Colin-on-Cars: Electric vehicles – what about caravans?

While the electric car revolution is still in its infancy in South Africa, the growing move to battery electric vehicles (BEV) elsewhere in the world is showing there are still many obstacles to overcome – the latest highlighted in the recent WhatCar ‘Tow Car Awards’ where electric vehicles fell short.

With more than 98 000 registered caravans in South Africa, this form of holidaying is still extremely popular and needs to be taken into consideration in every decision relating to the move to BEV.

Hyundai Tucson

As part of the judging process for the awards, eight of the latest electric cars were range tested with and without a caravan.


The best performer managed 180 km while towing a caravan weighted to 85% of the car’s kerb weight (the maximum recommended), and the worst just 125 km. Meanwhile, the average drop compared with the range without a caravan on the same test route and in the same weather conditions was 54,6%.

By comparison, the fuel economy in a petrol or diesel car typically drops by around a third when towing, so it will be necessary to stop more often with an electric car. Plus, topping up is likely to be much more complicated.

None of the motorway services run by the three main operators in the UK currently allow caravanners to charge without first unhitching. And due to one-way systems, some make it impossible to get back from the chargers to the towing parking area.


What Car? editor Steve Huntingford says: “Electric car ranges have improved massively over the last decade, but towing is always going to reduce how far you can go on a charge, so it’s crucial the infrastructure is in place to support those who use their cars to pull a caravan or trailer. At the moment their needs feel like an afterthought, even though the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK is just eight years away.”

Audi Q5

For now, a model with a combustion engine remains the only suitable option for many caravanners, with the Audi Q5 40 TDI quattro diesel named the best car for towing in 2022.


Huntingford explained: “Stability has to be the number one priority when towing, and the Q5 is as solid and secure as they come. However, it also offers a fantastic blend of performance and practicality, and is cleaner and more efficient than traditional diesel models, thanks to mild-hybrid electric assistance.”

Before deciding on the overall winner in 2022, the judges handed out awards to cars in five different towing weight classes, ranging from up to 1 400 kg to more than 1 900 kg. They also named the best tow car for practicality and the best electric, plug-in hybrid and estate cars for towing.

In addition to taking the top prize, Audi won the 1 700-1 899 kg weight category with the Q5. 

Two other manufacturers also took home a brace of awards: Kia won the 1 900kg+ category with the Sorento 2.2 CRDi and best electric tow car with the EV6 77,4 kWh AWD, while Skoda won the up to 1 400 kg and 1 550-1 699 kg weight categories with the Scala 1.0 TSI and Karoq 2.0 TDI Evo 150 4×4 DSG respectively.


Testing was undertaken by matching eligible cars to caravans weighted to 85% of the car’s kerb weight or its legal towing limit, depending on which was lower. They were then ballasted to simulate driving with passengers and luggage.



Overall winner
Audi Q5 40 TDI quattro Sport
Up to 1400kg winner
Skoda Scala 1.0 TSI SE

1400-1549kg winner
Seat Ateca 1.5 TSI Evo SE DSG

1550-1699kg winner
Skoda Karoq 2.0 TDI Evo 150 SE L 4×4 DSG

1700-1899kg winner
Audi Q5 40 TDI quattro Sport

1900kg+ winner
Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi 3 DCT

Electric car winner
Kia EV6 77.4kWh GT-Line AWD
Plug-in hybrid winner
Hyundai Tucson Plug-in Hybrid Premium 4WD Auto

Estate car winner
Ford Focus Estate 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 155 ST-Line Vignale Auto

Practicality winner 
Volkswagen Multivan 2.0 TSI 204 Style DSG

Electric car range test results with and without a caravan, ranked by towing range:

ModelVariantSolo range
Towing range
BMW i4eDrive40 M Sport413,2180,056,2%
Tesla Model YLong Range AWD420,6180,057,1%
Skoda Enyaq iV80x Sportline396,0172,453,3%
Volkswagen ID.4GTX357,2172,451,7%
Volvo XC40 RechargeTwin Pro Pure Electric324,0168,048,1%
Kia EV677.4kWh GT Line AWD371,2162,456,3%
Hyundai Ioniq 573kWh RWD Ultimate336,0156,853,3%
BMW iXxDrive40 M Sport318,0124,960,7%

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