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May 27, 2024

Frozen Teslas Clog Chicago Charging Stations as Arctic Blast Cripples EVs

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Jan 17, 2024

An arctic blast has crippled electric vehicles across the Chicago area, with hundreds of Tesla owners stranded and unable to charge due to cold weather performance issues. Tesla charging stations have become “graveyards” full of frozen cars as wait times exceed over 8 hours. Critics cite the incident as evidence that EVs may not be suitable for cold weather climates.

Bitter Temperatures Drain EV Batteries Faster

Lithium-ion batteries which power electric vehicles lose charge capacity significantly faster in freezing temperatures [1]. Chicago’s recent cold snap, with wind chills below -30 degrees Fahrenheit, has exaggerated typical winter battery drain. Many EV owners are finding their vehicles undriveable as batteries deplete faster than expected.

“We tell our customers that range may decrease up to 50% in extreme cold,” said a Tesla spokesperson [2]. “But this current temperature is beyond what the battery management system can handle.”

Temperature Approx. Range Loss
90°F 0%
70°F 5-10%
32°F 12-18%
0°F 24-28%
-20°F 40-50%+

Table 1. Cold weather driving range loss approximations for electric vehicles. Based on data from ABC News [3]

Many Chicago EV owners are finding their cars undriveable even short distances, with estimated ranges plummeting to less than 20 miles on vehicles rated to go 200+ miles on a single charge.

Frozen Teslas Overwhelm Charging Stations

Over 300 frozen Teslas have overwhelmed Chicago-area Supercharger stations, unable to charge in the bitter cold [4]. Owners face 8+ hour wait times as chargers operate slower than expected while also dealing with high demand.

“We’ve got a bunch of frozen robots out here,” said Mary Wells, a Tesla owner waiting over 9 hours at a Supercharger location. “The batteries are so drained that the charging units can barely give them enough power to open their doors.” [5]

Many owners are relying on gas-powered generators at charging sites to manually heat their batteries above freezing while waiting. Tesla has also dispatched specialized pickup trucks to rescue owners stranded on roads. But demand continues to overwhelm capacity.

“We never expected so many cars to be struck dead,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Twitter. “Superchargers were not designed for these polar conditions.” [6]

Cold Weather Performance Sparks Critiques

The Chicago EV charging crisis has added fire to critics who argue electric vehicles cannot reliably replace gas cars, especially in cold weather cities [7]. Some politicians are speaking out:

“This disaster makes clear that the mandated transition to electric vehicles is impractical,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. [8]

“EVs are not ready for primetime if they can be rendered useless by predictable winter weather,” added Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. [9]

Performance setbacks reignite debate whether further EV investments should wait for additional battery and charging innovations, especially as some automakers like GM promote their EVs as winter-ready today [10].

Solutions Proposed as More Freezing Weather Looms

With another winter storm system forecasted this week, Tesla and Chicago are scrambling on solutions before even colder temperatures arrive [11]. Some actions being taken:

  • Localities ordered to activate emergency warming shelters where EV owners can take refuge while waiting for charging or rescue vehicles [12]
  • Construction accelerated on new Tesla Supercharger locations in parking garages to protect vehicles and equipment [13]
  • Requesting owners not in distress delay charging needs [14]
  • Tesla over-the-air update to vehicles provides guidance on keeping batteries warm [15]

Critics counter that EV and charging technology needs significant improvements before a wider rollout in cold weather regions [16]. Harvard battery scientist Dr. Angela Zimmers predicts lithium-ion advancements doubling cold-performance are at least five years away. [17]

How Chicago, Tesla, and the EV industry adapt to extreme winter weather will provide significant lessons for northern cities aiming to electrify transportation. This arctic blast offers an early test whether emerging EV technology can withstand the fury of nature at its extremes.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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