What happens if my EV runs out of charge?

Running out of fuel is a nuisance whatever car you drive. But unlike other cars where you can walk to a petrol station with a jerry can and buy fuel, your options are slightly more limited with an EV (electric vehicle). We find out how easy it is for your EV to run out of charge and what you can do if it does.

How easy is it for an EV to run out of charge?

It’s actually quite difficult for your EV to simply ‘run out’ of charge. In reality, most EVs will have warned you multiple times before that happens—just as a petrol warning light might.

Broadly speaking, an EV will flag that its battery needs recharging when it falls to around 10% or 15%. Below 10% and it will pinpoint your nearest charging station using its navigation system. Your EV will also show you the approximate number of miles you can travel based on the battery level you have left.

What will happen if my EV runs out of charge?

When your EV battery power reaches zero, it will typically enter ‘turtle mode’. From here your EV will only power essential functions so you should still be able to pull over somewhere safe.

Will I still be able to use my hazard lights?

Yes, EVs also have a smaller 12v battery which powers items such as lights, indicators and central locking. It means that if you come to a stop, you’ll still be able to let people know you’re there using your hazard lights.

What should I do if my EV does run out of battery?

Some manufacturers (such as Nissan) provide free of charge roadside assistance for their EVs. In this situation, you should contact the manufacturer. Otherwise, you’d need to contact your own roadside recovery provider if you have one (for instance, the AA, RAC or Green Flag). They will then take your EV to the nearest charging station or will charge your car with enough power so you can drive there.

Can EVs be towed?

Your EV can be towed but only in neutral gear. If your EV is towed and is not in neutral, you can damage its electric motor. This is because EVs typically use regenerative braking which feeds energy back into the battery.

If an EV is not in neutral when it’s towed, the wheels will continue to turn and feed energy into the battery. However, as the car is not being driven, this creates excess energy that cannot be spent, and in turn can damage your motor.

If your EV needs to be taken to a charging station, it will need to be put on a flatbed truck. Some breakdown services now use a special type of flat trailer with wheels which cuts the time waiting for an available flatbed.

Can I push an EV?

You can, but again, it must be in neutral otherwise you risk damaging the motor. Remember that there won’t be any power steering, so it’ll take more effort too.

What else should I know about EVs?

Making the decision to switch to an EV can feel overwhelming. To help you weigh up the pros and cons, we’ve put together an electric car hub. Here, you can find out how much an EV might cost to buy, charge and insure. We’ve also included guides to the best electric cars for families and for range, as well as the most popular models on the market.


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