What happens when an electric car runs out of battery charge?


Flattening your electric car’s battery is something to avoid if possible. The inconvenience it causes will be major – and it may affect the long-term health of the battery.

With an electric car, there will be no friendly good Samaritan with a can of volts to pour into your tank. Or indeed to give you a quick jump-start. The likelihood is your EV will need to be loaded onto a trailer and towed to a charging point.

You’ll then have another long wait before the batteries have charged sufficiently to continue your journey.

How likely are EVs to run out of charge?

Electric car running low on battery charge © Provided by Motoring Electric Electric car running low on battery charge

The chance of being left stranded should be slim. The battery gauge will give you plenty of warning, and your satellite navigation or Zap Map will point you to the nearest charging point when you need it.

The majority of electric cars also have an inbuilt de-powering system. If the electronics detect you are close to running flat, the power available to drive the car will be decreased and the speed limited. This should give you the best possible chance of reaching a charging point.

Can I tow an electric car?

You can’t tow an EV in the old-fashioned sense, with a rope or bar behind another vehicle. This is because of how the electric motors are connected to the wheels, including the absence of a neutral gear.

You need to refer to the specific instructions for each car. Most need to be loaded onto a flatbed trailer, but some can be towed on a ‘dolly’ where the front wheels are raised and the rears remain on the road.

What are breakdown companies doing?

a person standing in front of a blue car: RAC patrol van with EV Boost © Provided by Motoring Electric RAC patrol van with EV Boost

Some breakdown recovery companies have already responded to the growth of electric cars. Many RAC patrol vans, for example, are now fitted with a lightweight electric car chargers to help motorists reach the next charging point.

It’s called RAC EV Boost and has been developed in-house by the company. It works from a second alternator fitted to the engine. It is currently a 3.5kW device, but there’s already work underway to boost this to 7kW.

It doesn’t require vans to lug around heavy batteries, either. Power is generated from running the van’s engine long enough for motorists to reach the next available EV charger. This could take as little as 10 minutes by the roadside.

Vans carry EV Boost branding and a bright green logo. This alone, hopes the RAC, might play a part in helping motorists overcome range anxiety, by knowing help is at hand in an emergency.


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