Experts in the transportation industry are concerned about the use of electric vehicles during large natural disaster evacuations. With more consumers switching to EVs, the demand for accessible electricity and charging stations increases.
During the first quarter of 2022, new car registrations dropped by 18%. However, at the same time, new electric vehicle registrations increased by 60%, Automotive News reported.
The growing popularity of the EV market has some experts concerned about how the vehicles would perform during massive evacuation scenarios. Specifically, transportation experts considered hurricane, earthquake, and wildfire disasters.
According to FuelEconomy.gov, the average electric vehicle can travel more than 100 miles on a full charge, with some models reaching 300 miles. Most EVs take approximately three to twelve hours to recharge. Rapid-charging EVs are capable of recharging in as quickly as 30 minutes.
The journal Transportation Research published a report in 2020 examining the challenges of utilizing EV vehicles during a hurricane evacuation in Florida. The report found, “Florida would face a serious challenge in power supply, with its six out of nine main power authorities, especially those in the mid-Florida, being short of power during the evacuation process.” It explained that an overload of the power supply would initiate a “cascading failure of the entire power network.”
EV Resource attempted to debunk the Transportation Research report by claiming that gas and electric vehicles would face similar problems during a power outage. The article stated that payment processing systems and pumps rely on electricity to refuel gas vehicles. It also mentioned that, in the case of a hurricane, there would be enough warning to refuel EVs with rapid-charge capabilities.
A case study conducted by Roxanne Peterson and Mohamed Awwad of the Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Department at California Polytechnic State University examined California’s current charging capacity for short-notice evacuation scenarios, including wildfires and earthquakes.
“Both are short-notice events that have the potential to knock out the power grid with no warning, making it especially difficult, if not impossible, to charge a Battery Electric Vehicle,” the report said.
While experts have not been able to solve the power demands of electric vehicles during natural disaster evacuations, many are suggesting the installation of more charging stations and the upgrading of some existing stations.
Peterson's and Awwad’s report stated, “Level 3 charging stations are much more expensive than level 2 charging stations and put a greater burden on the electric grid, which is not a good thing in evacuation scenarios. Instead, an even balance of Level 2 and Level 3 chargers was found to help alleviate this issue.”
As EVs become more widely adopted across the country, the potential emergency evacuation challenge grows more pressing.