What If Your EV Runs Out of Power?

All Electric Jeep Avenger

If you own an electric vehicle, you probably have endured range anxiety. If you’ve thought about buying one, you probably have felt the pangs.

In addition to price, how far these vehicles can drive on a single charge has prevented drivers from getting an EV, despite their growing popularity. Most consumers still have many questions about how electric cars operate and how their batteries stay cool during long stretches on the road at high speeds, as shown in the Formula E documentary We Go Green on Hulu. Nevertheless, the average price of new electric vehicles has decreased over the last few years while manufacturers have increased the range considerably. Electric vehicle charging stations have begun to pop up on major highways. A recent report by Green Car Reports indicated that 95% of EV users never run out of power when on the road. Yet, you may find yourself in a situation where your battery depletes. What do you do?

What happens when your EV battery gets close to zero?

First, your car’s monitoring system will inform you beforehand that its battery is starting to run low on power. You’ll receive countless warnings on your display after the battery reaches a certain threshold. Running out of battery charge is similar to running out of petrol. Keep in mind that the amount of range is only an estimate, with manufacturers often programming their EVs to show a conservative number. Nevertheless, the closer your battery gets to zero, the more accurate the reading will be. The navigation system in virtually every EV will guide you to the nearest charging station, so you can check how far you are from one.

What happens when your EV battery runs out?

Unlike your smartphone, which immediately becomes inoperable when its battery hits zero, your vehicle won’t suddenly stop. Even when it shows a 0% charge, you’ll still be able to drive a few miles to a charging station, but what happens specifically depends on the manufacturer. Some will shut off air conditioning and other non-essential systems, others will limit the amount of power available, while some may only let you drive at a certain speed. Realize that when this happens, you are travelling on borrowed time.

When your display hits 0%, pull over to the right lane. Eventually, the throttle will become unresponsive, and you’ll lose acceleration. You’ll still have power steering and safety systems available, so guide your car off the road to the hard shoulder. The gauges, displays, interior lights, etc., will remain operable as these all run off the 12-volt battery.

Recommended actions after your EV has run out of charge

Your first thought may be to get a jump start for your EV. However, all manufacturers advise against having a friend or another motorist with an EV jump-start yours. While the battery can take a jump-start, leave that to the professionals. Consider the following actions if you find yourself stranded on the road.

Call a charging company

Many start-up companies and traditional insurance coverage offer emergency roadside charging for your EV. Manufacturers like Ford have their own roadside charging service. Many offer fast, portable DC charging that can give you up to 70 miles of range within an hour. Whatever company you select, you’ll get back on the road quickly so you can head to the nearest available EV charger.

Contact roadside assistance for a tow

EV owners must be careful when calling for a tow because some vehicles, like most Tesla models, must be placed on a flatbed truck to avoid damage to the battery. Thoroughly review your manual for towing instructions and ensure that the emergency company you contact is experienced in the proper methods for moving EVs.

Use a portable charger

Some manufacturers now offer portable chargers as an option. If you have one, use it to get to your nearest station.


EVs are the wave of the future. As technology advances, ranges will increase, decreasing the likelihood of becoming stranded on the road with a dead battery. However, even with current technology, you can eliminate range anxiety by calling a charging company, contacting roadside assistance, or using a portable charger.

Photograph courtesy of Jeep® UK

1 Comment

  1. Oh for goodness sake, just keep an eye on your usage and don’t let it get below 20%. People who run out of power (or gas) are just stupid.

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