23Nov, 23 November 23, 2023
  • By evcharger

Electric vehicles offer many benefits – lower emissions, smoother and quieter rides, and no more gas station runs. However, one persistent concern deters potential EV buyers – the fear of being stranded with a dead battery. This “range anxiety” stems from limited public charging infrastructure, especially in remote areas. 

Fortunately, innovative technologies provide backup power when your EV unexpectedly runs low on charge far from home. Portable chargers, solar generators, mobile charging trucks, roadside assistance services, and apps reveal ample emergency charging options to banish range anxiety. 

This comprehensive guide explores practical solutions to recharge your electric vehicle in a pinch. Read on to learn how to smoothly deal with a dead battery and stay positive when the unexpected strikes during your electric adventures.

Causes of Unexpectedly Running Out of Charge

Before diving into emergency charging solutions, it’s helpful to understand why an EV might unexpectedly run out of power. Here are some of the most common reasons:

  1. Inaccurate Range Estimates

Most EVs provide an estimated driving range based on factors like current charge level and energy usage. However, these estimates aren’t always accurate. Driving conditions like speed, terrain, weather, and use of climate control can significantly impact range. Unexpected variables can leave drivers stranded if they rely too heavily on the estimated range.

  1. Failure to Plan Route

Not planning out a trip route in advance can lead to a dead battery. However, taking the time to map out charging stations along your route can prevent getting stuck without power. Apps like PlugShare are invaluable trip-planning resources.

  1. Unfamiliar Roads

Venturing into unfamiliar territory where you aren’t aware of charging station locations can lead to a charge depletion emergency. Similarly, driving in a new city or remote countryside area carries a range of anxiety risks.

  1. Vehicle or Charger Malfunction

An EV’s battery system problems, onboard charger issues, or charging station malfunctions can all cause charging problems. Defective charge ports, blown fuses, or electrical faults can mean a car fails to charge properly.

  1. Excessive Climate Control Use

Heating and cooling weather drain an EV’s battery much quicker than normal. Using climate control excessively can drastically reduce the expected range.

  1. Other Unexpected Issues

Flat tires, dead 12V batteries, becoming stuck, and other unanticipated car problems can also result in an EV running out of charge sooner than expected.

Emergency Charging Options

When an EV unexpectedly runs low on charge, what emergency options exist to get it recharged? Here are some on-the-go power sources to consider. 

Portable Level 1 Charger

These chargers are one of the most widely available emergency charging options. They are also known as portable trickle chargers, these units simply plug into a standard 120V household outlet. They provide 2-5 miles of range per hour of charging time.

The main benefits of portable Level 1 chargers include:

  • Compact size: About the same footprint as a laptop charger, designed for easy transport and storage in a vehicle.
  • Universal compatibility: Works with all EVs equipped with a standard J1772 inlet.
  • Affordability: Units start around $200-$300.
  • Simplicity: Just plug and charge; no installation or hardwiring required.
  • Safety: Built-in protection against overheating, overcurrent, and short-circuiting.
  • Portability: Lightweight at under 5 lbs, with a carry handle for easy mobility.

However, portable Level 1 chargers don’t provide very fast charging, but they can be an invaluable emergency power source when no other options exist. Having one in your electric vehicle for unplanned situations provides peace of mind.

Popular portable Level 1 charger models include:

  1. Lectron Tesla to J1772 Adapter: Provides a J1772 connector for Teslas lacking a charge port inlet.
  2. Sparkcharge Roadie: An ultra-compact 1.4 lb magnetic charger.
  3. ChargePoint Home Flex: A Level 1/Level 2 combo charger in a compact suitcase design.

Portable Level 2 Chargers

Portable Level 2 EV chargers are excellent problem solvers for faster emergency charging. They are also known as mobile chargers, these units provide 10-20 miles of range per hour by drawing from a 240V outlet. 

The key benefits of portable Level 2 chargers: 

  • Faster charging: 240V input instead of 120V enables quicker charge times.
  • Higher power: Deliver up to 7.2kW of power compared to 1.4-1.9kW for Level 1.
  • More range: Add great range in a shorter time period.
  • Versatility: Can plug into NEMA 14-50 RV outlets commonly found in campgrounds.
  • Hardwired option: Some models can be permanently installed if desired.
  • Smart features: Wifi/Bluetooth connectivity on some units for charge monitoring.

The main limitations of portable Level 2 chargers are their bulkier size and higher cost. Prices 

range from $500 to $1500. But their faster charging capacity makes them an ideal emergency solution. 

Well-known portable Level 2 charger models:

  1. Grizzl-E: A rugged weatherproof option with a NEMA 14-50 plug.
  2. Webasto TurboDX: Ultra-lightweight modular charger stacks for more power.
  3. Blink HQ: Robust 100-240V “tower” charger on wheels for convenient transport.

