EV charging and hurricanes: What drivers should know before evacuating

Every second counts when evacuating a hurricane. For drivers of electric vehicles, the shortest path to safety during an evacuation can become longer.

As we know, hurricanes can impact Texas’ coast and cities like Houston.  For people who drive electric vehicles, evacuating during a hurricane can be challenging and, in some instances, not possible.  These drivers know how few charging stations there are throughout the greater Houston area.

EV drivers in Florida are feeling the pressure as Hurricane Ian inches closer to the peninsula. It’s a possibility some of these drivers, especially those who live on barrier islands, could become stranded as most emergency plans and evacuation routes do not offer or take into consideration charging stations.

Dr. Eleftheria ‘Ria’ Kontou, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Civil and Environmental Engineering has identified a critical gap in evacuation planning when it pertains to EVs. 

“Electric vehicles usually have shorter driving ranges that gasoline ones and sparser charging infrastructure networks.” 

Dr. Kontou said EV drivers are sometimes forced to deviate from designated evacuation routes, which increases their evacuation time, during critical moments when every second counts.

“Evacuation routes should have access frequently to recharging stations and also take advantage of the capacity of the current charging infrastructure network so they can minimize the delays and crowding that could happen at such stations given big evacuation demand.  When you think of I-10 or 45 in Houston, it would be important to have a dense charging infrastructure network on these interstates so that EV drivers evacuating Houston during a hypothetical scenario, would have reliable access to infrastructure to a city in the safety zone.” Dr. Kontou said.

Leaders and emergency coordinators are encouraged to be more cognizant of issues and delays facing EV drivers when evacuating, according to Dr. Kontou. She encourages these folks to collaborate with charging infrastructure providers to identify critical charging spots and to install or increase charging capacity in those locations.

You can read more about Dr. Kontou’s study of hurricane evacuation and EV vehicles in her report here.

If this is not an option, EV drivers are encouraged to coordinate with friends, family members, or neighbors with gas vehicles to get to safety.

To find a nearest EV Charging station in the Houston area, click here.

About the Author:

Zachery “Zach” Lashway anchors KPRC 2+ Now. He began at KPRC 2 as a reporter in October 2021.