Electric car in winter? Pro tip: Keep your parka close

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Tow truck operators in Alaska might have a word of advice for those driving electric cars in Alaska’s wintertime: Don’t put your winter gear in the front luggage compartment, also known as a “frunk.” You could freeze to death.

Scott Hockema, owner of Scott’s Towing & Hauling in Soldotna, came across a Tesla full of young adults shivering in the late night cold, wearing only their t-shirts. Their Tesla was inoperable along the shoulder near Kasilof, on the Kenai Peninsula, and, in frigid nighttime temperatures, they could not get the frunk to open. The insurance company told them they’d send a truck in the morning. So they called Scott’s Towing, one of the few tow truck operators who work nights in the area.

Hockema was able to get the passengers warm, and then lifted and hauled the car to a charging station in Soldotna. But there, the group found that the car was so dead that when they plugged in the 4-foot charging cord, the vehicle wouldn’t charge.

That’s when the towing challenge went from slightly out-of-the-ordinary to pro. The vehicle had been towed so many times the towing hook was broken. It was hard to get close with the tow truck. And a tow operator just can’t jack up an electric car from anywhere.

“You have to use a jump box on two small wires in the bumper to open the hood to jump to the 12-volt battery to get the big batteries to start charging. But the electric actuators were not working, so the hood wouldn’t open.” The actuators were frozen.

The Tesla was inoperable until the owner could get a technician from Anchorage to get the hood open and jump the 12-volt battery.

Hockema said that the incident was a reminder that electric cars’ batteries are not only drained by cold weather, but also by the amount of weight in the car — in this case four people and luggage, which can make battery life unpredictable. Having to heat the cabin of the vehicle also drains the battery. He pointed out that electric vehicles don’t come with spare tires, as manufacturers try to keep costs down. And since most everything can be run off of an app on a smart phone, you don’t want your phone battery to die as you wait by the side of the road in the middle of an Alaska winter. This group of Alaskans, who were heading to Anchorage over the pass with a winter advisory calling for 8-12” of snow, were actually lucky they broke down in Kasilof.

With more automobile owners turning to electric cars in Alaska, Hockema noted that tow operators are having to come up with new ways to “McGyver” them out of the ditch and on a flatbed for towing; electric cars cannot be towed without a flatbed.

Hockema said he’s not trying to bash EV owners, but wants them to be aware of what to expect in the harsh Alaska winters.

43 COMMENTS

  1. A good word of caution.

    Don’t drive snow machines where there’s no snow, and don’t drive EVs where and when you shouldn’t, either. Oh, and don’t be stupid, especially in the Alaskan winter.

  2. I couldn’t take my eye off the battery level when I rode as a passenger in my sister’s EV.

  3. As I have noted here before, I will give up my 4WD gas-engine pickup only when ‘they’ can manage to pry my cold, dead fingers from its steering wheel.

    • They have an answer for people like you and me: they simply make fuels difficult and expensive to obtain. “Sanctions”, like what they do to foreign governments who they manipulate. Can’t get gun control measures passed the courts? Make ammo difficult to impossible to get.
      The civil war began cold long ago. It gets warmer by the day……….

    • If you do drive an EV up here, they will eventually have to pry your cold dead fingers off the wheel

  4. Despite the protests and misinformation of a few dedicated electric car shills, I believe you could make a pretty good case for banning EVs in Alaska (or any sparsely populated cold state), or at least restrict them to summer usage on safety grounds.

    States like New York, California and the federal government are trying to leverage car manufacturers into discontinuing ICE engine production through local bans and unrealistic efficiency regulations. Rural Republican states need to see the bigger picture and use what leverage they have to make EVs uneconomical using the same types of regulations. Fight fire with fire. Red states should be actively penalizing EV ownership instead of handing out goodies. No more tax breaks and credits, no more free-ridership on roads funded by fuel taxes, and no more using state resources to install EV chargers that the private sector simply won’t – because they will never pay for themselves.

    • Apu,
      Conservatives and people who support conservative causes believe in the free market and do not believe government knows best and should make decisions for the individual.

      • Which is why I typically describe myself as ‘right wing’, not conservative or Republican.

        Imagine two states. One bans ICE engines in favor of EVs. EV people are happy, ICE people are sad. The other ‘respects’ the free market and allows the sale of both, so both EV and ICE fans can buy their preference.

        Whats the problem? There is no scenario where the EV fan has their preferences taken away. ‘Classic heads I win, tails you lose’. If losing the argument meant losing their consumer preference, EV fans might not be so enthusiastic about banning others’ preferences.

        Second – Fast forward 10 years and ICE engine development ends because manufacturers can only legally sell one product, EVs, in all locations. California has been doing this for decades.

        Pushing back and banning EVs will make EV shills and manufacturers squeal, but it will probably be a necessary step until market preferences are respected in all states, not just ‘conservative’ ones.

      • all the fake right believes in is israel and proving to the universe they are not racists. they savagely defend israel

    • Tennessee now charges fees for EVs
      when renewing their tags. This way EVERBODY pays there tax for roads.
      God bless the great state of Tennessee.

  5. Electric vehicles are much easier day to day than all gas vehicles. Such an unnecessary article.

    • Um, so how about the freezing kids and who’s next? I didn’t know the difficulties of towing an EV, but maybe you did?

    • In what way are EVs “easier”? Perfect example of someone who would end up just like the EV drivers in the article.

      • Well, considering I’ve driven a Tesla for the last 6 years up here, I’d agree with Jessica.
        I plug in overnight, so I never have to worry about stopping to refuel, unless I’m on a longer trip (from Wasilla to Soldotna and back, for example). The maintenance schedule is almost non-existent, and there are fewer mechanical parts to break down.
        There are tradeoffs, like not getting as many miles on one charge in winter, but it’s all about knowing the capabilities of your vehicle.

