Nomadic Power Battery Trailer Boosts EV Range


Is the Nomadic Power battery trailer a dumb idea or pure brilliance? Located in Stuttgart, Germany, Nomadic Power may have solved the biggest issue people have with electric cars — range. Those of us who live in the US have this lingering fantasy about the Great American Road Trip. It’s the notion that we can pack the family into the family car and hit the open road and go wherever we choose — Disney World, the pier in Santa Monica, or Yosemite. It’s not so much that we will, it’s more that we could.

Elon Musk asked people at a reception in Paris recently how much range they would like in their electric cars. “500 miles,” he was told. He responded by saying that a battery large enough to deliver that much range would be too heavy and too expensive to be practical. Most of the time, the majority of all that battery capacity would be wasted. We may all think about driving that far on a single battery charge, but the reality is that Americans drive less than 40 miles a day, on average and 90% of the time on the whole.

Instead, imagine a storage battery mounted on a trailer. Then imagine a series of sharing stations every 100 miles or so along America’s highways. Drive in, drop off the old trailer with its depleted battery, hook up a new trailer with a fully charged battery, and be your way in minutes. Bazanga! No range anxiety and no sitting around some truck stop for an hour or more waiting for the battery in your EV to recharge. The company says its battery trailer could add from 100 to 250 miles of range, even taking into consideration the losses from towing the trailer itself.

Is that silly? Absolutely not. The world’s automakers are spending billions to develop hydrogen powered cars. Why? The #1 reason is because people want to be able to fill up and go in no more time than it takes to get a tank of gasoline today. It has nothing to do with saving the planet, rising sea levels, or breathing clean air. It has to do with convenience.

Nomadic Power battery trailier

A few years ago, people talked about battery swapping schemes. The Nomadic Power battery trailer is infinitely easier and cheaper. It makes so much sense it will probably be banned by 17 Republican governors. And there is another side to the equation. What if, instead of renting a trailer, people could buy one and use it as energy storage device for a solar or wind power system at home? Now you have the fusion of extra mobility when you need it, and living off the grid when you don’t.

Even Elon Musk has expressed a liking for the idea, according to Swiss website Bilan. “We welcome that Elon Musk is interested in the concept of trailer based load extension like ours in order to further increase the autonomy of Tesla models. We are working on this concept for some time thanks to the support of the European Union and federal authorities and should be able to start mass production shortly,” says  Manfred Baumgärtner, CEO of Nomadic Power.

Is this brilliance or madness? Does it make more sense to spend a few hundred dollars renting a range extender battery trailer when you need one or thousands of dollars to buy a car with a larger battery for those few days a year when you travel far from home? Please let us know what you think in the comments section.


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About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • Trevorius

    I wonder how much affect it would have in terms of weight and aerodynamics? And what happens if you’re already towing something?

    • Steve Hanley

      Good questions. The company says its battery trailer could add between 100 and 250 miles of range, even accounting for the extra weight of the trailer. I have amended the article to include that information.

      As for towing other trailers, I think most countries would frown on towing a trailer with a trailer. but I see no reason why the company couldn’t add some light cargo carrying capacity, or at least room for a bicycle or two.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • Joe Viocoe

      We may start to see some common trailers (enclosed, flatbed, motorcycle, boat)… start to include options to have batteries too.
      Right now, the Model X is the only EV capable of towing a significant load anyway. So the demand isn’t there yet. But as more and more SUVs/Trucks electrify… we will see them being offered.

      3rd parties, or maybe U-Haul even… could start designing trailers with a flat battery pack in the floor. With it’s extra low weight, trailer sway is minimized too.

      • AaronD12

        “Right now, the Model X is the only EV capable of towing a significant load anyway.”

        Capable and certified are two very different things. On the LEAF message boards, there are users that have towed up to 1000 lbs. with their EV. The great low-end torque of EVs is perfect for towing. I doubt this trailer would have much negative effect on an EV’s range, even without its battery.

      • Ian

        You’re spot on with that. It should be a whole system with bike racks, luggage storage, surfboards, whatever. Just putting a battery in an egg-shaped trailer seems like a big missed opportunity. A flatbed trailer would probably be the most aerodynamic and stable in any case, even if it was just being used as a battery. But then it could also be a bed for hauling just about anything.

  • JohnCz

    A key selling point of built-in range is reducing the daily routine of charging. I really believe 150mi is the bare minimum where electric cars are not so obtrusive to daily life. But for cross country trips, I do like this approach .. as long as it offers storage too.

