Tales of Towing With Our Rivian R1T 2023

Electric motors are incredible for pulling trailers, however batteries? Not so much.

As we have stated repeatedly, electric-powered motors are top-notch at transferring heavy things. Instantaneous height torque and a lot of horsepower make hauling heavy hundreds and pulling large trailers a breeze. It’s battery technological know-how that struggles when you enlarge the vehicle’s blended weight by means of hundreds of kilos and mess with its aerodynamics. Is it sufficient to put us off EV towing entirely? We determined to locate out.

MotorTrend contributor Derek Powell is no stranger to towing, frequently trailering his Porsche Cayman GT4 to racetracks around southern California. We loaned him our long-term 2022 Rivian R1T Launch Edition to tow his auto up to Buttonwillow Raceway Park in the Central Valley north of Los Angeles for a song day and once more to purchase a used Fiat 500e for commuting from a vendor up north in the Bay Area. These are his stories.—Ed.

Take It To The Track ( Rivian R1T )


I have done what I set out to do—I can tow my auto over the Grapevine (an infamous 40-mile climb to 4,144 toes on I-5 north of Los Angeles) and to Buttonwillow on a single charge. Car plus trailer is about 3,800 pounds, and the pressure is a hundred and twenty miles one way from my domestic in L.A. to Buttonwillow. I reached the top of the Grapevine with an even 50 percent cost remaining. The R1T even received two percent returns on the way down with regenerative braking! Made it to the music on a single cost with 32 percent remaining. I stored my pace between sixty-five and 70 mph the complete way, and the truck estimated a 160-mile vary with that sort of driving. I’m guessing I ought to do about 200 miles on a flat floor at sixty-five mph.

As it turns out, getting there was once the handy part. The logistics of charging leave a lot to be desired, though. Having a 32 percent cost ultimate was once properly inside my alleviation level, however, how do you cost as soon as you are there? How do you get to the motel and back?


So I plugged into one of Buttonwillow’s RV spots. A Buttonwillow employee shortly got here to inform me I could not use their electricity. “How is this any distinct from the use of an outlet in the garage?” I asked. You ought to inform them he hadn’t idea that one via and he left me and the Rivian to charge.

Some of the garages on the website online did have NEMA 14-50 plugs, however, a lot of them are not truly grounded, so the Rivian’s transportable charger would not work. Buttonwillow additionally has Tesla chargers at its new track, however with NACS compatibility nonetheless a few years away, that would not assist me now. Track strength going out for a few hours did not help, either.


I could not always count numbers on public DC speedy chargers. There are Electrify America stations up the street in Lost Hills, however in addition to being in the incorrect direction, one of them had been out of order at the time.

All of this intended I could not depart Buttonwillow with a full charge, so I departed Sunday night time with my Porsche putting off the R1T’s rear bumper and an 89 percent charge. Unlike the northerly course of the Grapevine, going south is brutally steep. I reached the summit with solely 34 percent closing and an estimated vary of simply forty-four miles. Those numbers held regular for the whole gradual descent. Hitting Newhall Pass (a climb returned up to 1,755 feet) used to be the subsequent vary killer, placing me at 20 percent battery life. I stored the velocity regular at sixty-five mph, and decided to make it home—and I did, somehow, with 12 percent remaining. Even though I did not have a full cost leaving Buttonwillow, I nevertheless made it domestic on simply that charge.

Worrying about charging aside, as a tow vehicle, the Rivian was once great. Electric torque is exquisite for steep hills (battery willing), and the onboard air compressor got here is available for placing tire pressures on the track. I do desire the R1T to feature a two-wheel-drive tow option. Who wishes the grunt of 4 pushed wheels whilst cruising at parkway speeds? The Tesla Semi, after all, disconnects its rear pressure axle as soon as up to pace to enhance efficiency.

Some of the power aids should be higher when a trailer is attached, too. I’m amazed the Rivian does not lengthen the blind spot when towing like different producers do. Adaptive cruise manipulation is not available, either—just regular. And why is not there a resume function for cruise control? The show additionally saved reminding me that the aspect and rear sensors had been deactivated in the course of towing. I know, Rivian, I know. Stop telling me each and every time an auto comes up on my six.

