California Power Outages Threaten EV Charging

Tesla owners urged to charge up as utility shuts off electricity to prevent wildfires
Photograph: Shutterstock

SAN FRANCISCO — As California’s largest utility begins the first of several planned power outages to prevent wildfires, owners of electric vehicles (EVs) are facing the additional challenge of powering up.

California’s 2019 wildfire season has begun as high winds whip up fires across the northern part of the state. To prevent sparking new fires from downed poles or power lines, Pacific Gas & Electric began the first of several planned power outages Oct. 9 that could ultimately affect nearly 1 million customers in more than half of the state’s 58 counties.

For owners of EVs, the challenge presented by the power outages is especially unique. Some Tesla owners received an advisory from the EV manufacturer to charge up ahead of the planned outages, The Washington Post reported.

“A utility company in your area announced they may turn off power in some areas of Northern California beginning Oct. 9 as part of public safety power shut-offs, which may affect power to charging options,” the message stated, according to social media posts from Tesla owners. “We recommend charging your Tesla to 100% today to ensure your drive remains uninterrupted.”

Tesla is providing the status of its Supercharger fast-charging stations on the EVs’ mapping system. Tesla owners told the Post that their local Supercharger stations seemed to be busier than usual. One owner even bought gasoline-powered generators as a backup for charging his Tesla Model 3 and powering his home.

In a couple of tweets, Tesla founder Elon Musk said the EV manufacturer was installing Tesla Powerpack battery storage systems at all Supercharger stations in areas affected by the power outages within the next few weeks, and installing Tesla Solar “as fast as possible.”

“Goal is 24/7 clean power with no blackouts,” he tweeted.

California has the largest number of EVs in the U.S., with Tesla having more than 50% share of EV sales, per EVAdoption.com. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, the cities with the highest share of EVs by population are San Jose, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles.

The Post said gasoline pumps, and sites that do not have their own backup generators, could also be affected during the power outages as residents rush to fuel up. GasBuddy, the Boston-based provider of fuel price information, activated its crowdsourced fuel availability tracker for Northern California on Oct. 9. The tracker can help users find and report gas stations that have no gasoline, diesel or power.

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