‘Emergency service is definitely going to be an issue’ with early electric vehicles

Jan 10, 2022, 10:54 AM
The entrance ramp to I-95 is closed after a winter storm dumped a foot of snow on the area overnight on Jan. 4, 2022, near Fredericksburg in Stafford County, Virginia.(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The big transition to all electric vehicles is underway. But what happens when you’re stranded on the highway for hours, like on I-95 in Virginia last week?

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Some people ran out of gas, but apparently the electric cars did not do very well because, traditionally, batteries do not perform well in cold weather.

Jeff Gilbert, the auto reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950, and host of the Car Chronicles Conversations, told Seattle’s Morning News “that is going to be an issue.”

“We’re working out a number of issues with electric vehicles — recharging range, things like that –they’re all getting better, but emergency service is definitely going to be an issue. … It’s simple with a gasoline vehicle: Bring a tank of gas, a gas can, and get going,” Gilbert said.

“In the terms of EVs, especially when you have a long pile up like that [on I-95], the heater runs on the battery, and the heater draws a lot of juice from the battery. In terms of a gasoline powered vehicle, it does draw electricity that is generated by the engine, but it’s far more efficient that way,” he added. “So that’s one of the things that happens when you’re a first adopter of a new technology. You take the risk that there are going to be certain things that don’t work as well as an established technology.”

While some cars do have a small engine that essentially can act as a backup, Gilbert says that makes it a more complex vehicle.

“You put in an engine and engines cost a lot of money,” he said. “So we’re trying to get the cost down, and that’s why carmakers are now skipping directly to electric vehicles because they like the simplicity of them.”

KIRO Radio traffic reporter Chris Sullivan asked about the possibility of carrying an extra battery pack, similar to what already exists for smartphones.

Gilbert jokes that could happen with help from Superman. But even the modern, more sleek batteries are “still very large, very expensive.”

“They also are very high tech, they need a lot of cooling, things of that nature,” he added. “So you’re not talking about something that’s easy to swap out, easy to carry around. I don’t have the solution but there are entrepreneurs out there who may be thinking right now — and adversity brings with it ideas. So perhaps this may have somebody out there, some future Elon Musk who’s going, ‘hey, wait, I’ve got an idea.'”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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‘Emergency service is definitely going to be an issue’ with early electric vehicles