Electric vehicles are fun to drive but have you ever wondered what happens when the battery runs out while you are on the road?
If you somehow ignore the low fuel warning in your internal combustion engine car and the fuel dries up, you would rush down to the nearest fuel station with a can, get some fuel, transfer the fuel to your tank, and continue on your journey. Or, if the nearest fuel pump is far, you can flag down a sympathetic driver and plead for enough fuel to get you to where you can refuel.
With electric vehicles, running out of fuel is a little bit scarier because it is more complicated. For example, you can’t rush down to the nearest charging station and fill a can with charge, meaning your electric car has to somehow get to a charger.
Granted, this scenario of running out of charge on the road is not likely to happen with the latest EVs because they have longer ranges. Also, you would have to deliberately ignore multiple low battery alerts for you to end up in this situation. However, range anxiety is a thing, and it ranks high among the reasons some people are reluctant to switch to electric vehicles.
The next section of this article will address what happens when your battery goes flat on the road.
To tow or not to tow?
The sight of a faulty gas-powered vehicle getting towed is a common one. If roadside assistance cannot fix the problem, the next natural thing is to flag down another driver and request a tow or reach out to recovery service for the ride to the mechanic workshop.
However, with electric vehicles, you cannot just attach them to another car and pull, whether it stops because of a dead battery or for another reason. Doing so could damage the mechanism for regenerative braking, which lets you top up your battery when you halt.
Call for a flatbed truck to take the car to the nearest charging station. Tesla advises its customers never to tow their vehicles but call in for recovery. However, you can tow a Nissan Leaf on one condition; with the front wheels off the ground. But since accidents do happen, it is better to not tow your electric car at all, regardless of the brand or manufacturer.
Since getting a recovery truck is an added expense, it is motivation never to let your electric vehicle run out of battery.
What if I don’t want to tow my electric vehicle with a dead battery?
In that case, you would have to find a way to get power to the car. Chances are you are not near an electric outlet so what you can do is get a portable power generating set. It would go against the spirit of zero emissions because the generator will burn gas and release exhaust but being in a fix, you do not have the luxury of options.
However, you need a suitable type of generator because the EV could refuse to charge or get damaged otherwise. The generator must be able to produce a pure sinewave. If you are embarking on a trip that you suspect you could have the battery die on you in the middle of nowhere, you could take a portable generator with you in the trunk.
Charging an EV with a portable generator is a painfully slow process, though, so don’t expect to drive off so soon. For example, a 2.5 kW generating set will take more than 21 hours to charge from 20 to 80%. At best, you will add enough charge to get to the nearest charging station.
Remember how you could request some fuel from fellow ICE drivers? EV drivers will soon be doing the same. The technology that will enable it is bi-directional charging, which allows an EV to send power from the battery.
This tech allows you to power your home from your EV battery or supply power to the grid to help stabilize demand. As you might have guessed, the tech will also allow you to charge another EV, including a fellow EV owner stranded by a dead battery.
As more EVs get bi-directional charging, it will become standard for EV drivers to flag down other EVs and request enough charge to get to the nearest charging station.