Massive Winter Storm Traffic Jams Provides Proving Grounds for EV Adoption

The recent historic winter storm traffic jam in Virginia brought up a debate about EVs, but surprising success stories emerged. Would you want to be in an EV during a winter storm?
Written by Katie Dyer
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Feb 9, 2022
A driver's hand on a steering wheel, driving on a snowy highway.
A winter storm in Virginia in January 2022 resulted in more than 24 hours of snarled traffic. That was after an 18-wheeler jackknifed on one of the area’s busiest highways, effectively shutting down Interstate 95. 
The snow accumulated at such a rapid rate that emergency vehicles couldn’t reach vehicles that needed to be towed, further blocking the
roadways.
The highway was at a complete standstill for more than a day in some places, with drivers trapped in their cars in freezing weather with
whatever supplies
they happened to have with them.

Would EVs face major problems in a winter storm?

Many jumped into the electric vehicle (EV) debate after this
traffic nightmare
and predicted that EVs would face a reality check due to the potential horrors of this scenario. According to
The Washington Post
, some assumed that EVs would run out of charge, leaving drivers stranded on a snowed-in highway with no hope for even driving out once the road was cleared and requiring a tow. 
And why wouldn’t this be true? Wouldn’t the batteries drain quickly, just like gas reserves in other cars? Actually, the answer is no. 

EV owners report success

The reality, for the few EVs trapped in this winter storm, was quite the opposite. Dan Kanninen was driving his
Tesla Model 3
on I-95 that day, according to
Zeta
. He reported that his car navigated the ice very well, and once stuck he was able to see exactly how much charge his battery had left, and exactly how many miles he would be able to drive. This was a very helpful bit of information that put his mind at ease. 
Dan explained, “As other drivers then fretted about their dwindling gas reserves, my EV intuitively monitored my power supply, giving me the peace of mind that other drivers did not have.” Plus, since EV drivers tend to charge their batteries at home, they are more likely to have a full charge every day when starting out.
Kanninen was stuck in his car for 14 hours and made it home with 50+ miles left on his charge. As reported by
Kelley Blue Book,
another Tesla driver reported he made it home after being stuck in this winter storm nightmare with 18% of his charge left. 

EV idling experiments yield great results

EVs, unlike gas engines, are able to efficiently direct the battery power towards heating the car. Norwegian YouTuber Bjørn Nyland performed a famous test on his Tesla Model 3, keeping it running for an impressive 72 hours before the battery finally required a charge!
In another at-home EV experiment, a Minnesotan writer at
InsideHook
tested a Ford Mustang Mach-E in a simulated winter storm traffic jam scenario in below-freezing temperatures. He drove around for a while, then returned the car to this driveway and let it idle. He wanted to test how long it could idle with the heater running enough to keep an imaginary car full of people warm. 
After 12 hours of idling in freezing temperatures with the heater running, the Ford lost only 25% of its battery power. 
EV batteries appear to hold their charge for long periods of time when idling. I don’t know about you, but if I’m ever trapped in a winter storm traffic jam, I might want to be in an EV! 
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