It's no secret that not everyone is as enthusiastic about transitioning from internal combustion engine vehicles to battery-powered vehicles. Quite often, those that aren't ready to switch to an EV point to reasons that aren't rooted in reality; not necessarily because they aren't being truthful, but simply because they haven't done any research and are uninformed on the topic. 

So we took on one of the most common misconceptions about electric vehicles - that they are unsafe to drive in severe snowstorms. We've often seen people comment how they wouldn't feel safe driving an EV in a snowstorm because if the roads became impassable and they had to pull over and wait out the storm, the battery would die and they would likely freeze to death waiting for help to arrive. 

Getting stuck and stranded in your vehicle during a snowstorm is a very rare occurrence, but it does happen. Triple-A reports that they expect to get about 100,000 calls per year from stranded motorists requesting help and extraction during severe weather events. 

Ford F-150 Lightning vs Rivian R1T heater efficiency

Ford F-150 Lightning vs Rivian R1T heater efficiency

While 100,000 stranded motorists sound like a lot, there are over 230 million licensed drivers in the US. Therefore, you have only about a .000043% chance of getting stranded in a snowstorm. In other words, you probably have a better chance of winning the lottery. 

However, some people do find themselves in that precarious and frightening position so we wanted to see how long the batteries would last and keep the passengers warm in a Ford F-150 Lightning and a Rivian R1T

So we charged up both vehicles to 85% and parked them with the heater running for twelve hours while it was snowing to see what percentage of the battery would be used in that time. We then projected out how long the battery would last if the vehicle was stranded at different percentages of state of charge. 

We initially set both vehicles' heating to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and on the lowest fan setting, but after checking the interior temperature we found the Lightning's cabin was nearly 10 degrees warmer, (60° compared to 51°). So we lowered the Lightning's heat setting to 62 degrees and raised the R1T's to 67 degrees and that brought the interior temperatures to similar levels. 

Surprisingly, the F-150 Lightning used less energy in the test even though the area of the cabin that needed to be heated is much larger than that of the R1T. The Lightning finished the test at 71% state of charge, so it used 14% of the battery and the R1T finished with 66%, using up 19% of its usable battery capacity.

We then charged both vehicles back up to 85% to see how much energy they would need to replenish the energy used in the test. The Lightning's FordPass app showed the vehicle needed 20 kWh and the R1T's in-vehicle display showed it needed 23.6 kWh to get back up to 85% state of charge. 

Ford F-150 Lightning vs Rivian R1T heater efficiency

Ford F-150 Lightning vs Rivian R1T heater efficiency

Neither vehicles employ a heat-pump system, as both rely on less efficient resistive heating elements. Despite that, our test showed both vehicles would last very long before exhausting their respective batteries, provided the batteries weren't at a low state of charge when the vehicle got stuck.

Even at only twenty-five percent state of charge, the R1T would last more than fifteen hours and the Lightning twenty-one hours, and that's if the occupant left the heat on constantly. In a real emergency, it would be prudent to have the heat set to a lower temperature and turn the vehicle off every now and then to conserve energy. Also, if the vehicle is equipped with heated seats, as both of these test vehicles are, using that feature and turning down the heat would be even more efficient, and extend the battery life even longer. 

So it seems you'll be just fine if you get stranded in a snowstorm in a Rivian R1T or a Ford F-150 Lightning, or any other EV for that matter, provided your state of charge isn't critically low when you get stuck. However, the same can be said for an ICE vehicle. If you get stranded with only 1/8 of a tank of gas, you better hope the storm passes quickly.

Regardless of what fuel your vehicle uses, it's wise to fill/charge up the day before the storm and keep a blanket and bottles of water in your vehicle if you know you'll be driving in it.

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