Loyal, full of energy, and always eager to see us, our canine compatriots really are man’s best friend. And if you’re a dog owner, the chances are the type of dogs you have — and the things you like to do with them — influence the type of car you’re going to buy.
Traditionally, dog owners tend to favour large SUVs, station wagons and minivans over other types of car on the market, especially if they own larger breeds. In fact, many dog owners discount electric or plug-in hybrid cars because they’re worried that their dogs won’t fit.
But with more plug-in cars on the market than ever before, we’re here to tell you that plug-in cars and dogs go hand in hand. In fact, with cabin pre-conditioning and quiet driving experience, we think plug-in cars are better suited to dog owners than their noisy, smelly counterparts. You’ll even save money on fuel bills too, which means more to spend on your pampered pooch.
Here at Transport Evolved, we’ve got together with our four-legged friends Pepper, River and Snoopy to pick the five best dog-friendly electric cars we can think of, combining the benefits of a plug-in car with the kind of features dog owners look out for.
[UPDATE: We’ll be updating this guide throughout the year as cars come onto and off the market. We’ll add and drop cars from the list as they go on and off sale, so add this as a bookmark to make sure you stay up to date!]
Before we do however, we need to make one very important disclaimer about dogs, electric cars, and remote conditioning. While some of the cars we’ve chosen have remote air conditioning, you shouldn’t rely on them to keep your car cool with dogs inside. Never, EVER, leave a dog in a hot car.
Tesla Model S
Pros: cavernous rear load bay, smartphone-operated climate control
Cons: extremely expensive, rear hatch won’t accomodate all dogs
First up on our list is the world-famous Tesla Model S. Thanks to its clever design, the Tesla Model S has a deceptively large rear trunk, making it perfect for your four-legged companion to sprawl out in.
With a front trunk — or frunk as Tesla calls it — having your dog in the rear doesn’t mean you’ll lose all load-carrying capabilities, while a lower-floor in the Model S’ rear load bay means you can always store some smaller items safely beneath your dogs on longer trips.
Doggie Top Tip: don’t let your dog roam free in the car. Get a dog harness, or a specially-designed crate to keep them — and you — safe on the road.
Most importantly, the Model S comes as standard with remote climate control, meaning you can make sure the car’s interior is always the perfect temperature for you and your dogs, perfect for pre-conditioning the cabin after a long hike in the hills with your pampered pooch(es).
In terms of size, we think most medium to large dogs should fit, although you’ll struggle with extremely large breeds. We’ve managed a Border Collie and Labrador without a problem.
Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid (Europe ONLY)
Pros: traditional station wagon rear, all-wheel drive capabilities, smartphone climate control
Cons: load bay isn’t as large as you’d think, battery compartment sits under load bay, expensive to buy
Following in the paw prints of decades of Volvo-riding dogs, your pampered pooch should feel at home in the back of Volvo’s first plug-in hybrid, the Volvo V60 PHEV.
Currently only available in Europe — although plans are afoot to bring a similar plug-in hybrid to the U.S. with a gasoline engine — the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid offers around 30 miles of all-electric range before its D5 diesel engine kicks in. While combined fuel economy hovers around 60 mpg on longer trips, it’s great round town for zero emission motoring, while Volvo’s electric all-wheel drive system means you can even take your dogs off the beaten track for those all-important walks without worrying about getting stuck.
Unlike the Tesla Model S, there’s nowhere else to store luggage, but the Volvo V60 PHEV is type-approved in Europe to tow. Obviously, this will effect your fuel economy, but if you are planning a long family vacation with the dogs, this could be the perfect car for you.
If you’ve got a smartphone, you can also monitor your car’s state of charge and pre-condition the cabin remotely, making sure it’s always dog-friendly when you need to transport your pack.
Doggie Top Tip: when travelling with your dogs, keep some fresh water to hand for them to drink.
Breed wise, we’d recommend the V60 PHEV is best-suited to medium or small dogs, since the load bay is slightly higher in the V60 PHEV over the standard V60 wagon. It’s also worth noting that the car’s battery pack and power electronics sit under the load bay, so can sometimes make the rear load bay seem a little warm.
Toyota RAV4 EV (US ONLY: No-Longer Sold)
Pros: classic SUV form factor, plenty of load bay height for larger dogs
Cons: slow recharge time, limited availability
Toyota’s all-electric RAV4 EV, available only to certain Californian markets, combines the practicality of an SUV with the fuel economy of an electric car. With an EPA-approved 103 miles per charge, the Toyota RAV4 EV can handle those weekend trips to the country for walkies — but be aware that despite being built on Tesla drivetrain technology, the RAV4 EV doesn’t offer any kind of rapid charging capability.
