Do you like going on trips? When you were traveling, did you flat tow your car? We know that internal combustion engines are designed to be flat towed, but what about electric cars?
The term flat-towing can be a bit intriguing to those who’re less familiar with vehicles. Some refer to flat-towing (tongue-in-cheek) as “dinghy-towing” or “four-down towing.” The flat-towing procedure is relatively straightforward. You need to attach a tow bar to the car, whether a pickup or a SUV, and let the car roll along behind a bigger vehicle on its four tires; this is what birthed the term “four-down towing.” Since the towed vehicle usually resembles a small dinghy being dragged along behind a yacht at sea, others call it “dinghy-towing.”
Now that everyone knows what flat towing is, let’s learn how to flat-tow an electric vehicle.
How to Safely Flat-Tow an Electric Car
When flat-towing electric cars, you can’t disconnect the wheels from the motor. Another significant difference between an electric car and an internal combustion engine is that an electric car’s engine does not idle when stopped. You can even reverse your vehicle without engaging the reverse gear. Also, electric cars don’t have multi-gear transmissions, so you don’t require a mechanical disconnect.
It’s important to know that you cannot accomplish the neutral mode in an electric car by disconnecting the wheels mechanically. Instead, the motor controller usually has a neutral setting; this turns off both regenerative braking and acceleration.
The neutral setting means you can hook up an electric car to a tow truck while the parking breaks are disengaged, and the gear selector is set to neutral. In this situation, the wheels will roll freely. Even so, if the drive wheels are resting on the ground, they’ll remain connected to the motor, causing the motor to spin when the car is being towed. Driving short distance with the motor spinning is okay, but it is ill-advised to do so over a great distance.
How to Tow a Front-Wheel-Drive Electric Car on a Tow Dolly
It is a straightforward matter when towing a front-wheel-drive electric car on a tow dolly because the drive wheels cannot spin; they’re held by the tow dolly and set off the ground. You only have to ensure the car’s rear-wheels are spinning freely. Experienced motorists know that you can successfully tow vehicles like the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf (made in 2013 or later) in this way.
For example, if you’re towing a Chevy Volt, follow these simple steps:
- Attach the tow dolly to the towing vehicle.
- Drive the towed car’s front wheels onto the dolly.
- Engage the car into park mode.
- Apply the parking brakes before switching off the engine.
- Use a clamping device (which is specially designed for towing) to clamp the steering wheel in a straight-ahead position.
- Use straps that wrap over the vehicle’s wheels to secure it to the dolly.
- Release the vehicle’s parking brake.
- To ensure the vehicle won’t scrape, have sufficient clearance in the rear.
- Ensure the tow dolly is securely holding the front-drive wheels and the rear wheels are roiling freely.
Accidents can happen when towing vehicles. If this occurs, you cannot easily tow a front-wheel-drive car. It would be best to have the front wheels rest on the ground, but you can lift the rear wheels if the car is too damaged. Then put the motor in neutral. Typically the front wheels would track with the tow vehicle, but since you are now towing with the rear wheels, this can make the car swing wildly and dangerously, hitting other vehicles or rolling off the tow dolly.
To control the situation, ensure the vehicle tracks straight. Don’t trust the steering lock to keep the vehicle steady. Instead, tie a rope to the steering wheel to hold it straight. If you are uncomfortable doing this, it would probably be best to call a tow truck to transport your vehicle.
Flat-Towing an All-Wheel-Drive Electric Vehicle
Some electric cars are designed as all-wheel-drive vehicles (rather than rear-wheel-drive vehicles). Regardless, such vehicles usually have all four wheels connected to the drive motor. Thus, they’re neither front-wheel drive vehicles nor rear-wheel drive. Most of them are two-drive motors, and a few are four-drive motors.
You’ll find such vehicles fantastically efficient. However, you may discover that you cannot tow them in the same way other electric vehicles are towed. Find out whether the manufacturer recommends a specific towing method. Otherwise, you’re advised to tow such cars on a flat-bed truck or a trailer.
It should be a straightforward matter when flat-towing an electric car. Use these tips, and voila! You’ll have your vehicle safely cared for.