On the Great Ocean Road. Supplied
We have recently discovered that towing a trailer with the Hyundai Kona EV is not “allowed.”
In the year since we last posted on this blog, we continued to enjoy travel with our camper trailer to various locations in South Australia, and six weeks travelling in Tasmania. We have felt the Kona tows the trailer very well.
However, in May a question was raised as to whether the Kona was allowed to tow a trailer in Australia, and the potential legal and insurance implications of that led us to investigate this more deeply than we had previously. This post outlines what we have learnt, and there’s a twist for NSW drivers.
Why did we previously think towing was OK ?
Before we bought our Kona EV, two published articles had inspired us that it would be possible to tow a small trailer with a Hyundai Kona Electric car, Towing a caravan with an electric car – can it be done?, and Tow Story: Hauling a camper trailer with an electric Kona. The latter article provides a work-through of the vehicle and axle weight calculations for the Kona EV that are important to be mindful of when towing with any vehicle.
The Kona Owner’s manual does state “We do not recommend using this vehicle for trailer towing,” but we did not read this as indicating we must not tow.
Having read the abovementioned articles we assumed this was simply stated because the manufacturer had some concerns about the reliability of the range estimation in the car, or perhaps about axle weights being easily exceeded without care being taken.
It also seemed logical to us that towing would be OK, since the petrol versions of the Kona are rated for towing, and the electric version is both more powerful and heavier.
The towbar designed for the petrol Kona fitted straight on to our electric Kona, and the towbar installer did not mention anything at the time about not being allowed to tow, indeed, implicitly confirmed it was OK by providing the towbar, trailer wiring plug and a standard 50 mm towball.
In addition, they placed a sticker inside the drivers door frame showing a towing capacity of 1300 kg and towball load of 130 kg for the petrol 2WD version of the Kona, and referring to the vehicle manufacturer owner’s manual otherwise.
Sticker on the car from the towbar installer which points to owners manual
The Specifications section in the Kona Owner’s Manual does not contain any mention of towing limits. We had looked at the SA Light Vehicle Towing regulations, and since there was no manufacturer specifications in the owner’s manual, we assumed that the section titled “No manufacturer’s specifications?” applied, and interpreted this section to mean we could tow an unbraked trailer up to 750 kg.
We also checked with our insurance company, which left us reassured that we would be covered if it met legal requirements.
So tow we did!
Fast charging at Balranald, NSW
The question about towing legality was raised when we tried to hire a different camper trailer through Camplify (simply described as an AirBNB for campervans, motorhomes and caravans). Camplify had refused a hire we booked indicating that insurance would not cover our vehicle in case of an accident with a trailer.
So we consulted the towbar installer who indicated they only install towbars on the Kona EV for fitting bike racks – certainly not something they had mentioned to us at time of installation. They showed us the details from a Towing Mass Guide they use indicating No Brakes: 0; With Brakes: 0; Ball Mass: 0.
We called the RAA technical advisory service who were adamant the car was not allowed to tow. Then the SA Police, who didn’t know, but referred us to the SA Department for Infrastructure and Transport (DPTI).
Road Vehicle Descriptors (RVDs)
DPTI responded to our query by pointing us to the Road Vehicle Descriptor (RVD) documents, which we had not previously come across. So what is an RVD? Our understanding is that these documents contain information provided by the vehicle manufacturer, and which is required by the various state and national regulators.
The RVD is entered and updated by the manufacturer. The old RVCS system shows the history of updates to the Kona OS (Certification Unit ID: 48794) here. A new ROVER system supersedes that, and a search for the Kona OS shows towing mass (both braked and unbraked) of 0 kg.
Section of the Approval sticker affixed to the car.
So the RVD is the definitive source, and the manufacturer has indeed provided a rating for the Kona electric. This rating of 0 kg means it is not legal to tow with the car. This would presumably impact any insurance cover if the car and trailer were involved in an accident.
A NSW twist?
Interestingly NSW seems to maintain its own copies of the Department of Infrastructure RVD documents. These can be accessed on this site. Searching for the Kona approval number (CPA) 48794 displays a PDF with the Australian Government logo on it.
Importantly on this document, the stated braked and unbraked towing mass for the Kona EV are both blank rather than zero.
This could be interpreted as the equivalent of “no manufacturer specifications”, which if applied to SA towing regulations could mean the Kona is allowed to tow in NSW.
Enquiries to the Department of Infrastructure did not resolve why the NSW RVD document differs in this regard from the national record.
The RVD document from the NSW government site which shows blank tow rating values (not zero).
A Braked Towing Capacity upgrade?
In researching the towing issue, we had come across mentions of Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) and Braked Towing Capacity (BTC) upgrades.
Not knowing what was involved in this, we thought that perhaps with some tweaking of the car, or an independent engineer assessment, that perhaps we could get the car certified to tow a trailer with mass greater than 0 kg.
The SA Government website includes a page about light vehicle mass rerating. However, enquiries to suggested engineers in this regard drew a blank, and I was advised to contact the manufacturer.
Despite emails to contact Hyundai Australia engineering, they have not responded. It would be helpful to know from them if they see any way in which the 0 kg tow rating can be overcome, and/or some further insight into the reason for the rating they have given.
Sadly for us, this leaves us with the decision not to tow a trailer with our Kona EV any more.
It’s back to car camping with a tent Editor’s note: The Driven has reached out to Hyundai Australia for comment on why the Kona EV is not rated for towing and will update this article if one is provided. Reprinted with permission. This article first appeared on Little Camper Travels.