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The Tesla Model X has been spied out in public once again, but this time the battery electric SUV had a cargo trailer in tow.
Public sightings of the Model X are becoming more and more prevalent. And, with the official release date in as little as three months, the fervor over this zero-emission SUV is definitely growing.
Though word had it that the Model X might have towing abilities – one was even spotted with a hitch earlier this year – this is the first time the Model X has been seen towing a trailer. The photos were shared by Teslarati.com a few days ago on its website. The news about the towing capacity of the Model X will likely catch the attention of many, as Tesla shows one more way this SUV could seriously compete against its gasoline-guzzling peers.
This is no lightweight trailer, either. With steel sides and a tandem axle, the trailer alone probably weighs around 2,000 pounds. That mass, along with about 8,000 pounds of cargo, is within the capacity of the Model X, according to Tesla.
Earlier this year, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Jim Chen talked about the towing abilities of the Model X during his speech at the 2015 Georgia Technology Summit.
“By the way, something that’s not heavily advertised about this SUV … this vehicle will have Class III towing capability. That means over 5,000 pounds, and actually close to 10,000 pounds towing capability,” Chen said.
Chen’s weight estimates may be stretching it a bit, though. Many Class III hitches are designed to carry 5,000 to 7,500 pounds gross weight (the weight of the trailer plus the weight of the cargo). While some weight-distributing Class III hitches are rated for up to 10,000 pounds, this kind of heavy-duty towing is generally reserved for larger pickup trucks.
More importantly, though, is how towing will affect the range of the Model X. Tests have already shown that running the high-performance Model S P85D at full wick quickly depletes the lithium-ion battery pack, cutting the range drastically from 253 miles to about 100 miles.
Even at the lower weight rating, though, a hitch will add a significant amount of utility to the Model X. This is especially important for people wanting to take boats, bikes or other gear on the road, because no other storage option is available.
The Model X is designed with falcon-wing doors for the rear, which address one problem while creating another.
“You can see by the diagram, one of the biggest problems that traditional minivans, that traditional SUVs have is to get to that third row, you have to fold or you have to climb over that second seat,” explained Chen. “The falcon-wing doors actually give you step-in access to that second and third row. It allows the largest opening possible while keeping the structural integrity of the car.”
However, the design of these doors also remove the ability to store or carry anything on the roof of the car.
Adding some towing capacity while still maintaining a decent range will be the best balance for the Model X. Hopefully soon, real world tests can shed more light on both the towing capacity and its effect on range to give a clearer picture of how useful this SUV can be.