Correcaminos Got Hitched
(Click to enlarge)
A New Add-On
for our Model 3
Mark D Larsen
The main reason I wanted to install an EcoHitch on our Model 3 was to carry the bike rack that we had used for many years on our Subarus and Nissan LEAF. However, when we had our LEAF, I had also toyed with the idea of buying another add-on to use with its hitch, but ultimately decided that the car’s limited range rendered that possibility impractical. However, now that we have Correcaminos, capable of bona fide roadtrips, I decided to bite the bullet and finally fulfill that dream. I will show it to you in the following video:
So now you know: we have purchased a tiny “Lees-ure Lite” camping trailer from Lees Leisure Industries in Osoyoos, Canada. As is more than obvious, I like “minimalist” designs, and I seriously doubt you could find a more minimalist camper. The tongue weight is 17 pounds, and the entire trailer only weighs 265 pounds, i.e., about the same as putting two medium size adults in the back seat. Moreover, because it folds nice and flat, its aerodynamic drag behind the Model 3 should prove much less than with typical camping trailers. As a matter of fact, Lees-ure Lites are actually classified as motorcycle trailers, and you can see many photos of such owners’ setups on the manufacturer’s facebook page.
NOTE: You can click on any of the following photos to enlarge them.
This is how the Lees-ure Lite looks from the side when folded down, ready to tow behind Correcaminos.
And here is what a tailgater would see.
There are many colors of canvas to choose from, but I opted for a “charcoal grey” Lees-ure Lite to go with Correcaminos’ Midnight Silver Metallic.
The dual doors are still open in this photo, but I should clarify that their screens and canvas can both be zipped shut.
Here the Lees-ure Lite is fully set up, with the windows’ canvas unzipped.
In case you’re wondering, the tarp on the top serves as a rain fly to keep the tent material from getting thoroughly soaked in a downpour.
You might also be wondering about the wedge shaped pod on the front. It is the trailer’s frunk!
It actually boasts much more storage room than the frunk in the Model 3.
It was difficult to see in the video, so here is a photo that shows how the bed is folded up when you first open the trailer
You lift the shelf, which causes two “feet” to drop down to support it. You can then flip the folded section of the mattress onto it.
With the windows open, it is easier to see that the bed is actually a good size, just a couple of inches narrower than a queen-size.
And here is a view when lying on the bed. The camper has more room than you’d think when you first see the trailer folded up.
In fact, it isn’t as wide as the Model 3, so when you tow it, you can’t see it in the left mirror...
...or in the right mirror...
...or even in the rear view mirror because it is shorter than the trunk lid on a Model 3.
However, at least you can see it in the rear view camera. This will give me some piece of mind to know that it is still there, because the Lees-ure Lite is truly... “lite”: you cannot even tell it is back there, accelerating, cruising, or braking.
Like with the bike rack, the rear sensors detect the trailer when backing up, but you can mute the warning beeps.
And when driving, the screen also displays proximity lines around the rear end —another reassurance that the trailer is still back there.
A crucial concern when towing anything with an electric vehicle is how it will affect the car’s aerodynamics, energy efficiency, and range. Like with the bike rack, I decided to once again perform a comparative test by tracing the same route around the outskirts of St. George, this time pulling the Lees-ure Lite behind Correcaminos. Again, the circumstances were not identical, but similar enough to generate a fair comparison of the differences, as you can see in the new readout on the right:
WITHOUT the Trailer WITH the Trailer
Yes, after the same 46-mile round trip, I used 2 kWh more towing the trailer than without it. Instead of 197 Wh/mi ( = 5.08 miles-per-kWh), the efficiency was 245 Wh/mi ( = 4.08 miles-per-kWh). Like I did with the bike rack, I noted the readouts when entering and exiting the freeway. As expected, higher speeds translate to lower ranges. Here is a table comparing those stats:
Using these figures, my ballpark guess’timates of how much range I will probably lose when towing the trailer are these:
- City: -12%
- Combined: -20%
- Highway: -28%
I suppose this means that, with a 100% charge, instead of 310 miles of range, Correcaminos could only go about 250 when towing the Lees-ure Lite at highway speeds. I can live with that, thanks to Tesla’s nationwide supercharger network. And if push comes to shove, I will make it a point to drive a few MPH slower than the posted speed limit.