  • bioburner

    I’m not sure about the concept. I have a Chevy Volt and don’t need this. ditto for i3 Rex and most Tesla owners. I do like the idea of towing extra batteries instead of a gas generator. This might require some ha…wiring changes as my Volt and old Leaf would not run if they were plugged in. Does the business model allow renting or must you buy it and find some place to park it when not in use?

  • Kevin

    Dumb idea: If you are driving long distance, the car is probably already full, so the pull behind will be needed for storage – oops where do I put the battery.
    Better idea: Same battery design *only* “with” storage capability for the items you need to store behind the vehicle. Now that is a smart idea.

    • Joe Viocoe

      Dumb idea: Thinking that most vehicles traveling long distances are already towing something. That may be true 20% of the time.

      So if a solution is for 80% of the problem, it’s dumb?

  • gendotte

    Actually, this sounds a lot like Shipstones from Robert Heinline from almost 70 years ago. It was a hell of an idea then, and a hell of an idea now. If I can swap a 500 mile trailer for a few bucks, like I do my propane tank now, It would make my Leaf a real car. As for the trailer, I can pull one with my motorcycle that weighs 300 lbs, why not a thousand pound battery pack?

  • Steve:O

    The future is not yet determined, and all ideas designed to provide a cleaner, safer world are worthy of respect. My daily commute (including a stop a the store) is about 50 miles. A Leaf or an iMiev would be a fine car for me, except for that 650 mile round trip to my kid’s college 4 times a year. Trailers like this would be ideal. A little storage built in would be a fine option. A little motor with modest extra propulsion might be useful too. But too many people are looking to the past, not creating the future and as the article says, “The Nomadic Power battery trailer is infinitely easier and cheaper. It makes so much sense it will probably be banned by 17 Republican
    governors.” lol.

    • Steve Hanley

      Not everyone appreciates my humor. Glad you did! : – )

  • Steve Hanley

    The consensus seems to be that this is a pretty good idea. It might be one of those bridge strategies that gets us from the EVs of today to the EVs of the future that will go 500 miles and cost less than a Hyundai Accent. The video store was a great idea — for a while. I can see trailer rental/leasing being a viable option — for a while.

    The design is quite appealing. It looks like something Tesla would come up with. A little extra carrying capacity would make it attractive to lots of electric car drivers for those rare occasions when extra range is really essential. Will be curious to see what reception it gets in the marketplace. It’s a whole lot smarter than the battery exchange idea that got started a few years ago then fizzled.

    The notion of using one as a home energy storage device intrigues me. Why spend $7,000 for Tesla Powerwall with a 7 kWh battery when you could park one of these outside with 4 times the storage capacity? Price will be an issue. The Nissan LEAF battery reportedly sells for around $5,500. The Tesla 90 kWh battery is $30,000 or more.

    The devil is in the details.

    • bioburner

      Doubling as a home energy storage device is a GOOD idea.

  • AaronD12

    There is an error in this article: “It makes so much sense it will probably be banned by 17 Republican governors.”

    It would be banned by all Republicans. 😉

  • John

    I like all ideas that help us think of smarter ways to use energy. What seems obvious to me is why can’t all plug-ins especially those with on board generator’s like the volt be used as a backup power source for the home?

    • Steve Hanley

      I believe they can be, John, if they use the proper charger that allows the car battery to interface with the grid. The jargon calls these V2G systems, or vehicle to grid.

      Not too popular yet. They work best where the local utility uses opportunity pricing to charge more during peak demand times and less during off peak times.

      In theory, batteries in cars could soak up a lot of solar and wind generated power and returning it to the grid later to stabilize the demand curve. This is an idea whose idea may be coming but is not here yet.

  • kevin mccune

    I foisted this idea at the “Car Talk ” a few months ago and was almost laughed out of the forum . It makes perfect sense to me and add a little storage space on the trailer while you are at it ,the one part that I didnt think of was ,the ability to use this as a backup for home power outages .

    • Steve Hanley

      You need a better forum, Kevin. Welcome!

      • kevin mccune

        Thanks Steve .

  • Renny Schweiger

    Great idea. Now if only someone could come up with a standard plug arrangement across all vehicle makes. We’ve already screwed up the opportunity with CHAdeMO vs that other silly plug (sorry, my LEAF is showing ;-). Even just renting these for that one-time a year or so trip would be great.

    • Steve Hanley

      You make a great point. Standardization would benefit the electric car movement tremendously. It is silly to have wars like we did over cassette vs 8 track, laser disc vs DVD, and VHS vs BetaMax.

      Personally, I believe that Tesla will rule when it comes to the preferred standard and that will be a tremendous asset for the company. We shall see.