In another case of Florida political absurdity, a Republican state senator in the Sunshine State wants to ban electric vehicles from hurricane evacuation routes. Bright idea. (Sarcasm.)
Everywhere I drive, I see electric cars. They are a major part of the driving landscape here now. Republican State Senator Jonathan Martin think those cars and their drivers should not be able to use evacuation routes because he thinks their batteries will die in a traffic jam. Aside from any matters of basic human safety and representing the people of your state appropriately, something that many people who don’t have electric cars often don’t realize could be at play here.
When a gas car or truck is sitting and idling, it is burning quite a lot of fuel. With a gas powertrain, if it’s running, it’s running. With an electric powertrain, if you’re not driving, you’re using minimal power. There’s no engine that has to run constantly. You may use some energy for the infotainment system or the air conditioning, but this is minuscule compared to the energy needed for driving. So, actually, a gas-powered car is more likely to run out of gas sitting in an evacuation traffic jam, especially if they feel the need to have the AC running and thus the car on.
One of our writers, Jennifer Sensiba, in a writer discussion next to the pool on top of our 11-story net-zero-energy headquarters, noted an evacuation anecdote regarding a gas car driver. “I had a cousin run out of gas trying to evacuate in Texas. A number of cars caught fire from overheating and idling too much.” Yikers!
Of course, Fox News picked up this story, Fox Business to be precise. (More like Fox Doesn’t Know S***.) That got picked up by Google News, which is how the insultingly misguided comments crossed my desk.
Naturally, there was a pure political angle at play with these comments. State Senator Martin was at a committee hearing talking to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Executive Director of Transportation Technologies Trey Tillander about the state’s plans to use funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (an achievement of the Biden administration) for EV charging infrastructure. Florida is set to receive $198 million from the federal government for EV charging infrastructure.
At the end of December 2022, Florida had 203,094 electric vehicles registered, compared to more than 19 million vehicles overall.
Tillander’s sensible response was that he would discuss the matter with other agency heads (i.e., he’d humor Senator Martin for a moment) but that he thought EV drivers should also be able to evacuate the state during a hurricane. He talked about providing the same level of service for EV drivers as gas car drivers. The state has “Road Rangers” that can go help people who have run out of gas, and the could have a similar service using portable charging stations for people who run out of charge, Tillander added.
One more benefit we haven’t noted yet with regards to electric vehicles: they can fully charge at home before heading off to evacuate. Gas cars have to go to gas stations, which often get insanely long lines and also run out of gas. Ahead of an evacuation, an EV driver should have no such problem. Jennifer Sensiba added, “Plus, gas stations run out due to extra demand while charging stations stay up until the worst of the storm hits.” Now we’ve got some comments rooted in reality.
Democratic State Senator Tina Polsky made a straightforward and sensible comment in response to State Senator Martin’s idea. “I don’t think you can ban an electric vehicle from evacuating because that may be the only car someone has,” she said. Senator Polsky drives an EV.
Of course, some people somehow see politicians like Senator Martin as the moderates and politicians like Polsky as the radicals.
I will say that there is one good reason to persuade some EV owners to not evacuate before a hurricane — if they have an EV with vehicle-to-load or vehicle-to-grid capability, they can be very helpful for people who lose power! Naturally, though, no one should be requiring that they not evacuate.
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