150 or so of actual miles on that charge. So a 60 mile indicate range was only 30 actual miles of range left, and that wouldn't get them to the next supercharger.

  • fengshuifengshui Posts: 5
    handbrake said:

    The 60 miles of "range left" isn't actual miles of range. Take a look at what was happening....the Tesla would indicate a range of 250 miles (or so) with a full battery but it would only get about 130-150 or so of actual miles on that charge. So a 60 mile indicate range was only 30 actual miles of range left, and that wouldn't get them to the next supercharger.

    Right, my question is given the length of time it took to charge those unused 60 (30 actual) or 90 (45 actual) miles at the previous supercharger, does the author think he could have shaved significant time off of his charging by departing the previous SCs with less than a nearly full battery. Was the usage predictable enough that that would have made sense?

    For example, in Wickenberg, AZ, he charged for 1:50, then arrived at Cordes Junction with 97 miles of range, only to charge again for 1:30 and arrive in Flagstaff with 83 miles. Given the speedier charging available with an emptier battery, he might have been able shave a whole hour off of his charging time in those two stops alone by arriving at each with 20 miles of range, rather than more than 80 miles of range. That's what I'm asking about.
  • daryleasondaryleason TexasPosts: 501
    I wonder if Tesla's warranty includes not only a Calendar life, but also a charge cycle life. What kills batteries (at least, depending on who you ask), is how often the battery is fully discharged and then re-charged. Also, they say that a rechargible Li-Ion battery will develop a "memory" of it's charge state. So if you typically recharge at 30 percent, then what happens is, when you hit 30, it's basically a dead battery.
  • csubowtiecsubowtie Posts: 143
    This trip sounded absolutely miserable. BUT to provide a little defense, I currently have an SUV and small car. I also like to do my own landscaping work, home projects, and ride dirt bikes. So I have a 5x8 trailer that more than makes up for a truck bed. I rarely take said trailer on long trips, and so with this in mind, the towing abilities allow the Model X when combined with a small trailer, to perform short range hauling duties similar to a pickup. Maybe Edmunds can try something like that, next time somebody is moving across town or something. Ooh, or try pulling some jetskis to the local afterwork spot. That would add the extra fun of backing an electric vehicle into the water. It should be fine, but...
  • handbrakehandbrake Posts: 99
    fengshui said:

    handbrake said:

    The 60 miles of "range left" isn't actual miles of range. Take a look at what was happening....the Tesla would indicate a range of 250 miles (or so) with a full battery but it would only get about 130-150 or so of actual miles on that charge. So a 60 mile indicate range was only 30 actual miles of range left, and that wouldn't get them to the next supercharger.

    Right, my question is given the length of time it took to charge those unused 60 (30 actual) or 90 (45 actual) miles at the previous supercharger, does the author think he could have shaved significant time off of his charging by departing the previous SCs with less than a nearly full battery. Was the usage predictable enough that that would have made sense?

    For example, in Wickenberg, AZ, he charged for 1:50, then arrived at Cordes Junction with 97 miles of range, only to charge again for 1:30 and arrive in Flagstaff with 83 miles. Given the speedier charging available with an emptier battery, he might have been able shave a whole hour off of his charging time in those two stops alone by arriving at each with 20 miles of range, rather than more than 80 miles of range. That's what I'm asking about.
    I think it's pretty clear that he was finding energy consumption to be pretty unpredictable due to things like the strength of headwinds. So what you're suggesting seems to be a recipe for disaster.

    Had he run into some particularly bad headwinds, he'd have been on the side of the road waiting for a tow to the nearest charger (and he'd have been forced to leave that expensive trailer on the side of the road, unattended). And then, when the review included a picture of a stranded Model X, all the Tesla fanboys would have jumped all over Edmunds for having not charged to 100% at each stop.

    Maybe your theory would work on a known route that has been traveled numerous times to arrive at a fairly accurate understanding of actual kWh usage, but it would have been extremely reckless to have done it under the conditions of this test. Of course, only Dan can answer, but it seems to me that he already was pushing the reasonable limits of this vehicle's actual range with what he was doing.
  • fengshuifengshui Posts: 5
    handbrake said:

    I think it's pretty clear that he was finding energy consumption to be pretty unpredictable due to things like the strength of headwinds. So what you're suggesting seems to be a recipe for disaster.

    Of course, only Dan can answer, but it seems to me that he already was pushing the reasonable limits of this vehicle's actual range with what he was doing.

    I think there is some room for cutting it closer than he did, but my question has always been directed at Dan, as he was the one who was driving, so let's let him answer what he would be comfortable with now, given his experience.

    Okay, since I can't resist, let's look at the math, just to see if we can figure it out without Dan. Looking again at the Wickenburg -> Cordes Junction leg. Assume that instead of getting 635 Wh/mile, we go to the worst case situation, and assume consumption equal to the Cabezon leg (45% more consumption, or 923 Wh/mile). He consumed 151 Rated Miles on that leg. Increase that by 48%, to reflect consumption equal to the Cabezon leg, and he would consume 223.5 Rated Miles. That would leave 25 Rated Miles left in this worst-case scenario. So, we then again land in Dan's camp. How predictable was the increased usage on the Cabezon leg? Was it clear at the time that Cabezon was going to be worse than Wickenburg -> CJ?

