Ask TFL: What Is Keeping Electric Trucks From Being Viable Towing Vehicles? And Other EV Questions

Our friend Spencer has a few important EV questions

Some major questions face the industry as it begins shifting toward electric trucks.

Even if it’s a few years off, the change toward EVs (and electric trucks in particular) is a topic that warrants a broader conversation and research into its effects. Take TFL reader and supporter Spencer, who had a few important questions he fielded not just about electric trucks, but the whole infrastructure and process around building them as well.

While we do report quite a bit on what automakers are planning, it’s crucial to note we are not subject matter experts on the economical or environmental impacts of building EVs. We also don’t want this “Ask TFL” to turn into a political argument about EVs, but we did want to publish his questions as part of the conversation:

Spencer’s questions:

  1. What is keeping EVs from being viable towing vehicles? Would a gearbox help [with efficiency and range]?
  2. What about the effects of lithium mining?
  3. Are there alternatives to lithium-ion batteries that are better and easier to produce?
  4. Would battery charging stations help alleviate range anxiety if they supplement or replace gas stations?
  5. What are the benefits of gas, diesel, or hydrogen vehicles over battery electric trucks or cars?
  6. What are the benefits of EVs besides reducing pollution?

Some of our answers

Andre did take a crack at these questions as well, and here’s what we said on the matter:

Hello Spencer,

Thank you for reaching out to us! You have many important questions here.

1. Our experience with towing a trailer with an EV is drastically reduced driving range.  That is the main problem.  Our Tesla Model X’s range was reduced to a 1/3 of its unladen range. When I spoke to several non-Tesla engineers about this topic, some of them said that towing a trailer requires a constant power draw from the system. This has a tendency to produce heat in the motors and the batteries, and the heat makes the whole system less efficient.

2. I do not have very good information on this. General Motors, Tesla, VW, and other manufacturers always discuss battery recycling when they announce the latest EV developments. 

3. Yes, there are absolutely other battery technologies, like solid-state batteries.

4. Public EV charging infrastructure continues to grow and mature. However, Tesla currently has one of the more advanced and reliable systems for its owners.

5. Benefits of gas/diesel/hydrogen over EVs? This is a huge topic in itself.  I’d leave hydrogen out of this for now. Gas and diesel’s benefit is that you can quickly replenish your vehicle’s energy reserve and a long driving range.

6. The main benefit of an EV is efficiency and power. An electric motor is about 2.5 times more efficient than an internal combustion engine.  I am talking about the efficiency of converting energy into useful work. An internal combustion engine is about 30-40% efficient. An electric motor is 75-85% efficient.