What it has instead is a 10 kilowatt on-board charger, meaning a few hours on a compatible 40 amp charging station should replenish your car’s range enough to get you back home — provided you’ve found somewhere to charge while you go and walk with your dog.
Doggie Top Tip: Even if your plug-in car has pre-conditioning, parking in a shady spot will help your car stay cool for when you and your dogs return from a fun walk.
For trips around town or to the groomer though, the Toyota RAV4 EV is in its element, with its high ceiling making it suitable for all but the largest of dog breeds. While our canine testers haven’t had the pleasure of riding in a Toyota RAV4 EV, we’ve heard everything from a Jack Russell to a German Shepard riding in the back with ease. We’d guess even the largest of dogs could ride in the RAV4 EV if you fold down the second row of seats.
Nissan e-NV200 (Europe Only)
Pros: minivan form factor offers a lot of dog-friendly space, optional CHAdeMO quick charging makes longer-trips possible, smartphone climate control optional, low load bay floor, cheapest to buy
Cons: boxy design, basic trim
If you’re in Europe and you have an extra large or elderly dog, the chances are Nissan’s first all-electric van — the e-NV200 — might make an ideal dog-carrying solution for you.
With the lowest load bay floor of any van in its segment, the e-NV200 will appeal those with older dogs who can’t jump into the back of higher vehicles.
Interior-wise, the e-NV200 can be pretty basic, but remember you’re driving a van rather than a car, and all should be well. Those with an entire pack to transport will find the e-NV200 great
Unlike the other vehicles on our list, the e-NV200 is available as both a panel van — great for those with large numbers of dogs to transport in custom-made crates — or as a five-seat combi or Evalia minivan.
All three variants feature the same 80 kilowatt motor and 24-kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack for a real-world 60-80 miles of range per charge depending on weather and road type. It’s worth noting however that base model vehicles come without CHAdeMO DC quick charging and only a 3.3 kW on-board charger. Luckily, both CHAdeMO capabilities and a more powerful 6.6 kW on-board charger are available on request. If you live somewhere like the UK with a rapidly growing CHAdeMO quick charge network, you’ll never be far from somewhere to charge, making long-distance trips easy and cheap.
Doggie Top Tip: Don’t let your dogs jump out of your car the moment you open the tailgate. Train them to wait until you give them the OK signal to jump out.
Similarly, CARWINGS remote telematics is available as an option on all variants, meaning you’ll be able to pre-condition your car ready for you and your dogs to jump on in.
If you opt for the family-friendly five-seat version, you’ll be pleased to know the rear seats also fold forward, making it possible to transport pretty much any breed of dog you want in its cavernous interior.
As for the Nissan LEAF, the car which gave its drivetrain technology to the e-NV200? The LEAF’s deceptively large load bay will accommodate a medium-sized dog or smaller without any fuss, although older dogs may find getting in and out of the high-lipped boot difficult.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Europe Only)
Pros: classic SUV looks, load carrying capabilities, all-wheel drive
Cons: remote climate control only works if you’re nearby, fair amount of body roll
Looking like the rest of the Outlander family from a distance, the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid combines a 2.0 litre turbocharged gasoline engine with twin, 60 kilowatt electric motors for true off-road capabilities.
Thanks to its form factor, the Outlander PHEV features a spacious rear load-bay which easily accommodates all but the largest of dogs with ease. In addition, towing capabilities mean you can always tow a camping trailer or similar if you need to take the entire family and your pets on vacation.
As with any SUV, you’ll find the load bay fairly high up, meaning older dogs may struggle to jump in the rear on their own, while we’ve found the rear load bay needs filling with extra carpet or bedding to stop your pampered pooch sliding around when you turn a corner. This also helps minimize the effects of body roll on your canine companions, which is noticeably larger in the Outlander PHEV than other plug-ins we’ve driven.
Like other plug-ins in our list, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV includes remote climate control as well as a climate control timer to ensure the interior is an appropriate temperature before you get in. Unlike the Nissan e-NV200, Volvo V60 PHEV, Toyota RAV4 EV and Tesla Model S however, the Mitsubishi Outlander’s telematics system doesn’t work over the Internet. Instead, you’ll need to be within range of the car’s built-in WiFi signal to activate climate control functions remotely.
Doggie Top Tip: Get your dog used to travelling at an early age by taking your puppy on short errands before tackling longer trips.
Unfortunately, like the e-NV200, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV isn’t available globally yet, but Mitsubishi has plans to bring its four-wheel drive plug-in to the U.S. next year, joining existing markets in Australia, Europe and Asia.
We’ve chosen our top five dog-friendly plug-in cars — but do you have any recommendations of your own? Don’t forget to leave them in the Comments below — along with photos of your dogs enjoying your car!
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