Electric-vehicle Dinghy Towing

I am considering towing a dinghy behind my Tiffin Breeze, after years of loading either a gas-powered scooter or an electric bicycle on a rack off the back. However, I do not think I would consider anything other than an all-electric car or small SUV. I have not seen anything on towing electric vehicles, maybe because the technology and market is changing very rapidly. Any ideas if “electrics” are a towable option and if they are, any drawbacks?

Chuck Fraley | Carlsbad, California

So far none of the full-electric vehicles are approved by their manufacturers for four-down flat towing, which is probably why you haven’t seen anything on this subject. As more vehicle manufacturers enter the all-electric arena, there may be some that design and approve towing their models. As it is now, you would need to use a trailer to tow an electric vehicle.


With the proliferation of electric vehicles coming, I was wondering if you could entertain ideas for their use with motorhomes — such as towed vehicles, smaller motorhomes, using the motorhome to charge a car while hooked up and driving, etc. I look forward to my MotorHome magazine online every month. Thank you for your excellent publication.

Ross Arnold | Oakbank, Manitoba, Canada

As my principal role in writing this column is to help readers diagnose and repair existing problems, I’m not very comfortable in foretelling the future; however, I’ll give it a try, with no guarantees.

Winnebago already has an electric coach that, while designed for commercial use and featuring limited range, could be adapted to private motorhome service. I think that the major vehicle manufacturers will be introducing various electric-powered vans and light trucks designed for commercial use. If the range is adequate, these could conceivably be converted to motorhome use in the same way these petroleum-fueled models are upfitted.
Before electric vehicles can be towed behind motorhomes, they need to be designed, tested and approved for such operation to avoid damage to drivetrains (just like gas and diesel models must be). Presently they are not.

Recharging an electric vehicle requires a very high-wattage alternator charging system, which far exceeds existing charging systems fitted to motorhome engines. It may be possible to use onboard gensets to charge electric vehicles, but one of the drawbacks to this is that generating electricity in this manner is quite inefficient, higher polluting and more costly per kilowatt, compared to power from the grid. Also, campground operators may not appreciate people using vastly greater amounts of power than a typical RV to charge their vehicles. It’s likely this will lead to overtaxing the power systems and higher rates at RV parks and campgrounds. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out in the future.


Wandering Diesel

My wife and I reside in Southern California and own a 2016 Thor Palazzo 33.4 diesel pusher that’s equipped with a Cummins 300-hp engine. Since new, the motorhome has had a tendency to wander, requiring almost constant adjustments to steering in order to keep tracking correctly. Could it be me, or is this a more common problem among some, if not all, Class A’s? I will admit, the adjustments I make to keep on track are slight, not wild swings from side to side. If there is a solid solution to this issue, especially without breaking the bank, could you recommend the hardware and/or dealer network necessary to help correct this problem? It’s very tiring on long drives.

Art Guy | Oak Park, California

Usually, we hear more complaints about gasoline-powered coaches wandering, and not so much with diesel pushers. First, I would check the easy stuff, like tire inflation. Weigh the coach when it is fully loaded for a trip, and get individual axle weights. Then, using tire load-inflation charts for the specific tires on your rig (you can find them on tire manufacturer websites), adjust pressures to the actual weights on the tires. Your coach is on a Freightliner XC chassis, which has a three-year, 50,000-mile warranty. It’s probably close to the time limit, so I suggest that you take it in to be checked over. Have them check wheel alignment and play or looseness in the steering components, suspension, etc. One potential weakness on the XC chassis is the steering bellcrank, which is known to wear prematurely. If your motorhome’s is loose, consider upgrading to a SuperSteer bellcrank, which is available from SuperSteer (888-898-3281). I also suggest that you have someone who is very experienced driving diesel pushers take it for a test drive.


Charging Line

We have a 2019 Entegra Esteem 29V motorhome. It has a seven-way RV plug. The No. 4 terminal is called a charge line, and has battery voltage when the engine is running. I am towing a 2012 Jeep Wrangler. Can I use this line to charge the battery in the Jeep?

Dave Truitt | via email

Yes, you can use it for a charging line for the Jeep. Use a minimum of 10-gauge wiring to carry the current with minimal voltage drop. Make sure the charging line has a 30-amp circuit breaker at each end. The reason for this is that a short circuit could cause a fire, since high-amperage battery power is available at either end. Any good RV shop should be able to handle this easily.


Slow Fuel Filling

Have a tech question?We are enjoying our second Class C motorhome built on a Ford E-450 chassis with the V-10 engine. With the first, a 2004 Coachmen, I found that often I was unable to fill the gas tank before it automatically shut off and refused to top off. I attributed it to local gas station pressure settings and learned to go to stations where this would not happen. We are now in a 2017 Thor Four Winds with the same chassis and motor, and the frequency seems even greater. Is this a coach problem that you have addressed in the past, or is it a gas station problem?

Rod Widger | Springfield, Missouri

Yes, I have addressed this a number of times with various chassis. The chassis manufacturers provide the coachbuilders with a fuel tank and filler assembly, but the final installation is performed by the coachbuilder and varies based on the body design and filler neck location. Often, the hoses behind the side wall are routed so they create kinks or low spots where gasoline collects and blocks flow, shutting off the gas pump early. Inspect the hose routing and adjust as needed, and I suspect your problem will be solved.


 

4 COMMENTS

  1. I have towed, on a trailer, a 2007 GEM electric car that is legal for the road, for many years. Short range but charges on 110 volts. It uses the same amount of power to run it as a 100 watt incandescent light bulb. Camp owners don’t say anything.

  2. We have a 2017 Nissan Leaf all electric car that we tow on a trailer behind our motorhome. They can also be towed on a front wheel dolly. However, we do charge it as we go by plugging into the bus. We have a full charge when we arrive our destination. These cars are great for getting you around town.

  3. We tow a 2017 Ford C-Max hybrid (4 down) . We specifically bought this car to tow. So far it performs as advertised. The advantage of a hybrid is it runs initially on full battery getting between 20 – 25 miles after a charge. After the initial charge it runs on both electric and gasoline, which does not limit driving distance. The other advantage is we do not fill the gas tank we keep it around 1/2 to 1/4 which obviously reduces the tow weight of the vehicle.

  4. Electric cars are much heavier than comparable petroleum fossil fuel run cars. Saving on gas used in the car is wasted in the mother ship from pulling the additional weight. Also, the idea of saving weight by keeping the hybrid car fueled at 1/2 or less is questionable. Nuts in my opinion. Nothing like breaking down 50 miles from nowhere and the only available service can’t get to you until tomorrow evening and you don’t have enough fuel in your tow including electric power to get you to the nearest hotel. You should consider your tow as your rescue vehicle or you might find yourself spending some very cold and lonely nights on the side of the road. “Or”, depend on Uber or a destination rental if you think saving fuel on your tow is important to you.

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