Top Tools, Gear & Apps for Towing with an EV

Top Tools, Gear & Apps for Towing with an EV
Important tips for towing a travel trailer with an electric vehicle.
By: Becca & Brian Roy

If you read our last article, you may remember us mentioning planning is everything when it comes to towing a travel trailer with an electric vehicle (EV). Thankfully, there are a lot of apps, resources, and tools available to make that process simpler. 

Top 3 Apps You’ll Want for Towing with an EV

After several trips with our Winnebago Micro Minnie in the books, we’ve narrowed down our go-to list of apps we use to get where we need to go.

1. A Better Route Planner iPhone app 

  • ABRP is useful for pre-planning our route. This app provides visibility to charging stations along our route. Most importantly, it allows us to enter expected energy consumption, so it can more accurately calculate our mileage while towing. This is critical to getting this rig where it needs to go. 
  • This is not a great app for turn-by-turn navigation, but gives a very accurate range model based on your towing consumption.
creenshots of A Better Route Planner and PlugShare apps.

2. PlugShare

  • Useful for finding charging stations along our route. Although both of the other apps provide this info, PlugShare has the most comprehensive data set of charging stations. This app includes charging station providers that the others don’t. It also has user comments and photos, so we can get a sense of what the station is like and even what it looks like.  We can also filter on the types of chargers we want to use, simplifying our view within the in-app map. 
  • Not great for trip planning when towing a trailer. 

3. Tesla’s Built-In Software 

  • Useful for en route GPS and monitoring our energy consumption. Tesla’s own software, like ABRP, enables us to plan our route including charging stops. The navigation system included in the Tesla is much better than ABRP. It’s worth mentioning, navigation displays on a giant screen in the venter console, so there’s no need to fiddle with a phone while driving. 
  • Not great for accurately predicting energy consumption while towing i.e., will we make it to our destination? Although Tesla does record energy consumption and predict mileage remaining, it bases the forecast on the previous 30 miles. Therefore, until we have driven 30 miles towing, we can’t get a very good estimate of mileage left in the battery. 

Secondary apps we use to find and utilize for a limited number of providers’ chargers:

  • ChargePoint
  • FPL Evolution
  • EV Go

The majority of these ‘third party’ chargers require a fee that can vary significantly from one charger to another. 

Must-Have Tools: Charging Adapters

In addition to planning, the other critical part of EVing is the ability to actually charge. Tesla chargers are proprietary; therefore, we need adapters to use other providers’ equipment. If you are serious about getting into EV RVing, we highly recommend investing in additional adapters. They can be pricey, but not having them will limit your ability to charge. 

Most EVs are compatible with the SAE J1772, making them the most common, aside from Tesla. This is considered a level 2 in the industry and provides 11 kW per hour. Tesla’s come with this adapter for obvious reasons. But on the flip side, EVs that use the J1772 do not come with a Tesla adapter. We made the choice to purchase a CHAdeMO level 3 adapter. This one provides 50 kW per hour, making charging up much faster, but stations offering this option are not as common as the Tesla Supercharging Network.   

We also purchased an adapter so we can plug in at campsites that offer electricity. Best case scenario, we can charge off of a 50-amp outlet using a NEMA 14-50-amp adapter while still charging our Winnebago off of the 30-amp. But we also have additional adapters, a 15-, 20- and 30-amp, to keep our options open.

Adaptors We Regularly Travel With

These adaptors are used for various purposes and provide a variety of charging speeds.

  • 30-50-amp step down charging pigtail: Used when we come across a campground that only offers 30-amp service. This enables us to plug the 50-amp adapter into a 30-amp to charge at the max speed the 30 has to offer.
  • 50-amp adaptor: When our Winnebago is plugged into the 30, we’re able to plug the Tesla into the 50-amp charger. This usually brings our vehicle up to a full charge overnight (roughly 8 hours from a 10% level).
  • 5-15 (Rarely used): Enables us to charge off a 15-amp outlet at a 12-amp draw. This gives us 1kW/hour of juice. These plugs are rarely used, but necessary in a destination situation where your family or friends may not have a higher voltage plug to utilize when you’re staying for an extended period of time.
  • 5-20 (Rarely used): This plug enables us to charge off a 20-amp outlet at a 16-amp draw. This gives us 2kW/hour of juice. This is RARELY used, like the 5-15.
  • The Chademo Plug: Utilized for third party applications that allow up to 50kW/hr of charging. This expands our charging options outside of the Tesla network to increase our range in a minimal amount of time. 
  • Tesla Home Charger: Hooked up to a 60-amp breaker enabling up to 11-12kW/hr. This is the best ‘cell phone scenario.’ Just like your smart phone, regardless of the state of charge, you’re able to plug in the evening and have a full charge the next morning. 

Other Important EV Charging Notes

With more and more companies releasing electric vehicles, some with towing capabilities, they tend to advertise charging speeds.  A common discussion point I run into is the rate of charge off a household outlet.  

“I would never get an EV if it takes a few days to charge my car.” 

Neither would anyone else; we’ve utilized this charging speed once in the past five years and that was when we went up to Maine to visit family, knowing we didn’t have to use our car and ‘trickle charged’ off their outdoor outlet.  There are federal and state incentives for level 2 charging stations that the majority of EV owners have installed within their homes.

The main charging we use when traveling outside of our vehicle’s range is Tesla’s proprietary charging infrastructure which can put up to 250kW/hr of juice into our vehicle.  Other vehicles utilize Chademo or CCS Combo charging for stage 3 fast charging, but Tesla offers the most comprehensive and up-to-date infrastructure in the world at this time.  

The recently announced Ford F-150 Lightning is going to utilize the CCS Combo option for fast charging. While this is a fast and efficient means to charge, the infrastructure, at this time, is made up of multiple third-party stations, with varying rates, hours of operation, and the potential of being down without prior knowledge. This was an issue we ran into when using our Nissan Leaf and relying on the integrated Chademo charger to fast charge; we came across multiple stations that were either occupied, offline, or behind locked gates. 

How Do I Charge My Electric Vehicle at a Campsite?

Utilize the 50-or-30-amp outlet when at a campsite. In the rare occurrence you don’t have both a 30-and-50-amp hookup, you can plug your car into the 30 for an overnight charge.

Remember, when towing with an EV, planning is key; this means ensuring we utilize a nearby Supercharger before boondocking to get us through the trip with enough range to make it back to the next closest Supercharger.  If our route doesn’t take us close enough to a Supercharger, we will then utilize our apps (PlugShare) to locate a nearby Chademo charger giving us our second fastest option. 

Final Thoughts for Traveling in an EV

It can’t be said enough, planning is everything! The tools mentioned in this article have made that part easier. We will continue to use the Tesla Supercharger network which, at the time of this writing, is the most prevalent charging infrastructure out there. 

By using the apps mentioned above, we are able to see how many stations are open, which ones are out of service, and the speeds they offer for charging from any distance. And the adapters keep our options open. This enables us to plan accordingly and ensure we are enjoying our #WinnebagoLife instead of being stranded on the side of the road.

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