Why do EV manuals say that electric vehicles can not be flat towed?

I was just reading the owner’s manual for a late model Nissan Leaf. It is very clear that the front drive wheels cannot be towed on the ground. Some Internet research revealed that all or almost all well known in the US EVs are this way.

So why is this? I understand that it spins the electric motor, since the motor can’t be disengaged from the drive wheels, but electric motors normally aren’t damaged by being turned. The only motor I know of that would be damaged would be a two stroke due to lack of lubrication.

Would the electric motor in the EV overheat due to the cooling system being turned off? Is it because the odometer doesn’t function but wear is being put on the motor? If EV motors use permanent magnets, I can see how spinning it could generate heat.

The EV could be turned on and the battery would even be changed while it was towed.

Last 2 tows I needed for my daughters car with AARP were on flatbed, I do not know if it was needed or not, had the car towed to a mechanic bud 40 miles away so maybe distance was a factor. Free towing up to 100 miles so no charge. One time timing chain was broken, the other just needed a trans fluid and filter change. 2003 Saturn SLE. 1200 for new heads and cleaning of the thing that was supposed to put oil on the timing chain, think it was 45 for trans fluid and filter change.

Come to think of it I do not recall seeing any tows without a flatbed in at least the last 10 years in our fair city.

Only the ones made by Rivian are capable of being flat towed as far as I can find.

Same here. With the ubiquity of AWD vehicles, it appears to me that most “towing” companies simply use flatbeds nowadays.

None use permanent magnets that I am aware of, all are AC induction type motors. I suspect the lack of neutral is the reason.

An awful lot of cars can’t be flat towed these days because of automatic transmissions so roll-back tow trucks have become very, very common.

RV folks have resorted to 4WD vehicles with neutral positions in the transfer cases from what I see wandering about in Florida.


EV manufacturers might offer EVs that can be flat towed in the future but unlikely. Customers that want to use them as dinghies behind their motor homes will either use dollies or buy manual transmission ICE vehicles. There has been no great rush to offer flat tow automatic transmission cars, though some are available.

I can’t tell you when the last time I owned a vehicle that could be flat towed. For front wheel vehicles the front wheels had to be on a dolly. Many 4wd vehicles can be flat-towed, but not all. AWD vehicles that are mainly FWD need the front wheels on a dolly.

Which Vehicles Can Be Flat Towed? (curtmfg.com)

Quoting the article that you linked:

Does towing a car behind an RV damage it?

Towing a car behind an RV can damage its transmission, steering system and other components if it is not designed for RV towing. The transmission must be disconnected or fluid will continue to pump without the engine running. [/quote]

Who writes this stuff? The reason why a transmission is damaged from towing is from fluid not being pumped since only the engine can operate the pump.

It seems to me that the percentage of cars that are towed every year is very small, and I haven’t seen a car being towed on the road (not on a flat-bed) in a very long time. There are few old style tow trucks being used around the SF Bay Area.

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