VW ID.4 Towing Coast-To-Coast – CleanTechnica

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In a previous article, I shared a video from TFL EV on YouTube where they interviewed a couple towing a small camper across the United States with a Volkswagen ID.4. Many people assume that you’d need an $80,000+ electric pickup truck if you want to tow with an EV, and wouldn’t even try this, but the couple had a pretty good reason for taking the challenge on: moving. They already had the Casita fiberglass travel trailer and had been towing it with another vehicle, and had been taking short trips with the ID.4.

Not wanting to spend money on a car hauling service for the trailer, they decided to pull it themselves and place a few of their most prized possessions in the back of the ID.4. They also loaded up some bikes, which had to have given them a range hit, but who wants to risk bikes getting broken by movers? So, efficiency had to come second to immediate needs.

The end result was getting between 1.8 and 2.4 miles/kWh compared to 3.5-3.6 unloaded. The trip was slow with all of the charging, obviously, but the couple was able to sleep in the camper for free or cheap and they had the advantage of free charging from Electrify America. Even with long charging sessions, the Casita gave them a nice place to eat, hang out, or even take a nap!

But, that video didn’t go into great depth and they hadn’t taken the whole trip when the video was shot. Since then, I found another video from Out of Spec that fills in a lot of the gaps and finishes the story out!

As we know from the TFL video, they had a Subaru Outback and the Subaru wasn’t doing too hot towing it, and then it had some CVT transmission issues that led them to replace it. So, they decided to move to an ID.4. It has a two rating that can cover the little Scamp, so they decided it was worth using, even if it would mean a serious range loss. But, we learn here that they originally wanted to get a PHEV, but the lack of tow ratings and high prices (more than the ID.4) discouraged them from trying that.

Even after going across the country, they feel like it was the right move. Grant says it tows great, and the costs are proving to be similar to what it would have been if they had kept the Subaru. So, apparently the trip went well as well as subsequent ownership!

As most people know, towing with an EV can be slow. But, most people who have taken an EV road trip find that they don’t hate the slow pace. In some ways, trips are more pleasant. So, the slowness wasn’t bad. They also have the VW free charging at Electrify America stations, which saved them a lot of money. All in all, charging at other places or going beyond the half-hour limit

But, there are some downsides. Most U.S. charging locations (a little more than half) aren’t pull-thru. So, it takes some extra time to unhitch, unplug, and get charging. Or, it takes some creativity to get the vehicle close enough to the charger (as seen in the video’s thumbnail image above!). But, the number of pull-thru stations are growing, and they found they really liked that when they encountered it.

Another thing we learned was that they didn’t keep the bikes on the outside of the Scamp for the whole trip. Not long after leaving Colorado, they saw that the range numbers weren’t such as to get to the next charging stop. So, they put the bikes inside the trailer to see if they could get better range, and that plus a speed reduction worked just well enough to get to the next stop. So, this mattered more than we originally thought!

At the time, there were three good routes for the trip across the United States. There’s a southern route, going through El Paso and then either Dallas or Houston and across. There’s a middle route along I-40 and then I-70 through Denver. A northern route seemed possible, but there were bigger charging gaps and colder temperatures along that route.

One thing they didn’t do was use a route planner and calibrate it for actual consumption. Instead, they used a spreadsheet and slowed down for segments with larger gaps between charging stations. This worked for them, but led to some arrivals on almost empty, along with some needs to change speeds, move the bikes, etc. The ID.4 software was worthless, as usual, unfortunately.

Along the way, they did try to have some fun, too. Not only did they plan to get across the country, but they stopped to visit friends, hit up some national parks, and otherwise keep themselves having fun instead of just grinding across the country. Overall they took two weeks, but that was from both EV delays and from taking a break and having fun. On a previous trip, they ran it in three long days, and they would never go back to that.

One thing they figured out was that in the future such planning and worrying wouldn’t be such a problem. It’s the gaps and the sparse infrastructure that leads to a need to be careful and plan ahead, and then still experience some anxiety.

Along the way, they mostly stuck with Electrify America, but used some other stations including a Tesla Magic Dock once to get to places that wouldn’t have been possible with only Electrify America. Many chargers were at grocery stores, and between that and the camper, they were able to eat healthier and cheaper instead of buying fast food. They also felt less fatigued along the way because they got out of the car and spent more time walking around.

At the end, they felt like it was worth it, and perhaps even more rewarding because it took them a lot of effort to get there. Sadly, though, they don’t feel like they would take that trip for fun in the future. They also haven’t done any camping trips. The experience did end up wearing them out. But, for some more leisurely trips in the future, they think it would be less of a drag.

In the future, he looks forward more to doing roadtrips in an efficient vehicle, like the upcoming (hopefully) Aptera, but hotel options would need to be a lot cheaper than they are today. He thinks travel in the United States is a little weird, where people feel the need to pull entire house-sized RVs along instead of being able to rely on cheaper hotel options.

Featured image: a screenshot from the TFL EV video featuring their Scamp behind the ID.4.

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