Electric Cars and Hurricanes Don't Mix

By Susan LadikaLifestyle and BudgetInsurance.com

If you live in hurricane country, your plans to flee an approaching storm could be zapped if you drive an electric vehicle.

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Without enough juice to crawl along in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours on end, "your car turns into a lawn ornament," says John O'Dell, senior editor at Edmunds.com.

Unlike gasoline-powered vehicles, electric vehicles can typically take you just a few dozen miles on a charge. The best-selling 2014 Nissan Leaf will get you an estimated 84 miles on a single charge. On a good day you'd be lucky to make it from Tampa to Orlando.

You'll do somewhat better with a Toyota RAV4 EV, which will carry you up to 125 miles on one charge, while the Tesla Roadster will get you well over 200 miles per charge.

But a recent study by AAA found electric vehicle driving distances decline as temperatures creep up.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak threat in August and September. If you live in the Southeast, that means you're most likely to be walloped by a hurricane when there are sweltering temperatures and humidity so thick you can it cut with a knife.

The study by AAA and the AAA Automotive Research Center found extreme heat and cold can dramatically deplete electric vehicle mileage.

AAA tested three electric vehicles in moderate, hot and cold temperatures. When tested at 75 degrees, the average battery range for the three vehicles was 105 miles. At 95 degrees, the range dropped to 69 miles. At 20 degrees, it was only 43 miles.

OK, Start Looking for a Charging Station

Even if you can reach the place you're headed, your next issue will be finding a location to plug in and recharge.

Granted, the lines at gas stations can snake for blocks before and after a hurricane, but you typically have a plethora of gas stations to choose among.

That's not the case with public electric vehicle charging stations, which are usually few and far between. At 240 volts, the charging itself can take hours. Even if you use a fast charger, it can take four or five hours to recharge your car, O'Dell says. You also can get adapters so you can use a household outlet, but it could take 20 hours to fully power up your car.

And that assumes there's electricity available. Even if you don't flee your home, it's not unusual for hurricanes to knock power out for days on end.

Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of the Northeast in October 2012, left more than 8 million homes and businesses without power in 17 states and the District of Columbia, according to Time.com.

Even if you live in a hurricane-prone area, that doesn't mean you need to shun electric vehicles. You just need to give thought to your transportation alternatives.

"Most people have a backup vehicle," regardless of where they live, O'Dell says.

The backup vehicle can even be a gasoline-electric hybrid, like the Toyota Prius, or an electric car that carries a gasoline engine onboard to charge the batteries, like the Chevrolet Volt.

Fire and Rain

Regardless of the type of vehicle you drive, fire and water don't mix. After Hurricane Sandy, 16 Fisker Karmas went up in flames at Port Newark, N.J. The carmaker said saltwater caused a short in one vehicle, and high winds spread it to the others.

But the risk isn't just confined to electric cars. After Sandy, several other vehicles caught fire in various locations in New Jersey, and fire investigators blamed the blazes on saltwater residue on the cars' electrical wiring.

O'Dell says all newer model cars are vulnerable because of all the wiring. "There's always something drawing electricity now in modern cars."

If you're curious, when your car burns up your house, it's your homeowners insurance policy that would pay for the damage to the house, not your auto insurance. You can't file an auto insurance liability claim against yourself. But comprehensive coverage on your auto policy would cover the car.

For Early Adopters, Some Benefits

Demand for electric vehicles is on the rise. Of the 3.7 million total vehicles sold during the first quarter of the year, more than 22,000 were electric vehicles, including battery-powered electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and extended-range electric vehicles, according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association.

In 2013, more than 17,000 plug-in vehicles were sold during the first quarter of the year.

Hawaii and Washington had the highest percentage of registered electric vehicles in 2013, at nearly 1.6%, followed by California at almost 1.4%. Hurricane-prone Georgia came in fourth, at nearly 1.2%, according to an Edmunds.com analysis of car registration data from Polk.

Florida ranked 15th, at 0.21%, while Louisiana and Mississippi had some of the lowest percentages of registrations, at less than 0.5%.

Along with saving on energy costs, owning an electric vehicle can help you save on auto insurance costs.

Farmers Insurance offers a 10% discount for alternative fuel vehicles for California residents, while The Hartford offers a 5% discount for hybrids and electric vehicles for its customers in most states.

The original article can be found at Insurance.com:Electric cars and hurricanes don't mix