The Model S Real Towing Capacity


The Model S Real Towing Capacity

The towing capacity is a factor many people take into consideration when they are thinking of getting a car. They want to be sure they can tow their bicycles, kayaks, or trailer to their favorite vacation spot. However, what about electric vehicles, specifically the Tesla Model S?

The Tesla Model S’s real towing capacity is unknown because the Model S has not been approved as a towing car. Therefore, Tesla has not released any official specifications regarding towing capacity. However, some hitches claim to tow upward of 2,000 pounds with the Model S.

Understanding the specifications of the Tesla Model S and the stress towing can put on an electric vehicle is important. It allows you to make the right decision when choosing your car. Read on to discover all you need to know about the Model S real towing capacity, electric cars and towing, and more.

The Real Towing Capacity of the Model S

Tesla has several models of electric cars you can choose from. However, not all of them are equal when it comes to towing capacity. The models they offer are as follows:

  • Model 3
  • Model S
  • Model X
  • Model Y

Now, these four models are all similar, but they do differ in several ways. One of them is the towing capacity. For example, the Model X is equipped to tow trailers and other items while the others are not.

Consider what the Model X is capable of. It is built to tow up to 5,000 pounds, which is perfect for a trailer or a camper. When the Model X was announced to have a towing capacity, it was set apart from any other electric car. The reason? Most electric cars cannot tow.

So, when considering the towing capacity of the Tesla Model S, it is important to remember that it was not certified to tow. Therefore, when companies make trailer hitches for the Model S, you have to take this lack of certification into account. You will, essentially, be towing at your own risk.

The real towing capacity of the Model S is unknown as Tesla has never released that information. However, there are hitches available that claim to tow up to 2,000 pounds for the Model S. Moreover, this is at the driver’s own risk, and you may need permission from local authorities to fit your Model S with such a hitch.

The Tesla Model S and Its Towing Capabilities

The Tesla Model S is the main model of the electric cars that Tesla manufactures. It just recently got a refreshed look and an update nicknamed “Raven.” It has been on the market since 2014, and it has several variations you can choose from.

The Model S’s Raven suspension system makes driving the Model S a very comfortable, smooth ride. Moreover, it features an updated “Raven” powertrain system, which includes two motors located in the front and the rear of the vehicle.

Despite these updates and the popularity of the Model S, it has never been certified to tow anything. There are a few elements you need to consider when researching why this is.

  • The Tesla Model S was never certified to tow. As mentioned, all vehicles must be officially certified to tow. Once a vehicle is certified to tow, the official tow capacity and other specifications are made available. If a vehicle is not certified to tow, then it is technically against the law to tow with it. 
  • The electrical components can reduce the range of the vehicle. When a vehicle tows a trailer of any kind, there are electrical components that are attached to the trailer. While some hitches do not have electrical components, most do. These electrical components can reduce the range of the Model S.
  • The Model S warranty may be voided. Since the Model S was never certified to tow, if you do modify it to tow, you could be in direct violation of the warranty. So, if something were to happen, the warranty would no longer cover your vehicle.

Taking a closer look at each of these elements will provide more in-depth information that will help you make the right decision regarding the Model S.

The Tesla Model S Was Not Made to Tow

As already mentioned, the Tesla Model S was not designed to tow anything. However, this has not stopped folks from fitting it with a tow hitch of some kind. However, any driver who does this does so at their own risk.

It does not matter what equipment you use, when you try to make something do something it was not made to do, you are creating potential issues.

The Model S can be fitted with small bike racks that can be placed in the rear of the vehicle. Several companies manufacture these and say that they are compliant with local laws. These bike racks do sometimes have electrical considerations but others do not.

When it comes to tow hooks, which are used to pull trailers and campers, it gets a bit more difficult. Since the Model S was never designed with towing in mind, fitting a Model S with a tow hook is problematic. While some companies may claim that they have created law-compliant tow hooks for the Model S, you would still be using it at your own risk. It is difficult to know what the Model S can handle when it comes to towing.