In For The Long Haul

After my day driver used to be totaled, I wished for a metropolis runabout to tide me over till I should change it. I observed a 2015 Fiat 500e up in Walnut Creek, California (east of San Francisco), with only 22,000 miles. Perfect. The hassle is the Fiat’s minuscule 24-kWh battery gives a max vary of eighty-four miles, and its charging is constrained to Level 2, which ability it takes 4 hours to get a full charge. Driving it returned would be impossible, so I borrowed MT’s R1T again. Electric towing electric—it’s the future, right?

I realized a lot from my journey towing the Porsche up to Buttonwillow, and I left for this outing a bit greater mentally organized … or so I thought.

I comprehend this has been crushed to death, however charging stations simply don’t seem to be designed for humans towing things. They’re commonly bunched facet by way of facet in crowded parking lots. It’s tough ample gain access to them unladen, let by myself dragging a trailer through haphazard rows of densely parked cars.

By this point, I’d emerge as especially adept at getting around this unavoidable obstacle. I’d seem to be for an area to drop and invulnerable the trailer, cost up, then reconnect and go on my way. I had the complete manner down to simply a few minutes.

The largest inconvenience was once discovered the sufficient house to drop the trailer. It used to be much less of a difficulty on the I-5 hall the place the desolate areas of the chargers had been without a doubt an advantage. Reconnecting the trailer was once pretty convenient thanks to the R1T’s backup camera. I ought to have used a bit extra feather creep in the throttle for these remaining micro-adjustments of lining up the ball and hitch, however, I managed.

Towing provides a totally greater stage of approach to riding an electric-powered vehicle. Los Angeles to Walnut Creek is roughly 350 miles. With an empty trailer, the Rivian’s vary is an excellent chunk shy. Add a 3,000-pound car, and the very drops even further.

That does not simply imply stopping greater often. It additionally capacity calculates distances between chargers to the mile to decrease greater stops. But in some places, the chargers don’t seem to be spaced intently between exits earlier than you have to stop, so you are no longer the use of all of the vary you have.

Once you stop, you have to wait whilst the truck charges. And wait. And wait. On average, it took fifty-three minutes to supply the ninety kWh I wished to continue to the Rivian’s battery. It’s not possible to format an arrival time when every charging session has a vastly unique outcome. In some cases, I spent more time refilling the Rivian’s battery than I did on the avenue depleting it. The nice charging charge I skilled used to be a short top of a hundred ninety kW, taking the battery from four percent to seventy-one percent in 39 minutes. Other drivers of the MT Rivian have considered peaks above 200 kW, inclusive of an all-time excessive of 218 kW, however now not this time. The battery used to be probably warm from towing, and warm batteries, like bloodless ones, cost slower. Pre-conditioning the battery can do an awful lot when it is working hard.

Electrify America’s notoriously unpredictable charging community balanced out the excessive of a hundred ninety kW with a pitiful 27 kW at another. It took three stops to cover the distance. Three extra hours on a day trip that typically takes five. And when I arrived in Walnut Creek on anything the EV equal of fumes is, there was once solely one working 100-kW EVgo charger inside the neighborhood of the Fiat seller’s house. It took two greater hours to get the Rivian ample juice to make it out of Walnut Creek and to a 350-kW station in Livermore. By this time, it was once nearly midnight. I made it from Dublin, California, to Patterson—about 50 miles—before I referred to as it a night.

The subsequent day was once extra of the identical drive-short-charge-longer frustration. At one stop, whilst electrons trickled into the battery at a pitiful double-digit kW rate, I was puzzled if trying the force in the 500e would have been any greater frustrating.

I made it domestic with my Fiat, however, my bold format to do the theoretically 10-hour round-trip pressure in one day went properly out the window. Instead, it took two full days. Most of that was once down to the slow, unreliable chargers that are few and ways between even in California, forcing me to end when I nonetheless had lots of very left (but now not adequate to make the subsequent charger) and for longer than I planned. The brief towing vary is a hassle regardless, however, it is a much, an awful lot greater hassle when amplified via awful infrastructure.

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