Natural disasters are a part of life in the United States. Hurricanes — such as Laura, which hammered the Gulf Coast last month — along with wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, flash floods and derechos bring death and injuries, massive destruction and economic devastation.
Human beings and our organizational structures try to plan and prepare as best they can for these eventualities. In regions of the country prone to storms — such as the Gulf and Atlantic coasts — evacuations are a part of life.
Which brings us to the electric vehicle, and its limitations: restricted range, scarcity of charging infrastructure and vagaries of the U.S. power grid.
While EVs offer a panoply of environmental and operational advantages to their owners, mass evacuation — say, of the type required when Hurricane Irma struck Florida three years ago, putting millions on the road for hundreds of miles in days of endless bumper-to-bumper traffic — is not their strong suit.
Thus far, EV shortcomings when it comes to evacuations have been largely masked by their relatively small numbers. But those problems will be exacerbated exponentially should they become more common in American driveways, unless action is taken now.
Emergency management planning, which takes into account the fossil fuel requirements of a fleeing population, must be expanded to incorporate temporary mobile charging solutions — even if that means employing decades-old technology, including mobile diesel generators, to provide temporary charging.
Large numbers of deployable DC fast chargers could get motorists fleeing a disaster zone back on their way in a relatively speedy fashion, if there were, in fact, enough of them available. But even DC fast chargers must be recharged and are susceptible to failure should AC recharging in a region become unavailable because of power outages.
Potential solutions are in the works, including an effort by Toyota to develop a bus-sized mobile fuel-cell-powered charging station.
But this type of disaster planning for tomorrow's evacuations requires a coordinated federal response, one that can and should be accomplished now.