I’ve lived in Tampa for almost 30 years and have owned EVs for 7½ hurricane seasons, so I thought with Dorian coming to visit Florida that I should write an article on how having an EV changes your hurricane planning. Last year was different from previous years, because I had a Tesla, and this year is different again, because I don’t have a gas car (but my daughter lives 10 miles away and has a Ford C-Max, so I could use that).
Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
The biggest question is, should you stay or should you evacuate? That question is beyond the scope of this article, but I’ll give a few of my thoughts. If you live in a zone and they tell you to evacuate, it is a good idea to evacuate for safety, but I totally understand the people who don’t evacuate. When they order an evacuation, you need to do one of 5 things.
- Go to a shelter. That is a safe option, but it won’t be at all comfortable to sleep in a giant room like a school gymnasium with a 100 other people. They also usually don’t take pets. Less than 1% choose this option.
- Go stay with friends or family that live a few miles away but are not in an evacuation zone. This is a good option if your friends or family want you. For hurricane Irma, I invited several family members and several friends to my house because I have 3 spare bedrooms, it is on very high ground, and it has hurricane window film protecting all the windows from letting wind and rain in even if they break from flying debris.
- Drive or fly away from the storm and stay with family or get a hotel. You have to quickly pack up all the belongings you care about. You also have to get back to town after the storm passes. Moving your family by air is expensive and you never know when they will close the airport. Driving away has two main problems. You may run out of fuel and you may sit in a traffic jam for 12 or more hours if you leave at the wrong time. I know many people who have done this and it is a safe option, but it tends to be both expensive and inconvenient, so this is usually used by people who don’t have better options.
- If you don’t live in an evacuation zone, it is best to not leave if you are prepared with supplies. The exception is a category 5 storm. This power of storm is so great that it presents two difficulties. First, nobody is sure their house can withstand a category 5. Newer homes are built to withstand category 4 storms, but a category 5 is so powerful that most homes will be questionable. If you are staying in a home while it falls apart in a storm, that is truly a traumatic experience that most people want to avoid at all costs. The second issue is power could be out for close to a month if you are hit by a storm of this strength. Most people don’t like the inconvenience of living in 95 degree heat for a month.
- If you live in an evacuation zone but are well prepared, you can stay, but there is a chance you will die, and in the high winds of the storm, police won’t risk their lives to safe you. The chance is low, though, so many will take it. I recommend you plan ahead and take one of the other 4 choices, but it’s a free country (at least in this regard), so people are free to risk their own lives.
So, you have to figure out if you are staying or going. You can wait for the next weather update, but you really should have a plan for both scenarios. If the storm weakens or turns away from where you live, you should stay. If the storm strengthens enough that you don’t feel safe or comfortable, you should go. I would argue everyone in the path of a category 5 would be more comfortable if they left. The rest of the article will focus on how having an EV affects those two plans.
How EV Plans Differ
I won’t go into all the preparations you need to make for a hurricane. I’ll just talk about the ones related to fuel. Google your way to a checklist or follow this link for some ideas for other matters.
You want to fill all of your vehicles up (which is a problem, because everyone filling their gas or diesel cars at once uses more fuel than the stations have). This is an advantage of an EV, since before the storm, the electricity is working fine and you can just charge to 100% at home. If you depend on public charging, it might be a problem.
Gas and diesel cars have these issues to contend with:
- The station may be out of fuel, before or after the storm hits.
- The station may well close at night, and will definitely close during the storm. The station may close after the storm because of damage, nobody being around to open it, or no electricity being available to pump the fuel.
- There will likely be long lines and you might run out of fuel in line. People aren’t just filling their cars — they are also getting gas for their generators.
- There may be an issue with price increases, but these are usually minor.
Owners with EVs have different issues:
- If you charge at home, things will be great before the storm and you should charge to 100% before the storm and keep charging to 100% as you run errands before the storm. After the storm, you have a solid chance of not having power. If you have a full EV, the battery should last for a while anyway.
- If you depend on public stations, you may have to wait in a line to charge, since there will be increased demand for charging. This could be worse than a gas line, since each person takes 30 minutes to an hour instead of 5 minutes. But it could also be better, since most people will charge at home. You won’t likely run out of juice in line because EVs use little juice just waiting for the charger.
- After the storm, power will be out in many places, but since EV chargers are unmanned, they won’t be closed — nobody needs to come in to open the store.
- One nice advantage of having an EV is it is a giant portable power pack. It can charge your phones and run air conditioning for several days. You could buy a 12V cooler to cool some food or beverages. I have a mattress pad that fits in the back of my Model 3, so I can sleep in the back with the air conditioning in the event power goes out.
If you must leave town, it is best to leave at least a day before the storm hits because the last thing you want to do is leave at the last minute, hit a traffic jam, and be stuck on the road while the storm is bearing down on you.
Whether you have a gas or diesel car or an EV, it is best to start with a full tank or charge if you can. If you have a non-Tesla EV, I would really be worried about whether or not the public charging infrastructure is good enough to support my trip. I would want to leave extra early in that case or take a gas or diesel car if possible. With a Tesla, I’m pretty confident that its Superchargers can handle an evacuation, with some delays of course. You might have to wait a bit to charge, but at least you don’t have to worry about the station running out of fuel as happens frequently with gas and diesel stations. Tesla also makes Supercharging free in the area when there’s a natural disaster.
The key to surviving a disaster as comfortably as possible is planning. I hope this article helps people in Florida and other hurricane-prone areas plan for storms coming to their area.
Use my Tesla referral link to get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging on a Tesla Model S, Model X, or Model 3 (you can’t use it on the Model Y yet), here’s the link: https://ts.la/paul92237 (but if someone else helped you, please use their link).