01.31.2017 - by Plug In America
Ask the EV Experts: What Happens When I Run Out of Charge?

In our latest episode of Ask the EV Experts, we answer a question from Mary in Washington. Have a question of your own? Post it on Facebook, Tweet at us or email us at info@pluginamerica.org #AskTheEVExpert


“What happens if my electric car runs out of electricity on the road?”


This is a super common concern; AAA estimates that of their 32 million roadside assistance calls per year, at least half are from drivers who ran out of gas.

For all their differences, Plug In cars and gas cars do share some practical similarities. Running out of gas or electricity produces the same result: your car will stop. In the case of a gas car, a roadside service truck can usually bring you a can of gas, or tow you to the nearest gas station. Similarly, an electric car can simply be towed to the nearest charging station.

In 2011, Triple A invested in a fleet of roadside recharging trucks meant to service stranded electric cars. These trucks carried an onboard fast charger capable of adding ten miles of range in just ten minutes. Five years later, Triple A reports that these trucks aren’t used nearly as much as they predicted. They noted that electric car owners are just more conscious of their range than gas car owners, and electric cars provide ample audible and visual warnings of low range to their drivers.

Since 2011’s Triple A study, more than 30 new vehicles with ever-increasing electric range are commercially available, making range anxiety less of a concern.

So, if you’ve never run out of range in your gas car, you aren’t likely to start running out in your electric car.


24 comments on “Ask the EV Experts: What Happens When I Run Out of Charge?”
  1. catherine says:

    What happens to our gas powered car or pickup or RV or Boats?

  2. Richard Barron says:

    If your EV car is out of electrons in the middle of a superhighway and any type of towing is impossible to reach you, is there a type of “emergency unit or charge” than can be plugged into your disabled EV car to move it off the highway?

  3. Matthew Hill says:

    For the person asking about adding solar to a car. A typical car uses 337 watthours to drive 1 mile. I just bought a 3ft x 4ft that maxes out at 198 watthours. If you were able to get 100% efficiency for 10 hours in a day, it would add slightly less than 6 miles to the range. Covering the hood, top and trunk, you *might* be able to add about 20 miles to the range, but any shadows, clouds, and sun angles will reduce it.

    Is 10 miles under average conditions in a day worth it?

  4. a. Yamamoto says:

    It does not fit my situation.
    My case is battery is dead and no response to remote control to open the door. The charger is inside of the car. Can’t charge it.
    How can I open the door to get the charger ?..

  5. Vicki Johnson says:

    In case of blackouts like in Texas last week, are the electric cars having to wait until the power goes back on to get charged if they were low or ran out?

  6. Laura says:

    Help how long do I have to charge after my leaf car died For it to start

  7. Bayu Ardi says:

    Hello, I’m Bayu from Indonesia. i would like to asks about EV Battery in a state of 0% (totally emptied). Isn’t suppose to be able to re-charged or, in EV case, it is not possible to be recharge ? Could you enlight me in such matter.

  8. Pete Sharp says:

    Matt says in a post here that hybrids can do twice 500 miles on a charge. My Prius can eek out 600. What hybrid can drive 1,000 miles on a tank. Even note infusing be days that his uneconomical gasoline sports car can easily drive 600 miles. Anyone know of such a sports car? I sure can’t think of one.

  9. Dan Dreslinski says:

    I had 2006 Dodge Durango with a 28 gal. Gas tank and a 5.3 L engine. One tank of gas on expressway driving I could go over 500 miles.

  10. Matt says:

    What am I reading here? Which regular car does NOT drive at least 500 mi on a tank?! Probably every diesel can do it, Hybrids can do more than twice that and even my highly uneconomic petrol sports car can do 600 mi without even trying to squeeze miles out of it. That is exactly the point – electric cars can’t hold a candle to combustion cars. Btw, 5 minutes later, they can drive another 500… And electric cars? Lying about 300 miles in advertising, while delivering 200 in real life, if you drive softly and don’t use the aircon. Hello, future!

