Electric vehicles and hurricanes – a match made in hell


Earlier this week I posed an article advising those who’d recently moved to hurricane-prone areas to take precautions against such storms.  One of the most common is to evacuate before the hurricane hits.  However, for owners of plug-in electric vehicles, that may not be as easy as it sounds.

Were a hurricane barreling toward you and you needed to escape, would you want a car that could travel hundreds of miles, refill with a few containers of fuel that you carried without much hassle, and then start driving again almost immediately to get you out of the danger zone?

Or would you prefer a car that looks flashy, gets you claps from Hollywood types, can only travel a few hundred miles at most (and normally quite a bit fewer than that), and requires a complex, electricity powered refueling station, a generator, or solar panels to recharge, with that recharging taking anywhere from half an hour in the best of circumstances or hours upon hours in the worst, with the solar panels option taking forever, assuming the sun hadn’t been blotted out by the hurricane at that point?

Obviously, the combustion-powered engine is the better one in that circumstance. You can carry the fuel to keep it going after its tank has been exhausted, it has a longer range to begin with, and isn’t reliant upon highly complex infrastructure (assuming you were smart enough to fill up a few Jerry cans before fleeing).

So, in the case of a natural disaster, much as the greens might not want to admit it, a combustion-powered vehicle seems like the far, far better choice.

. . .

“… imagine a million electric cars trying to flee, stuck on major hwys going north and running out of charge … thousands dead – months bringing gas powered generators to clear major highways. This is reality.”

There’s more at the link.

Uh-huh.  Recharging your EV with the power out for two to three days at least – in some areas, two to three weeks – is going to be… interesting.  Sure, you can do it with a generator:  but what happens when the one guy on the block who has an extra generator for his car (using another to run his house, because you can’t do both from a single unit) finds he has a dozen other EV owners lined up in his driveway, demanding that he charge their cars too?  Do they have gasoline to give him, to help that happen?  The odds are against it.

Also, what happens when he wants to get some sleep?  If he leaves his generator running so that the EV owners can carry on charging their vehicles, ten-to-one he’ll wake up to find it long gone.  If he doesn’t, and shuts it down to secure it, he’ll have a lot of unhappy neighbors calling him “selfish” and accusing him of “lack of community spirit”.  (Think you won’t face such pressures?  Think again.  Sometimes you can’t win for losing.)

Having “all modern conveniences” is all very well, but when an anything-but-modern old-fashioned hurricane is bearing down on you, they may turn into nightmares.

Moral of the story:  if you just have to have an electric vehicle, get a hybrid that can recharge itself, rather than a plug-in EV that can’t.



  1. See also winter storms and getting snowed in on a road. If you have a internal combustion engine someone can give you a gallon of gasoline/diesel and you can drive on if you used up all your existing fuel in an effort to keep warm. That's not how it works with an electric car, not even slightly.

    There was discussion about this precise topic on Japanese TV last winter.

    For reasons of size of nation (smol) and gopography (unflat) the Japanese rarely evacuate for typhoons except for those on the banks of rivers and those evacuations are typically just to the nearest higher ground which is generally a couple of miles away

    OTOH there is one actual positive use for an electric vehicle and the right infrastructure – as emergency power source in the event the power goes out after a storm or whatever. That may work OK in Japan because power is generally restored within hours, but probably not in the US where it seems like it can take days to restore power

    1. Snowed in is a good point.

      It is also worth noting that normal cars use waste heat for passenger comfort electrics have to use the battery harder.

  2. Francis makes an excellent point. Re the millions of cars stuck, that could make the highway of death look like a walk in the park… sigh

    1. Yup, and all of those stranded vehicles make the highway impassible for anyone else until each one is towed – and more than likely totalled in the process since each EV has a unique protocol that must be followed to tow it safely.
      A related thought – as volatile as lithium batteries are, what happens if one is submerged, especially in salt water? Sounds like an environmental mess at best and a flaming nightmare at worst…

  3. I have this argument all the time with Euro-idjits and Califrutopians. EVs are great for short trips not carrying a lot.

    Hurricane evacuations are never short trips, nor does one carry light loads when evacuating. Evacs are 200-300 mile, 20 hour trips from hell in a vehicle loaded past max as one frantically searches for a semicheap hotel room to cram 8 people and 4 animals in like it's a Spring-Break trip but without being young and searching for alcohol.

