Saturday, January 29, 2022

ICE or BEV With Your Blizzard?


Just a quick introduction. I don't own a Tesla or any electric vehicles but I found this information very educational as we head off into our battery powered future.

Remember that blizzard in Virginia on January 4 that made national headlines? The state highway system came to a complete stop, trapping travelers on the road for nearly 24 hours. A truck driver tweeted that a Tesla driver knocked on his cab window and asked him for a blanket to keep his kids warm. He wondered what would happen when the Tesla ran out of juice. Would that poor family freeze to death as they waited futilely for a rescue?

That tweet became major news. A Washington Post op-ed (paywall) worried about what will happen when the country's transportation goes completely battery electric vehicles (BEV) only. Electric cars are much more difficult to get off the road when they run out of power compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) powered autos. You just need to add a couple of gallons of fuel into the tank and the car is good to go. 

The good folks at Car and Driver decided to run a little experiment with this scenario. They took a 2019 Tesla Model 3 Long Range and idled it next to a 2022 Hyundai Sonata N to see which car would last longer. The average outside temperature during this test was 15F though it got as low as 9F. They set both cars' climate controls to 65F.

Well guess what--the Tesla could last nearly as long as the Hyundai in this demonstration. The Tesla has the advantage of Camp Mode which turns off every part of the car except for climate control when the car is in park. The Hyundai's engine idled at full power the entire time. The Tesla started out with 98% charge on the battery and ran for 37 hours straight, leaving about 17% charge or 50 miles remaining. In theory, it could have continued for a total of 45.1 hours. The Hyundai's engine was stopped after 24 hours but they calculated it would have gone a total of 51.8 hours with its 16 gallon gas tank.

US Dept. of Energy

The Tesla was able to achieve this because BEV's have more efficient motors. The Model 3 used up 1.6 kWh per hour while the Hyundai burned through 10.6 kWh per hour. Another reason BEV's are safer in unexpected emergencies is because electric vehicles are more likely to have a full "tank" every time they go on the road since most owners charge their cars at home overnight. Meanwhile, ICE owners don't usually fill up their cars until well under half-tank. Good luck trying to find a gas station when there is an emergency evacuation order. 

So next time you snicker at the BEV driver and their worries about range anxiety, just remember that they are more likely to have a full tank in their car than what you're currently driving. In fact, when was the last time you even saw a BEV stranded on the side of the road because they ran out of juice? In Los Angeles, cars are stranded on the sides of the freeways every day because they ran out of gas.

By the way, that truck driver later tweeted that the Tesla family did just fine when the Virginia highway finally opened up. They still had 18% charge on their Tesla when they finally made it off the road to the nearest Supercharger station. I'd be more worried about trying to find a bathroom in a blizzard than getting stuck long enough for an electric car to lose all of its battery power while trying to stay warm. 

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