    Another great example is the bonus charge in Cabezon, after only 40 miles of driving. While I agree with Dan's decision to stop here, he didn't need to do a complete Range Charge here. In Cabezon, he knows he only has 104 Real World miles to home, he's at 134 rated miles when he arrives. Yet he still does a full 1:16 charge to get back to 250. Given that it only took 163 Rated miles to make this leg, he could have just quickly charged to 200 Rated Miles (twice his Real World miles), left earlier, and struck at least 30 minutes off of the charging time. Now, that requires some confidence in the planning, and I'm curious if Dan thinks that he would have been comfortable doing that.
  • tom_in_mntom_in_mn Posts: 61
    So the Tesla is not smart enough to predict range correctly, or even close, based on recent milage? Don't all the typical trip computers do this? Telling you it's charged to 250 miles when you get half that is not very useful.
  • adamb1adamb1 Cookeville, TNPosts: 122
    Absolutely, Tennessee driving is some of the worst. Left lane bandits on the interstate everywhere. Secondary road drivers resolutely travelling at 15 mph under the posted limit. 90% of trailers with no operable lights. Bro Dozers everywhere. There used to be a tradition of signaling what the person in front of you is doing. So, someone would have a turn signal on then go straight after the car in front of them turned. "Hay-wagon" right-hand turns are infuriating. You know, swerve left then turn right...
  • misterfusionmisterfusion Posts: 471
    This whole exercise, while interesting & hugely informative, seems like a step backward in terms of automotive criticism.

    When Tesla and other mass-market electric cars (and particularly the Model S) first came out, there was a great deal of criticism along the lines of, "You can't do a cross-country trip in this thing, therefore it's a useless joke of a car." Such a notion is of course completely ignoring the intended purpose of the car, which is primarily urban & suburban trips & commuting, plus maybe weekend pleasure cruising. And society at large seems to have course-corrected to the point where I rarely hear that inane argument anymore.

    But now Tesla has put a trailer hitch on the Model X, and suddenly people are saying, "It turns out this car is not a good one-for-one replacement for a gas-powered tow vehicle!" Well...I'm positive that Tesla had no such thing in mind to begin with. As others have pointed out above, the hitch is so you can make the occasional cross-town U-Haul trip, or tow the jet-skis down to the beach. I'm sure Tesla would say, "Sure, you can try to tow cross-country, but it's not the highest and best use of the equipment...and good luck."

    tl;dr - This is like saying, "Well, it turns out my Porsche 911 is useless at backwoods camping...WTF, man?!?"
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 13,576
    Dan,
    Great story and for 'Leading from the front'.
    2017 Ford Fusion SE 2017 Ford F-150 Limited
  • actualsizeactualsize Santa Ana, CaliforniaPosts: 451

    But now Tesla has put a trailer hitch on the Model X, and suddenly people are saying, "It turns out this car is not a good one-for-one replacement for a gas-powered tow vehicle!" Well...I'm positive that Tesla had no such thing in mind to begin with. As others have pointed out above, the hitch is so you can make the occasional cross-town U-Haul trip, or tow the jet-skis down to the beach. I'm sure Tesla would say, "Sure, you can try to tow cross-country, but it's not the highest and best use of the equipment...and good luck."

    Where do I begin? Why 5,000 pounds, then? Why a 7-pin connector with electric brake pre-wiring? U-hauls and boat trailers either don't have brakes at all or they have hydraulic surge brakes. Electric brakes and 7-pin hookups are typically found on hard-sided box-trailers and camping trailer equipment--stuff with real heft and aerodynamic drag. What kind of in-town towing are we talking about? Renting a cement mixer from home depot? If they just wanted to have cursory towing they could have rated it at 2,000 pounds and supplied it with flat-4 wiring. The type of the equipment they decided to install and the rating they decided to give it says otherwise. And I didn't push it that hard with just 1,260 pounds. So basically, you can live in La Jolla and tow your Jet Skis to Mission Bay? That's it? And while we're on the subject, I wonder how this thing behaves when you back it down a boat ramp and submerge the rear axle up to the hub centerline to launch the boat.

    Twitter: @Edmunds_Test

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 4,994
    Towing with one of these might work better if the trailer is purpose built and has its own battery to supplement the car's battery.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    There you go - tow a bunch of batteries around. No range anxiety. :)
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 4,994
    edited June 2016
    That's just one idea, incorporating a battery and a hydrogen fuel cell into the trailer would be another. The door is open for ideas here and that's what the world really needs, ideas that can make something better. Imagine being able to extend the car's range to 1000 miles when towing. That would be pretty neat.
  • P90DL with the larger tires is kind of the worst case for towing. Things would have been more favorable if the Model X was a 90D with regular tires, which is rated to towing 5000lbs instead of just 3500lbs.

    Also it takes some getting used to optimizing range/chargetime because if you arrive with a closer to empty battery, the miles per hour charge rate is higher and you spend less time charging.
  • jimvan33jimvan33 Posts: 1
    We recently purchased and took our first trip with an Airstream 22 ft. Bambi Sport trailer pulled by our Tesla Model X 90D. GVWR is 4500 lbs. We loved it. We are planning a much longer trip soon. The problems you noted concerned me as well, especially the superchargers not being constructed for Tesla charging with a trailer. We did manage to easily use superchargers in Napa and Ukiah, CA, but for the most part travelled to RV parks where we charged at night as well. My wife jokes that we are starting the SLO! travel movement. I personally am quite happy to tow from 45 to 55 mph as a newbie, and our numbers for the 350+ miles we traveled ended up at about 550 wh/mile. Our purpose is to travel with a trailer, to do so doing the least amount of climate damage possible, and to enjoy ourselves. The X is a good first step toward this goal for us.
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