While it is possible that someday the Model S will be certified to tow and be given an official towing capacity, which may or may not exceed the current estimate of 2,000 pounds, right now, it is not advisable.

Electrical Components Reduce the Vehicle’s Range

Trailer hitches need electricity when on the road. The reason? The trailer is placed behind the vehicle and therefore needs to have the rear lights and blinkers to drive safely on the road. The trailer must be fitted with electrical wirings that connect to the vehicle.

However, since an electric car runs entirely on electricity, to begin with, these electrical components of the trailer (or camper) put stress on the electrical system of the car. The range of the Model S, which is around 390 miles (one of the longest of any electric vehicle), will be greatly reduced, perhaps by 60%. There are a few reasons for this decrease in range:

  • Electrical components.
  • Weight of the car.
  • Weight of the trailer.

For example, if the Model S’s range is at 390 miles, this means that the Model S can travel, without charging, the entire 390 miles. If it were to tow a trailer or a camper, and that range was decreased by 50%, it could only go about 195 miles without charging.

The Model S Warranty May Be Voided

The warranty of the Model S is an important feature of the Tesla line. They are generous warranties that help protect the vehicle. However, if someone decides to modify the Model S with a trailer hitch or hook, which it is not built for, it can void the warranty.

The warranty cannot cover unofficial changes to the vehicle, which the towing hook or hitch would fall under. Since the vehicle is not certified to tow, if someone were to alter the car (such as the electrical elements needed for a trailer or camper) they would be making an unauthorized (and unprotected) change to the vehicle.

The towing capacity of the Model S may be around 2,000 pounds, which is not official. However, if you were to attach a hitch or hook to the Model S, your warranty may be voided, which you do not want.

Electric Cars and Towing

When thinking about the towing capacity of the Model S from Tesla, it is important to consider the towing capabilities of all electric vehicles currently in production. While some, like the Model X from Tesla, do have towing capacities and are certified to tow, it does not mean that it is the right choice.

For many, electric cars are not yet at the point where they are viable options for towing. The degradation in range is one of the biggest factors affecting the towing capabilities of electric vehicles. Nobody wants to be driving with a trailer and have to stop for a significant period to recharge the battery in their vehicle.

There are a few things to consider when thinking about electric cars and their ability to tow. Consider the following:

  • Other Tesla models can tow. The Model S cannot tow, but other Tesla models can, though each has a different towing capacity to be aware of.
  • Electric car ranges go down. As mentioned, all electric vehicles’ ranges go down when towing. Other factors, such as the weight of the car and the incline of the road can impact the range further.
  • The weight of the car matters. Electric vehicles weigh more than regular, gas-powered vehicles, and this makes it more difficult for them to tow properly.
  • Most electric vehicles are not certified to tow. Even in 2021, most electric cars that are manufactured are still not certified to tow. This is indicative of the larger issue that electric cars are not the preferred machines to tow trailers or campers.

These considerations aside, the towing capabilities of an electric vehicle, such as the Model S, are not going to be as good as a gas-powered car, at least not at the moment.

Other Tesla Models Can Tow

While the Tesla Model S is not designed to tow, nor is it certified to tow, Tesla’s other electric vehicles can tow. For whatever reason, the Model S is the only model of Tesla that does not have true towing capabilities.

Taking a look at the other Tesla models is important to get a clearer picture of what the true towing capacity of the Model S would be if an official capacity was released. The following Tesla models have towing capabilities, though each is slightly different.

  • Model 3. The Model 3 electric vehicle has an official towing capacity. The towing capacity of the Model 3 is 2,000 pounds, which is about what the estimated potential towing capacity of the Model S might be.
  • Model X. The Model X electric vehicle has the highest towing capacity of any Tesla model, which comes in at 5,000 pounds.
  • Model Y. The Model Y electric vehicle by Tesla comes in between the Model 3 and the Model X in terms of towing capacity. The towing capacity of the Model Y comes in around 3,500 pounds.

