Unprecedented traffic jam raised questions about EVs in chilly weather.
A recent traffic jam in Virginia left people stranded in the freezing cold for nearly 24 hours, confined to their cars in order to keep the freezing temperatures at bay. Several people took to various platforms, wondering out loud how worse the situation would be if every car in the unprecedented gridlock was electric.
In a piece published in The Washington Post, columnist Charles Lane questions whether electric vehicles - with their temperature-sensitive batteries - would be ruinous if caught in a situation like Virginia's 48 mile-long tie-up.
Aside from range anxiety issues, the author questions how rescue services - who could drop fuel for combustion-engined vehicles - would help an electric car driver. He also questions battery capacity, noting that cold weather rapidly reduces range.
Youtuber Dirty Tesla took to his channel to offer a counter-argument, providing detailed answers to the aforementioned writer's questions. He not only owns two Teslas - a 2020 Model X and a 2021 Model Y - but lives in equally cold conditions, not unlike the weather experienced by unlucky Virginia motorists.
This puts him in the best position to conduct an experiment of his own. The Tesla aficionado set his Teslas up, leaving them running with the heater on as if they were in a traffic jam. The 2021 Model Y is fitted with the newer heat pump, whereas the older model X utilizes the resistive heater, which uses more energy than the newer heat pump. It does have a bigger battery than the Model Y, though.
Both cars started the experiment with a similar battery charge; 91% for the Model Y and 90% for the Model X. The Youtuber set both heaters to a comfortable 70 degrees Fahrenheit and, after two hours, the Model Y was down to 82%. He notes the newer Tesla used a lot of energy to get the temperature from 15 °F to 70°F, with energy consumption settling down after the initial demand.
After the same time, the Model X had 79% remaining. After 12 hours, both Teslas have ample battery capacity remaining, despite running overnight. Astonishingly, the Model Y still had 58% left. The experiment shows that Teslas, at least, would be well-equipped for emergencies such as Virginia's nightmarish traffic jam. It would be interesting to see how other electric cars, with smaller capacity batteries, would fare.