What Happens When Your Electric Vehicle Runs out of Charge?

Electric vehicle manufacturers are working hard to grow the EV charging infrastructure, but what happens until then? With gas-powered cars, you just waited on the side of the road for more gas. But can you get a charging station delivered?

Can you charge your electric vehicle on the side of the road?

An electric vehicle plugged in to charge
A Toyota Prius is connected to an electric vehicle charging station | Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

In 2019, about two percent of AAA’s estimated 32 million roadside assistance calls were for gas. AAA heads to your location and fills your car up with enough gas to get to the next gas station.

According to Plug In America, AAA also had a fleet of electric vehicle charging trucks. Back in 2011, the company adapted to the EV craze and had chargers on trucks.

Since these vehicles were less popular, AAA offered the program in high-density areas like Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Orlando.

The trucks were equipped with Level 2 and Level 3 chargers and would provide about 10-15 minutes of charge. That should be enough to get you to a charging station nearby.

According to Torque News, the trucks and chargers were retired sometime before 2019. AAA still offers to tow the vehicles, but it cannot recharge on the side of the road.

When asked for comment, AAA noted that the “original prototype vehicles (five total) have been retired.” But all hope is not lost. It sounds like the company has not written off the service entirely.

“AAA believes there is a place for mobile electric vehicle charging as part of our roadside assistance services. We are currently evaluating all of the available options so that we can deliver to our members the solution that best suits their needs.”

Ellen Edmonds | AAA

If you find yourself in a bit of a pickle, you can always ask around for a local company. Perhaps Elon Musk is nearby, or someone might have a truck with charging capacities that can get you back on the road.

The old fashioned tow truck trick

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If your Tesla Model Y or Ford Mustang Mach-E dies on the side of the road, be sure you ask for a flatbed truck. Many electric cars don’t have a neutral position like gas-powered cars. Your EV needs to go on a flatbed to ensure it does not get damaged.

Companies can tow your car to a charging station or home so that you can get a charge. However, this won’t help if you are having different issues like battery or tire problems.

Tesla does offer a setting called “tow mode,” which allows the car to be towed. You place the vehicle in park, and then you can be towed by another vehicle. You should note that power steering will not work in tow mode.

There are safeguards in place so you don’t run out of charge

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If you’ve ever been in an electric vehicle or Tesla, you know how many different ways there are to tell how much charge you have. The dashboard shows how far you have driven since your last charge and the amount of charge left.

There are many different warnings to let you know when your car is running out of charge. Besides, electric car drivers seem to be more in tune with how far the car will go.

In the video above, you can see a Tesla actually running out of charge. If you ignore all of the warnings and keep forging ahead, your EV will reach 0 km on the dash and eventually stop.

In the case of a Tesla, a warning appears and says, “Battery power very low. Heating and A/C reduced.” The next warning says, “Car shutting down, pull over safely.” An alarm sounds, and the Tesla loses power.

Once plugged in, the EV charges a little slower than normal but charges just fine. It definitely is not a good idea to run down your electric vehicle regularly.

As we progress toward an all-electric future, the charging infrastructure is expanding every day. Perhaps soon, running out of charge on the side of the road won’t even be an issue.

Update: In an earlier article, it was noted that more than half of AAA’s roadside assistance calls were for gas. This was incorrect and has been updated to the corrected two percent statistic.