    And, also, as pointed out, there's no easy way to store 2-5 weeks of EV fuel safely in a shed or garage so if one stays, the EV becomes a very expensive decoration.

    And (part 2) the jury is still out on how EVs will handle in a hot, pretty much 100% humid and flooded environment. All the testing has been done out west or up north where it's not hot and 100% humid and not flooded. Great air filters, not great water filters.

    One of the best things about gas vehicles (or diesel) is going out during a power outage and firing up the car ac for 20 minutes to an hour or so. Which takes… fuel

  4. And there's another thing; a while back a hurricane forced southern Florida to evacuate. Tesla, "out of the goodness of its heart," did an Over-The-Air temporary software update on all Tesla cars in the affected area to allow them to go a little further before the battery died. This was a tip of hand. If Tesla can do an OTA software change on its cars to extend the range of its cars, what's to keep Tesla… and any other electric car… from doing an OTA software change to LIMIT the range of its cars, either in distance or direction? Or how about a TARGETED software change that would redirect specific self-driving cars to, say, a police station or detention camp?

    …People don't realize what they're giving up by moving to these things…

  5. That's why your bug out vehicle needs to be a gas/diesel powered 4×4 that you know how to drive off-road.

    Being able to push other vehicles out of the way would be a bonus.

    But, yeah, I'd never thought of that aspect of EV's.

    Most I'm going to is a hybrid, some of the small SUV's can get 25-32 MPG, but that's going to take more research. What I'd prefer is to find an older non-computerized truck or SUV that I can actually work on.

  6. Given the variable, and always negative, conditions during an evac, I can just imagine one,just one, EV erupting in flames. THAT should make for a nice long term failure to evacuate via that route. I think it will be a while before anyone gets close enough to push that one off the road.

  7. How far can an EV drive at ~5-10mph, stop and start every 100 feet? Does this kill the potential range?

    You do NOT want to be around a burning EV! Toxic fumes, and possibly flaming explosions will spoil your day. I suspect that seawater flooding around the coasts would be a nightmare with EVs trying to wade through low spots.

    Take a look at the roads and highways in your area. If the pavement is blocked, is there space to move around the problem? Or is the roadway defined by guardrails, cables, concrete dividers, and tall (sound control) walls?

    Even off and on-ramps can have this sort of construction, leaving you no practical route to escape the gerbil runners that seem to define current roadways anywhere near the urban islands. 4×4 may not be any use due to this, unless you get far away from the cities.

    I would think that 2 wheel motorcycles of various types may be practical (the more offroad oriented the better), but the more you carry, the less mobile they get, generally. You should consider trying to pack up your bike and riding offroad a bit to determine what is reasonable to take. Having the bags, straps, and other containers already sorted and marked/designated for this sort of trip will pay dividends when time is critical. A checklist and photos of the loaded bike may help to speed up the process.

    Generally, the narrower the bike and gear profile, the easier to get places. Really annoying to find that your bike package is 2 inches too wide to fit between objects that can't be moved. Taller tends to be better than wider. Having a bottle or two of spare gas that can be strapped to the bike may be critical. Having them be something other than identifiable gas cans could be important. Antifreeze jugs work, but they have to be sturdy, whatever you decide to use.

  8. Read each of those comments above, especially Unknown's and Will's, one more time then asK: "At what point do electric vehicles become a safety threat to EVERYONE else?"

    Then ask "Who, exactly, is pushing America toward the exclusive use of electric vehicles, and why?"

    EVs as urban toys may be acceptable, but as general purpose vehicles they have very serious shortcomings; I care not that my neighbors become trapped because they cannot evacuate hurricanes or forest fires, but when their emotion-based shortsightedness potentially encroaches on my ability to protect and preserve my life the the lives of my family things get serious.

  9. "…finds he has a dozen other EV owners lined up in his driveway, demanding that he charge their cars too?"


    AR-15's and lots of 30-round magazines. Problem solved.

  10. This very thing happened last year in New Orleans area after Ida. No electricity so gas pumps didn't work at the gas stations & those with electric vehicles couldn't charge them at home. Perfect storm, so to speak.

  11. Anyone know what is needed to power the fuel pumps at the typical gas station?

    120/1 phase?
    230/3 phase?

    Wondering if a portable generator could get them working, if one was knowledgeable about electrickery.

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