  11. jda says:

    Answer: A fossil car will still be able to be rolled or pushed (by hand) say…off the road. An EV? At what point do the wheels lock and where you ran out of charge is where you stay.

  12. Erich Richter says:

    This is an evasive answer to a simple question. Does the car just go to a crawl until it comes to a complete stop (like will I even get off the freeway?) or does it simply stop abrupty at zero? Also, AAA says themselves that their capacity to respond to roadside assistance for EV’s is overwhelmed.

  13. Tim says:

    @ Confucius

    Are you nuts? What gas powered car runs 500 miles on a single tank??? So why the unrealistic demands on an electric car?

  14. Joe says:

    What Happens if there’s a power cut when you are charging at home

  15. Regina C Vega says:

    I just bought myself a bmw2014, never had an electric car before. The car inspection did expired since Oct. 2018 so I was afraid to drive it due to the inspection. No one knows about electric cars in my area. Now the car ran out of charge and I don’t know if that is going to caused any problems with the computer system in the car. I need to take the car to be charge and I don’t know if by towing the car to the nearest charging point it will get damage some how. Please advise. Thank you.

  16. Al Mantilia says:

    The plug-in hybrid gives you the best of both worlds.

  17. Jason says:

    Funny, they didn’t even answer the question! The vid explains why you probably won’t – or are unlikely – to run out of charge. But I believe the question is about what actually/physically happens when the electrons are all gone! Also, for those of us who don’t have AAA, we will not be roadside quickcharged, or towed to a nearby charging station.

  18. Jaxon Marchet says:

    Luckily, there is an adapter on the market that you can use to adapt a tesla charger to charge any north american/japanese car. Dont believe me look it up! I use mine all the time. Its so funny the looks i get from tesla drivers when im charging at their station!

  19. Michael says:

    No I don’t think E V will work until you can recharge in 10 – min. Or less I am an expert 35 + Years

  20. Confucius says:

    I believe that once an electric car is manufactured. The manufacturer should add solar to the top of the car. Thus extending the battery life and the distance to travel. To me it makes sense. But then again why would anyone do something that makes sense right? That is the reason I have not purchased an EV yet. Not until the driving distance has increased to at least 500 or more miles on a single charge. Which would mean to add solar to increase distance.

  21. Cheri says:

    With the new Tesla coming out and knowing I’ll be needing a new car within the next year (230,000 miles so far on my Prius), I wanted to know if anything could ease my anxiety over driving an electric vehicle and whether such a car could work for me. I often drive long distances. Unfortunately, I see that this is still not appropriate for me. Too anxiety-inducing. I’ll stick with a new hybrid Prius.

  22. Electric Bill says:


    “Since 2011’s AAA study, more than 30 new [EVs] are commercially available, making range anxiety less of a concern.”

    i am puzzled by this comment. Increasing the number of models available, or even the number of individual EVs on the road, is not going to ease range anxiety. What will ease range anxiety is more charging stations, more compatibility of chargers with the vehicles needing charge, and apps that accurately tell us where the chargers are, what hours they are available, and whether they are available to the public or only to employees, co-ops, etc.,

    I live in L.A., and have experienced these problems repeatedly. One of the apps in question, from ChargePoint, is woefully inaccurate. Just this morning I found a DWP payment center showing on the app which was supp osed to have 24 access to two level II chargers, but all they actually had was one CHADEMO DC charging station which will charge an EV quickly if the car’s charge port is compatible, which most cars are not… most cars here have the J1776 port,

    There are several incompatible charge port designs, and until there is some form of standardization such as with the filler nozzle design which is universal for gasoline cars, we will continue to have growing pains. If Tesla allows everyone to use their charging standard—which is unlikely for the near term— that would go a long way to being able to put that issue to rest.

    Tesla’s charge port is close to ideal, but the Tesla network could not bear the flood of non-Tesla vehicles without Tesla drivers experiencing major inconveniences. As Tesla continues to expand its network, it may eventually be robust enough to be our charging standard nationwide.

    1. John U'Ren says:

      Hi Bill,

      Thank you for point that out, the article has been amended.



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