Severe weather raises question about electric vehicle charging

Severe weather raises question about electric vehicle charging

Record-breaking heat waves in California and severe hurricanes in Florida point to weakness in electric vehicle adoption: How do people charge during extreme weather events when electricity can be lost?

This is not a theoretical question. California leads the nation in electric vehicles. During a record-breaking Labor Day heat wave, state officials asked owners of electric vehicles to avoid charging during peak hours of electricity consumption to avoid power outages.

Three weeks later, Hurricane Ian landed as a Category 4 storm on Florida’s southwest coast and knocked out power for weeks in the hardest hit areas.

As the adoption of electric vehicles grows, charging before, during and after natural disasters presents a challenge, especially given the shortage of public charging stations, lack of access to home charging and of the increasing regularity of these events.

“We’re starting to see the impacts of climate change more and more frequently,” said Katherine Stainken, vice president of policy for the Electrification Coalition trade group of Washington, DC.

Natural disasters often create mass evacuations for which people need reliable transportation. With hurricanes and tropical storms, people have days to evacuate. But there may be no notice in some cases, such as rapid fires or catastrophic earthquakes. If the same events knock out the power, EV owners’ efforts to leave may be hampered.

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—Doug Newcomb

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