Hurricane Survival 101: Tesla Vehicle, Tesla Powerwall, Solar Roof

Tesla Model X and Solar Roof

SEP 23 2017 BY EVANNEX 21


Having a Tesla in a hurricane can be a distinct advantage (Twitter: MKBHD)


If you’re in the path of a hurricane, is it better to have an EV or a dinosaur-burner? Since Harvey and Irma’s unwanted visits, partisans on online forums have been fiercely debating this question.

Of course, each powertrain has its pros and cons. Obviously, the limited range of many EVs would be a problem if you have to “get out of Dodge” quickly (assuming you don’t choose to “hunker down”). To flee a hurricane in a Nissan LEAF or BMW i3, with a mere hundred miles of range, would be impractical, to say the least. However, the 200-mile-plus range of a Tesla should be plenty to get you out of the immediate disaster zone, or at least to the nearest Supercharger.

More than one Tesla owner glibly sailed past the long lines that formed at gas stations all over the Southeast earlier this month. Most of the Tesla Superchargers in Florida remained operational throughout the storm, with the exception of the one in the Keys, which went offline as the island chain took a direct hit from Irma.

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris.

Whenever disaster strikes, (most) companies do what they can to help, waiving fees and adding services to make it easier for people to evacuate. Tesla did its bit by remotely unlocking the full battery pack capacity of certain Model S and X vehicles. Some older Teslas have 75 kWh battery packs, but were sold as 60 kWh models –  software limits the packs to the shorter range. Using its over-the-air update feature, Tesla was able to temporarily extend the range of these vehicles for Tesla owners in the danger zone. One Florida Model S 60 owner told Electrek that he was pleasantly surprised to find his range extended to almost 40 more miles than usual.


Facing down a hurricane in the safest car on the planet (Instagram: pdespati)

Power outages are a regular feature of hurricanes – several days after the storm, thousands in Florida are still without electricity. This is a point against EVs, which could be out of action until the power comes back on. However, power outages can also strand ICE vehicles, as gas pumps require electricity to work. Gas stations in hurricane zones are generally required to have emergency generators, but there have been reports that some of these failed during the recent storm.

Whether you have an EV or an ICE vehicle, you’ll need a full battery or gas tank if you expect to get anywhere. The authorities tell us to keep our tanks full during hurricane season, and that’s good advice. In South Florida however, the lines started forming at gas stations days before the storm arrived, while EV owners simply went home and plugged in as usual.

All in all, it’s probably fair to say that a long-range EV such as a Tesla has a slight advantage over a legacy vehicle in the pre-storm evacuation phase. After the clouds clear, however, that situation may be reversed if you live in an area where power is slow to be restored. In any case, tropical storms are not kind to automobiles – it’s estimated that over a million vehicles were destroyed in the flooding caused by Harvey.


If power is out post-hurricane, you might need to locate a Tesla Supercharger (with power) in order to charge your Tesla (Instagram: pdespati)

While the advantages of EVs in a hurricane are debatable, the advantages of solar power combined with battery storage are clear. Orlando resident Andy Green told Fast Company that, thanks to his Tesla Powerwall, he was able to keep his lights on after a transformer failure plunged the rest of his street into darkness. “We didn’t have full power – we couldn’t have the whole house running – but we cut it down to the bare minimum, like air conditioning, refrigeration, internet, that sort of thing.”

Green’s power was off for 21 hours, as his Powerwall continued to deliver electricity. When the sun came out the next day, the battery started recharging.

Without battery storage, rooftop solar panels won’t do you any good in a disaster. Grid-connected systems are designed to automatically shut down if grid power is interrupted because power fed back into the grid from solar panels could endanger utility personnel working on the lines upstream.


Having solar panels post-hurricane paired with Tesla’s Powerwall backup battery storage can power your home (Image: Inhabitat via Paul Lukez Architecture)

However, a Tesla Powerwall provides not only load-shifting functionality (storing power generated during the day, and releasing it at night) but also a powerful emergency backup capability. Before the storm, Mr. Green set his system to fully charge. When the grid went down, the battery started delivering power to his 5,500-square-foot house. Given limited electric usage and enough sunshine to recharge the battery during the day, he believes he could have stayed comfortable for quite some time.

Looking at the bigger picture, rooftop solar combined with battery storage can make the power grid much more reliable and resistant to damage from natural disasters.

“A distributed energy resource – in other words, one that’s in multiple locations on the grid as opposed to just a centralized location – is obviously much more resilient because you don’t have a single point of failure,” says Christopher Burgess of the Rocky Mountain Institute, which is working to bring renewable energy to Caribbean islands that currently rely on expensive and dirty diesel generators. In Antigua, which escaped severe damage from Irma (unlike nearby Barbuda, which was devastated), the government has been installing microgrids, which incorporate solar panels and batteries, at hospitals and storm shelters.


Tesla’s Powerwall backup battery storage shown with Tesla’s high-power wall connector (Image: Teslarati via Dennis Pascual)

As more households, businesses and community power projects install solar panels and battery storage, the power grid will become less vulnerable to storms and other disasters.


Bonus Tip: How your Tesla can help to power household devices / appliances during a Hurricane

Above: Some helpful tricks in order to use your Tesla to power household appliances/devices during a hurricane (Youtube: DragTimes)

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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21 Comments on "Hurricane Survival 101: Tesla Vehicle, Tesla Powerwall, Solar Roof"

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IF the hurricane does not tear off your solar roof.

Details details.

They told me my array is supposed to withstand 130 miles/hour winds. Hopefully I won’t get to test that.