Mobile Charging Services

Roadside Assistance Emergency Charging

Most automotive manufacturers and third-party providers offer some form of roadside assistance and charging service for EV drivers. Plans vary widely but often include:

  • Towing: Flatbed towing to a charging location.
  • Mobile charging: Dispatch of a service truck with a portable charger.
  • Battery swaps: Replacing a depleted battery with a fully charged one.
  • Charge delivery: EV taxis deliver a portable charger to your location.
  • Charging reimbursement: Coverage for public charging fees incurred.
  • On-route charging: Charging at roadside service partner locations.
  • Ride provision: Shuttle service to charging sites and back after charging.
  • Hotel discounts: Negotiated deals on local hotel stays while charging.
  • Meal reimbursements: Coverage for meals during unexpected extended stops.
  • App connectivity: Apps to contact emergency charging services and track their arrival.

Most new EVs come with some basic roadside assistance service. Extended plans providing greater charging support are also available, usually via subscription.

On-Demand Mobile Charging Apps

Several apps now provide on-demand mobile EV charging by dispatching charger-equipped vehicles to stranded drivers. Popular options include:

  • SparkCharge: It provides free towing and fast charging through its “Roadie” units. It is available in some US regions.
  • Qmerit: Offers rapid charging assistance in some mainland US locations through their certified Qmerit Charge Pros.
  • EVBoost: Operates in central and southern California using Nissan Leaf vehicles equipped with chargers.
  • MoEV: Dispatches charger-equipped Firefly fleet vehicles in the San Francisco Bay area.

The availability of these services is still quite limited. But on-demand mobile charging apps are expanding, providing an important emergency charging safety net.

Dedicated Roadside Charging Networks

A few public networks dedicated to EV emergency charging are in development. These will provide widespread, reliable charging through networks of strategically located stations.

  • Electrify America: Plans to install charging plazas every 70 miles on US highways for emergency use.
  • Porsche Charging Service: It will offer ultra-fast charging trucks stationed along highways in Europe.
  • SparkCharge Roadie Network: This will provide subscribers access to portable chargers throughout the US.

Public Charging Stations

If you run dangerously low on charge in an unfamiliar area, how do you find nearby stations to limp to? Thankfully, apps make locating charging outlets easier than ever:

  1. PlugShare: The most comprehensive app showing all stations on a map with filters and reviews.
  2. ChargePoint: Shows ChargePoint stations with real-time availability and navigation.
  3. EVgo: Displays EVgo fast chargers and provides charging initiation.
  4. Electrify America: Locates Electrify America stations and provides charging status.
  5. Tesla: Tesla’s app identifies Superchargers and destination outlets.
  6. Apple Maps: Recently added EV routing with charging stops and station identification.

Using these apps provides the best chance of finding a station within limping distance if your EV unexpectedly runs low on charge.

Backup Portable Power Stations

  1. Portable Lithium Batteries

As a last-ditch power source, portable lithium batteries like those used for camping and outdoor recreation can provide an emergency charge. They offer several benefits:

  • Compact: Easy to carry and store in your vehicle.
  • Rechargeable: Can be reused indefinitely.
  • Versatile: AC and DC power for multiple applications.
  • Affordable: Lower cost than dedicated EV batteries.
  • Universal: Compatible with any electric car equipped with a charging inlet.

Using the 12V car socket and an inverter, these batteries can be connected to an EV’s onboard charger to add a few miles of range in dire situations. 

Popular portable power station manufacturers include Jackery, Anker, Ecoflow, Bluetti, and Goal Zero. Capacities range from 500 to over 2000 watt-hours for $200 to $2000.

However, slow and inefficient, portable batteries like these could get you to a charger in a true emergency. They’re mainly useful for small EVs; larger EVs require huge, expensive portable power packs for meaningful range.

  1. Solar Generators

Portable solar generators are another emergency EV charging option. These function like portable battery packs but add solar panels to continuously recharge the internal battery bank. They offer numerous benefits, such as:

  • Sustainable power: Sunlight recharges the battery instead of relying on the grid.
  • Indefinite runtime: Can theoretically run indefinitely during daylight.
  • Lower cost: Once purchased, free continuous power from the sun.
  • Off-grid use: Can provide power anywhere without a power source.
  • Clean energy: Emissions-free renewable solar electricity.

Jackery, Bluetti, and Ecoflow make some of the best portable solar generators, ranging from 300 to over 3000 watt-hours capacity. The kit price starts at around $800. Moreover, slow, solar generators offer indefinite emergency charging.

Take Away

Running out of charge unexpectedly with an electric vehicle can be stressful, but it is easily solvable with preparation and knowledge of emergency charging options. This guide provides an overview of practical solutions to get your EV charged quickly in a bind, from portable chargers to roadside assistance services and public charging stations. While EVs still face challenges around limited infrastructure, innovations are rapidly expanding charging access and reliability. Meanwhile, a little planning goes a long way – always know your vehicle’s range, map out charging stops on long trips, and keep backup chargers available just in case.