When looking at the three other Tesla models, the range of towing capacity is between 2,000 pounds and 5,000 pounds. The Model S, while currently without a towing capacity, is probably closer to 2,000 pounds. This is because the few towing hitches that do exist for the Model S, allow for up to 2,000 pounds to be pulled. However, this is conjecture and you tow at your own risk with the Model S.

Electric Car Range Goes Down

As mentioned before, the range of the electric car will go down when it is towing a trailer or a camper. Several factors go into this, but it is consistent across all electric cars.

Consider the following factors that bring down the range of the vehicle as it is towing a trailer or a camper.

  • Weight of the car.
  • Weight of the trailer or camper.
  • Incline of the road.
  • Speed of the car.
  • Drag coefficient.
  • Resistance.
  • Ancillary systems of the vehicle.

Towing puts a lot of stress on the vehicle in question, and these factors are all working simultaneously on the road trip. The result? The range of the car decreases. Therefore, you would have to recharge before you make your destination.

Unfortunately, recharging an electric vehicle is not as quick as filling your tank up with gasoline. Even if you had a supercharger, it could still take almost forty-five minutes to complete a full recharge. If you do not have a supercharger, it could take hours.

This is not convenient at all for those wishing to tow with their electric vehicle. It may be okay for short distances, but you must calculate this ahead of time to ensure you do not get stuck somewhere. These variables will be even more uncertain if you were to tow with the Model S since there are no official diagnostics about towing for that vehicle.

The Weight of the Vehicle Matters

It is important to remember that the weight of the vehicle matters. A gasoline-powered car is going to weigh far less (sometimes around 1,200 pounds less) than an electric vehicle. This may surprise some, but once you look at why it weighs more, it begins to make sense.

Consider that an electric vehicle has large battery packs that weigh much more than the components of a gasoline-powered car. These battery packs paired with the weighty powertrain on Tesla vehicles, which have multiple, heavy motors, cause a significant increase in weight.

When the vehicle weighs this much more, there will be more stress put onto the brakes and transmission of the car. This can cause the car to have a difficult time towing. Moreover, the weight of the trailer or camper adds even more stress on top of that.

This weight issue is the main reason why many vote against towing with an electric vehicle. While they may be okay for shorter distances, they may not be okay for longer distances. Moreover, since the Model S does not have official towing capabilities, these issues can become magnified.

Most Electric Vehicles Are Not Certified to Tow

In the end, most electric vehicles are not certified to tow. The Tesla Model S is not the only electric vehicle that does not have official towing capabilities. This does not stop folks from trying, however. It is not recommended to tow with a vehicle that has not been certified.

Why is this important? When an electric vehicle has been granted certification to tow, it means it has been deemed safe to do so with the aforesaid vehicle. A certified electric vehicle means that you do not have to worry about odd mishaps happening with the towing capabilities.

Additionally, the towing mechanisms will be covered by the warranty on the car because it is part of the vehicle.

The Model S, however, is not certified. Many are not certified, and this is why many people do not use electric vehicles for their towing needs. The Model S’s estimated towing capacity notwithstanding, it is not recommended to try and tow with the Model S. However, there are options if you want to try, but there are many risks that come with this course of action.

Conclusion

The real towing capacity of the Tesla Model S is not truly known because it is not officially certified to tow. However, based on certain aftermarket hitches, the towing capacity of the Model S is presumed to be around 2,000 pounds. Other Tesla models do, however, have the certification to tow.

Electric vehicles as a whole, though, are not generally considered the best option to tow a trailer or a camper. While they are okay for external bike racks, towing can dramatically affect their ability to travel long distances. You will need to recharge your vehicle before you reach your destination.

Moreover, you do not want to void your warranty. While the real towing capacity of the Model S is most likely around 2,000 pounds, it is best not to alter the vehicle to tow. 

Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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