I’d add to the “Which Powertrain” discussion, what I believe would be two EV advantages.

Fuel mileage – As ICE vehicle travel in slow traffic, their fuel mileage gets very low. The 300 mile tank just decreased significantly.
EVs? Just the opposite.

Passenger Comfort – In the Florida heat, it’s often not an option to open the windows and turn the car off. You have to crank the engine, bring it above idle to great some cooling.
EVs? The engine doesn’t run and you don’t make the situation around you worse, as the hot engines in the ICE vehicles do.

Your points are valid. On the flip side, EVs are pretty useless for long evacuations. Miami/south Florida are 400+ miles from the nearest area that wasn’t in Irma’s path. An 8 stall Supercharger can only service ~12 cars an hour, woefully insufficient for a mass evacuation.

An eight stall gas station can service ~200 cars/hour in an evacuation event.

M3 - reserved -- Niro/Leaf 2.0 - TBD

IF there’s gas. In 20MPH stop/go traffic, that ICE is getting 200mile range with a 2-4 hours gas search.

Even a LEAF in that situation could do quite well….any working 30AMP will get a JuiceBox Level charge going.

Chances of finding a working plug is a lot better than finding gas

Only because geography and hurricane trajectory of this particular case you had 400 m to drive. In TX case 100 m would be enough to drive to get out of the way. But let’s focus on the worst case scenario because that’s the most likely scenario to happen again…NOT!

Solar roof probably less likely to be torn off than solar panels above a roof, but if your roof got torn off and you have to put a new one on still sounds to me like the right time to do it as a solar roof than legacy. And size it appropriate and with enough powerwalls to keep all of the house working including charging the car at least partially.

Even with no solar panels, leave the Leaf plugged into the house and drive the X like hell out of there.

Cheap generator, ICE plus a few cans of fuel in the garage. Tell me why this is not much much better than all that Tesla stuff in these kind of situations? Its not like you will be on your own for ages, just a few days at worst…

Tesla – half the mileage, chances are higher to get fuel than power after storms, not reliable, difficult to repair

Solar cells – if it is so bad, that you really need all that stuff, chances are high they got damaged

Powerwall 2 – 13,5kWh of energy, a generator for 600bucks needs 5 liters of fuel for the same amount

I really dont like these euphemistic Evannex commercials. EVs are great, but stop this lying.

FPL still has 4000 customers w/o power two weeks later. Power is only 90% restored in the Keys.

I agree, though, a generator is much less expensive. Even if your electricity is out for an extended period, you get usually get more fuel after a few days.

You would be surprised to see that the wind ratings on panels are well above 100 miles/hour. I would worry about the house before worrying about the panels unless ground mounted where debris can hit them.

Yeah, and you would be suprised to see that storms like Irma have wind speeds of up to 185mph (lower when it did hit the US). As well wind is not the only danger, things carried away by the wind get projectiles.

My array is rated at 130 miles/hour. The house will go first so don’t worry about your panels, they can take a punch.

A few things on my mind…

Florida laws require all homes be connected to the grid at all times, sorry, no cutoff switching allowed.
FPL is allowed to charge steep fees to homeowners with solar panels, they call it a hazard fee. Because “Your solar panels could damage their electrical grid”. These fees mostly offset the savings one would normally get from having solar.
Yes, FPL has very powerful lobbyists in the State Capitol.

Second, we understand that the Supercharged in Key West went down, what I wonder is (in afterthought) is the status of all the other Superchargers in Florida (and Georgia)… Did any of them go down, if so, when? And are there records detailing their usage during the events? Did any SC reach 100% capacity before a service interruption occurred? We’re there lines at any Supercharger locations? If not, I’d say it wasn’t a problem. Conversely, if there were any Tesla’s left abandoned at a nonfunctional SC, there absolutely there is a problem.

+1000 on the FPL issue… simply criminal that Florida gets away with this (or rather the current political system driven by industrial greed).

It’s a prime example of politicians not representing the people but the corporation that pay their salaries (yes, we pay some too but not as much the corporations do). I was surprised they even put it up to vote last year if they should ban solar all together or not. Give some credit to floridians most of which were smart enough to smell the bs and vote for their best interests.

Plugin hybrid SUV with 60 miles is the way to go!

Plug-in hybrids can work very well here too. Some Chevy Volt owners filled up their gas tank before the storm hit, and ran an inverter through their car to power the most basic things in the house, refrigerator, some fans, and charging up cellphones.

When the battery starts to get low, the gas engine kicks in and recharges it as needed, then shuts back off when the battery reaches its minimum required charge.

One guy on the Volt owners page on facebook showed pictures of his Volt’s battery level, and said that even after running the fridge and some fans, it only used 2 out of the Volt’s 10 bars, or 2 kWh’s worth of energy after a few hours.

How do electric cars fair in very high water? Will they short out? Is there a danger of electrocution from the high voltage battery packs? Are they at all salvageable if totally submerged?

As a south Florida resident that went 5 days without power in my case the Chevy Volt was the perfect Irma vehicle. I filled the car up before all the gas lines started (4 days before the storm) and ran on electrons until Irma killed the grid. Post Irma ran on the gas in my tank, office was closed for 3 days because it had no power. As others pointed out post hurricane their is no gas until electricity is restored, a few stations have generators but they are few and run out of supply quickly anyway. Solar with a battery storage system is really the way to go. I live in an area with very high income and probably 10-20 percent have full house generators which 99.9 percent of the time do nothing. Solar for the same money makes you electricity day in day out earning their keep before the storm.