Frigid temperatures gripping much of the country have exposed major limitations in electric vehicles, leaving drivers stranded and questioning the readiness of EV technology.
Batteries Drained, Charging Failures Leave EVs Immobilized
As arctic air plunged temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit, electric vehicle owners across northern states have found their cars failing to charge or holding little range. Social media filled with reports of dead Teslas piling up at Supercharger stations in Chicago, unable to replenish enough power to move . Owners detail waiting for hours in long charging lines only to have their vehicles charging interrupted and batteries drained by the extreme cold .
This sudden rash of electric vehicle failures threatens progress toward adoption. President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act incentivized electric vehicle purchases, but stranded motorists vented anger and doubt. “Buy an electric vehicle over my dead battery,” one complained .
|% Range Loss
|Tesla Model 3
|Ford Mustang Mach-E
Sources: , 
Experts confirm EV batteries perform far worse in frigid temperatures. Various electric vehicles lose 10-40% of mileage range below 20°F, with lithium-ion batteries extremely sensitive to cold . Beyond range loss, charging also slows significantly, with some vehicles taking 5 times longer to add power in arctic temps .
Research by motor clubs verifies sharp declines in electric driving range during winter. AAA found average range loss in cold conditions of:
- 12% at 20°F
- 41% at 0°F
With high demand for charging, long waits left many batteries drained to zero before ever connecting .
Chicago EV Owners Relate “Absolutely Crazy” Charging Situation
Nowhere do electric vehicle struggles show more clearly than Chicago, where hundreds of EVs crowded charging locations across the metro area.
Mrs. Shawna Shank described waiting six hours in sub-zero temperatures only to have her Tesla fail to charge. “We gave up at midnight when it was -7 degrees and went to a hotel,” she related .
Chicago resident Omar Saqr tweeted photos of immobilized Teslas blanketed in snow after a Supercharger station lost power. “Bunch of dead robots out here,” he described the scene .
Mr. John Katsanos reported his Tesla showed just 58 miles remaining when he reached a Supercharger location. After hours waiting in line without gaining range, he had to be towed away still unable to move under its own power .
Mrs. Leslie Samson eyed the long charging queue at another Supercharger station and decided to risk heading home with just 30 miles range remaining. “It was absolutely crazy. I baby drove it with heat off and when I got home had just 4 miles left,” she said .
|Failed to Charge EVs
Sources: , 
Automakers Respond to Cold Weather EV Shortcomings
Tesla CEO Elon Musk provoked the ire of Senator Lindsey Graham and other critics by making light of the cold weather issues on Twitter . But legacy automakers with electric offerings highlighted winter readiness to distance themselves from the troubles.
GM claimed its EVs undergo testing to -40°F as well as rapid recharging down to -22°F . Ford directed Mach-E owners to precondition batteries while plugged in to maximize winter range and tweeted about track testing in Alaska and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula .
VW provided winter driving tips like limiting cargo weight and storing EVs in garages. The company also recently boosted charging speed on its ID.4 model to help counter slower charging in the cold .
|Winter Readiness Efforts
|-40°F testing, rapid recharge to -22°F
|battery preconditioning tips, cold weather testing
|cold driving tips, faster charging speed
These moves brought accusations of exploiting the troubles for PR purposes. “Shame on legacy carmakers for gloating over stranded motorists instead of supporting EV adoption progress,” the American Council on Renewable Energy responded .
Concerns Rise Over Electric Grid Stability
The electric vehicle failures amplified worries about power grid resilience during severe cold. Local utilities have already implemented emergency appeals for conservation amid surging energy demand . Within Chicago, area energy operator MISO declared a grid emergency on January 17th citing increased likelihood of rolling blackouts .
Experts say the coming electrification of transport and climate change both threaten grid stability during winter extremes . DOE analysis finds U.S. transmission infrastructure unprepared for projected EV growth, especially in Midwest and coastal regions prone to polar vortex cold blasts . Grid modernization delays could throttle future EV adoption by limiting charging capability.
Aftermath and Impacts
With frigid temperatures moderating, many impacted electric vehicle owners are regaining mobility. But the cold weather debacle leaves uncertainty on several key questions:
Reliability – Can EV batteries and charging networks perform dependably in extreme cold? Lost trust may hamper adoption.
Resilience – Do utilities and grids require upgrades to meet EV charging demands during winter peaks?
Weatherization – What winterization steps bolster EV cold tolerance? Do automakers need new standards?
The coming weeks will reveal how drivers, automakers and governments choose to respond. But the troubles expose gaps that cloud the electric vehicle future in cold weather regions. Ongoing improvements now confront a heightened sense of urgency to electrify transport year-round.
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