        • “…….I plug in overnight, so I never have to worry about stopping to refuel, unless I’m on a longer trip……..”
          I would consider a Tesla for a Valley-to-Anchortown commuter if my economic calculations on long term costs looked good. But I retired 12 years ago. I have no use for such a vehicle. I wouldn’t even consider driving one up here long distance, even in summer. Wintertime? LOL………..

        • Wait until you gotta replace those batteries. Which if you’ve had the same EV for 6 tears you’re getting close to needing to buy new ones. LOL!!

    • “…….Such an unnecessary article………”
      I think the proper phrase is ‘such an uncomfortable truth’………

    • Spoken like someone who knows nothing about cars. I gas up every few weeks, which takes five minutes, and I change the oil a couple times a year in my garage. Versus having to plug in almost every day and not having the range to go down to the Kenai Peninsula without having to recharge multiple times if I can even find a recharging station. And then I have sit there for up to an hour. EVs are totally unsuited for our winters. Even in the summer they’re only good for a quick run into Anchorage from the Valley.

    • As long as you never need to take it on a long trip, say… more than 100 miles, you are correct. Convenient.
      .
      Well, right up until you need new tires, and find out not every tire will work due to the weight of the battery.
      Oh, and if you get into any kind of collision and the insurance company totals the vehicle because there is no way to know if the battery is no damaged.
      And, then there is the waiting hours for it to charge up. As well as the cost for that charge.
      Then there is the cost to replace the battery at end of life. Which will happen decades before an internal combustion engine will require replacement.
      But, there is also the perk of having everything software driven, which means any glitch could brick your entire vehicle, potentially while in motion.
      And, when driving in winter, the source of heat draws from the battery, reducing range, significantly.
      And finally there is the inconvenience of bursting into flames without a moments notice, but that is rare, so no worries.

    • EVs have now now been found to put more particulates in the air than an ICE vehicle due to the heavier tires

  6. Thank you for posting this story. There is no way that Alaska can survive on electric vehicles, solar/wind power and fairy dust. I hope that those young adults learned a valuable lesson.

  7. Battery operated vehicles were built for 15 minute cities, not Alaska wilderness. Enough said!

  8. “The vehicle had been towed so many times the towing hook was broken.” Some people don’t have enough sense to learn from past failures, these people are lucky to be alive. If it were an internal combustion engine that ran out of gas there would have been someone who came along with a gas can, how many times do you run out of fuel before you pay attention to the fuel gauge?

  9. The fault in that situation lies not with the young people who were stranded in the EV, but with the sick-minded “climate activists” who brainwashed them into believing that EVs prevent any pollution at all. They don’t. Production and disposal of lithium batteries alone causes obscene amounts of pollution. But, yeah, no tailpipe emissions…….

    • FIREFIGHTERS, are learning there are serious HEALTH & SAFETY HAZARDS in burning EV’s. These fires have exhibited TOXIC GAS generation, ELECTRICUTION HAZARDS, DIFFICULTY TO EXTINGUISH and more. These considerations are at the end of generating an EV – beginning with mining the minerals at great human cost!

  10. RTFM Read The Fun Manual. No big shocker here unless you expect someone else to take care of you like a welfare state. Similar to idiots who run out of gas/diesel on road side and need fuel brought to them.

  11. “With more automobile owners turning to electric cars in Alaska …”

    REALLY?! What does “more” mean? Maybe one or two per month? Or are Alaskans that clueless?

    Sounds like these kids were driving up from Homer, the Quiche-and-Fondue liberal capital of the Kenai Peninsula. No wonder they were driving an EV.

  12. How is this any different than any idiot running out of fuel. Let’s ban all energy sources where you can run out without proper planning. AKA nanny state.

    • “……..How is this any different than any idiot running out of fuel………”
      The fact that getting more fuel on site and pouring it from a can into the tank is easy. Getting a charge to an EV dead on the road is impossible, and even coaxing a dead EV battery to accept a charge from a proper charger in the cold might not be possible.

  13. “came across a Tesla full of young adults shivering in the late night cold, wearing only their t-shirts”. First mistake, It’s Alaska where anything can still go wrong at any time. Dress for the cold ya dummies……

  14. So…a bunch of under-equipped kids were riding around in a thrashed car (“The vehicle had been towed so many times the tow hook was broken”) with low fuel and a dead battery, and ended up freezing their butts off when it predictably broke down.
    Doesn’t sound like a uniquely EV problem, to me.

    • “……..Doesn’t sound like a uniquely EV problem, to me.”
      Correct. Even fools can operate ICE vehicles. EVs require higher education (indoctrination?).

    • The problem isn’t the EV; people should be free to choose to purchase them if they want or something else. Everything comes with certain risks and trade-offs. The PROBLEM is having EV’s forcibly shoved down people’s throats by the government based on environmental half-truths at best, if not outright lies.

  15. Just a reminder.
    95% of the EVs sold are still on the road.
    The other 5% were able to make it home.

  16. The EV (golf cart) I own here in Kona-HI works great!
    Arctic Gear (ie: Parka and Bunny Boots) “not” required!

  17. Got rid of my EV SUV last fall and don’t miss it one bit. It did work well in the Anchorage area but was always weary when I went to the valley or anywhere else.

  18. I am curious what the Alaska Marine Hwy does about EVs. Are there special considerations taken in case of fire when an EV is amongst the vehicles in the hold? Can an EV be charged if it needs that in order to leave the ferry when the destination is reached. Does the vessel have gas masks and the like for passengers and crew if an EV catches fire?

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