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Published on November 25th, 2015 | by Kyle Field


What Happens When An EV Runs Out Of Juice?

November 25th, 2015 by  

We have all talked about the possibility. We knew it could happen. I never thought it would happen to me, but yesterday was my day. I headed out to get into my Leaf to drive my boys to school, then to head to work, and found the car unplugged. We had arrived late the night before from a road trip. Exhausted, I had forgotten to plug in the car.

That normally would not be an end-game scenario but we had arrived with a very low battery — around 8 miles of charge. That’s an estimate because the infamous “Guess-o-meter” on the Leaf just blanks out below 8 or 9 miles of charge:


What to do, what to do. I remembered from the night before how much range I thought we had and looked at the bars of charge to the side for another data point. As we live on a hill, I figured we could chance rolling down the hill, taking advantage of gravity to get us moving and regeneration to at least get the kids to school and maybe even get me to the nearest fast charger. To make matters worse, we were on tight timing. No time to waste, we jumped in the car, popped off the stereo, rolled up the windows, and turned off the fan — even tucking down beneath the profile of the steering wheel in a physical expression of our attempt at maximum efficiency.

School was on the way down the hill so I was able to send the boys off without incident, then rolled off to face my fate alone. Thankfully, I was able to make it to the fast charger and quickly plugged in to get fueled up.

This experience prompted a few thoughts that I wanted to share:

First — EVs should have internet connectivity and should text the driver at 10:00pm or so if they do not have enough charge to drive the average commute distance, which they should be smart enough to know. This just makes good sense and applies to current-generation EVs and future EVs with more range. Yes, this should happen less often with an EV with 200 miles of range, but it would still be just as damning if it happened, so let’s leverage some tech to fix that.

2015.11.20 Leaf Fast Charging

Not the fast charger that saved the day

Second — fast chargers are great! I can’t call this an intentional test, but it was a good test of almost zero battery hitting a fast charger for some much needed electron love. Upon plugging in, I found that I had 5% battery left, or about 4 miles left. Tapping in the CHAdeMO adapter, I was boosted up to 80% capacity. The NRG eVgo charger I used claimed to have pumped in 15.01 kWh, or 63 miles, of range on my Leaf in 30 minutes.

2015.11.23 evgo fast charge

Ahh… that’s better

Third — Regeneration can be a game changer. I did not have the range in my battery to get as far as I went, but with the bit of regeneration I was able to muster from my house to school, I had enough range to get where I needed to charge. Without that (like in a gas car with only a few drops in the tank), I would have been up a creek. I have covered this in the past, but I always appreciate it more when I need it and it comes through. 🙂

We would love to hear your story if you have experienced “low batteries” in your EV and how you worked through it. Hit us up in the comments below. 
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About the Author

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. TSLA investor.

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