I have always enjoyed camping. Some of my fondest childhood memories are the camping trips we took in our family. Those experiences instilled in me a love of nature, which eventually evolved into an intense desire to do my small part to preserve it —by driving an electric car, powered by rooftop solar.
I have thus been waiting, for several years now, to be able to do both: drive a green, lean, mean machine to protect the planet, and take camping trips to enjoy it —hopefully before it is all burned up, flooded, polluted, laid waste. I cannot tell you how it pained me on our last trip to the Grand Canyon to see that the smog was so thick that the opposite rim was barely visible:
It now makes me a bit more optimistic to know that, the next time we visit the North Rim, at least we will be able to drive and camp there without a tailpipe. Maybe, perhaps, possibly, hopefully... if other tourists see our setup... it will inspire them to emulate it.
About one year after purchasing the trailer, I ordered a canopy and screen room for it. It not only keeps out mosquitoes and other creepy critters, it also has much more room for a table, chairs, stove, cooler, and other camping paraphenalia while still allowing fresh air to circulate through the enclosure.
You can see how much more room the canopy and screen room add to the trailer in this photo from our camping trip to Kodachrome Basin in August 2019.
After nearly two years, I finally got around to installing an accessory that I had originally purchased with the trailer: a bracket to hold a small air conditioner. Of course, it would only prove useful when and if we camp where there is electricity available to run it, but since we try to find spots with RV outlets to charge our Model 3, that shouldn’t pose an unsurmountable problem.
Here is our air conditioning setup for the trailer. You can see that it is designed to accommodate the trailer’s front window, and that the bracket mounts behind the trailer’s “frunk.” I was very pleased to find that the small air conditioner is more than enough to cool down the inside of the camper, despite it’s poorly insulated canvas walls.
I should state that the biggest challenge for the Lees-ure Lite was installing a wiring harness for its lights. I didn’t mention it in my EcoHitch post, but I also tackled that task at the same time so that I could string the wires behind Correcaminos’ rear bumper directly to the hitch area. For those interested in the process, below are photos and commentary of the steps taken:
Funny thing: what stymied me the most was trying to figure out how to unplug the Model 3’s wire connections. For example, to pull apart the tail light plug behind the felt in the trunk sidewalls, do you pry its tab out with a screwdriver? Push it in?
I finally discovered that you have to push hard on the tab to disconnect it, and even then the two halves fit so tightly together that they were difficult to pull apart. I was also concerned about removing the very thin electrical tape and split loom from around the wires, so that I could fit the harness clips onto them. As you can see, the tail light wires are so tiny that you could easily break them if you’re not careful.
The wiring harness that I purchased for the project is a ZCI model from eTrailer with magnet activated sensors that you simply clamp over the existing wires. Although it’s very dark behind the felt, you might be able to see that I mounted the control module onto the frame with a double-sided sticky pad. The sensors that I clamped over the wires are wrapped in foam insulation, and I secured the ground wire to the same anchor for the amplifier in the passenger side cubby hole.
To string the trailer wire to the hitch area, I snipped off a bit of the side edge around the cubby hole vent, and then strung and taped the wire on the exterior of the frame, around the corner, and behind the crash bar.
I could then drop the wire down by the hitch, with the receiver in place, to verify that it had plenty of length to connect to the trailer.
Ah... but I also needed to string the module’s power wire to the positive terminal of the 12V battery in the front of the Model 3. After removing the cover behind the frunk, I could see that, by fishing a line through the parts underneath, I could then pull the wire up to the battery.
But... how to string the wire from the module behind the passenger tail light to the front of the car? Looking under the Model 3, I discovered that the side splash guards are secured with four bolts behind hinged doors about every two feet. I could thus easily open those flaps, unbolt the guard, string the wire inside it, replace the bolts, and close the flaps.
After pulling the wire up to the battery, it was a cinch to connect it using the provided link with a 15A fuse.
Here you can see the trailer wire, extracted from the access hole when the receiver is mounted on the EcoHitch.
You might have noticed that the trailer wire has a protective cap. When not in use, I put the cap over the four prongs, and simply tuck the wire up inside the access hole and install the stealth plate.
Now came the moment of truth. I’ll admit I was nervous to put the harness to the test, fearful that perhaps I had
somehow screwed up with the wires. As you can see in this video, to my immense relief... it works. Eureka!