Whether or not you think electric vehicles are the “wave of the future,” Tesla is here to stay. There’s no denying it. The company’s market share is growing. Tesla now accounts for 2.6 percent of vehicles on the road in the United States. And that number seems to get bigger every year.
However, it still surprised me when I first saw a Tesla towing a boat. With the expanding boom of electric vehicles, it makes sense that more people will show up at the boat launch with a Tesla. But is a Tesla actually good for towing a boat, or any other trailer, for that matter?
The Tesla Model X and Model Y are capable of towing a boat or trailer. The Model X tow package is rated for up to 5000 pounds on 20” wheels or 3500 pounds on 22” wheels. The Model Y is capable of towing a maximum of 3500 pounds. However, battery range is reduced by 30-60% when towing most trailers.
Obviously, there is more you need to know before you hook a boat to a Tesla and head to the water. We’ll spend the rest of this post helping you decide if towing a boat with a Tesla will work for you.
Tesla tow packages
Not all Tesla models are created equal. For those of you needing a little more utility out of your stylish ride, think about getting the Model X or Model Y.
Currently, all new Model X Teslas are outfitted with high-strength steel tow bars ready for a 2” receiver which is included. There is also a 7 pin electronics harness and an integrated towing mode built into the software.
The Model X is no slouch either. With 20” wheels you can safely tow up to 5000 pounds. The 22” wheel configuration takes a bite out of that capacity though and limits you to 3500 pounds. Keep in mind that the towing specs refer to optimal towing conditions so don’t push the limits.
Older Model X Teslas without a tow package can easily have one installed at most Service Centers for around $1250.
In tow mode, this vehicle adds a layer of safety by detecting trailer sway and automatically assists with wheel braking and speed adjustments.
Unfortunately, the Model Y does not come standard with a tow package. However, it’s no big deal to have one installed. The high-strength steel tow bar and 2” receiver is rated for 3500 pounds with all wheel configurations.
Tow mode and a trailer harness with a 7 pin connecter are included in the package as well. Expect to fork over a minimum of $1200 for a Service Center installation.
Still shopping for a Tesla? Consider the Model X over the Model Y if frequent trips to the lake with your boat are on the docket this summer. With a high towing capacity and excellent safety built into the tow mode upgrade, the Model X gives you an edge in performance when towing most boats.
All about that range
A Tesla can drag around all but the biggest fishing or play boats but it comes at a price. Electric vehicles have a limited range and just like their diesel or gas counterparts, extra weight leads to a sizable drop in efficiency. How much depends on several factors.
Obviously, the most important factor decreasing the range of your Tesla is the weight of the boat and trailer. Given the wide range of boat styles and types, the weight can vary considerably. More on that later.
Steep terrain also cuts into your range. Slogging up big hills requires more energy to overcome gravity which can really suck the juice from batteries. Add in heavy usage of the climate control system and you may run into trouble on a long trip.
So let’s talk numbers. What is the range you can expect from your Tesla when towing a boat?
Most data out there suggests that you should expect a 30 to 60 percent reduction in battery efficiency when towing an average sized boat.
Take a look at the table below which compares the expected towing ranges of the Model Y and Model X.
|Car Type||90% Charge Range||Light towing (30% reduced efficiency)||Moderate towing (50% reduced efficiency)||Max towing (60% reduced efficiency)|
|Tesla Model X Long Range Plus||334 miles||234 miles||167 miles||133 miles|
|Tesla Model Y Long Range||293 miles||205 miles||147 miles||117 miles|
Let’s assume you have a moderately sized play boat that weighs 3500 pounds fully loaded, including the trailer. The Model Y sports a 326 mile range and the Model X, an impressive 371 mile range.
If we assume the worst and you have big hills to negotiate and the AC is cranked to the max, a 60% drop in your range is likely.
That means the Model X range is cut to 148 miles and the Model Y to 130 miles. Still not bad, but a killer on road trips or when traveling to rural destinations where charging stations are limited.
Not to mention, this scenario assumes you are 100% fully charged, which according to Tesla is a no-no. By default, Teslas won’t exceed a 90% charge so that 371 mile range on the Model X becomes 334 miles; and 133 miles while towing.
If your boating destination is more than 60 miles from your home, plan for a charging stop on the way back.
The Fast Lane Car Youtube Channel does an excellent Model X towing test that really shows how much towing drains Tesla batteries. Check out the video!
How big is the boat
Think about the kind of boat you are towing too. Whether you choose to tow with a Model Y or Model X, be careful not to tow a boat and trailer that is too heavy.
Be sure to match your Tesla with the right size boat. We make it easy for you. Check out our list of 35 popular fishing boats. There, we break down the weights of fully equipped boats and trailers with and without motors.
Your boat not on the list? You can find approximate weight data for just about any boat online or by calling your local boat dealer.
Also, keep in mind that a boat and trailer adds significant length to your vehicle. This is not an issue until you pull into a supercharging station with stalls designed for trailer-less cars. Sure, you can go ahead and park across all the stalls but don’t expect much tolerance from the next guy who pulls up wanting to charge as well.
What about the Model S and Model 3
I won’t argue that the 2.3 second, 0-60 performance of the Model S puts the “S” in “S3XY.” However, you won’t be doing much towing with the Model S or Model 3.
At this time, Tesla has not provided towing options for either car in the US. Recently, the Model 3 in Europe has some limited towing capabilities that would allow for towing a small boat but that doesn’t help US based customers.
A smattering of after market towing options for the Model 3 are available for a steep price. But be careful, after market modifications may affect your warranty and the car’s functionality.
What to know at the launch
Launching a boat with a Tesla is not much different than launching a boat with a conventional gas powered SUV or truck.
The all-wheel-drive capability of Tesla helps you get out of even the most slippery launches. Although, without traction tires, that’s not much help.
Keep in mind that you should avoid backing the rear wheels into the water if possible. Clearly a few inches of water isn’t likely to hurt the car (otherwise driving in the rain would be problematic) but if it is saltwater, corrosion can wreak havoc on the delicate components.
Some boat launches are too shallow to launch a boat without backing into the water. Avoid these at all costs. Try a different launch. Submerging the batteries will cause damage.
One of the more dangerous aspects of launching or retrieving a boat is ensuring your vehicle is in park and secure before getting out to tend to the boat. With a standard gas vehicle, this means putting the vehicle in park and engaging the emergency brake.
For a Tesla, the scenario is a bit different and takes some getting used to. Consult your owner’s manual for the proper procedure when parking on a slope.
Towing a boat with the Cybertruck
While not everyone will appreciate the unique styling of the Tesla Cybertruck, we can all agree that it is more than capable of towing just about any boat.
With a 7500+ pound towing capacity and a generous 16” ground clearance, launching and towing a boat in any terrain is possible.
Since the vehicle is not commercially available yet, there is not much practical data available. It’s hard to say whether or not the Cybertruck will suffer the same degree of efficiency problems that the Model Y and X have when towing.
At this point, it appears the range is expected to be something around 250 miles. Even if we assume a 30% reduction when towing a 3500 pound boat, you can still travel about 155 miles.
Tesla definitely did a great job producing a versatile line up of vehicles. Incorporating towing capabilities bring electric vehicles one step closer to superior functionality and utility.
Yet, there is still room for improvement. With limited ranges that suffer severe decreases in efficiency when towing, a higher capacity battery is still needed to keep up with the stamina of internal combustion motors.
As long as you plan on towing your boat to local lakes or waterways within a 50 mile radius, a Tesla Model X or Model Y is more than capable.