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Hurricane Sandy – Do Plug-In Vehicles Make Sense?


Plug-In Electric VehicleIn the aftermath of superstorm Hurricane Sandy, hundred of thousands are still without power. One of the things some people fail to take into disaster preparation is having enough gasoline on hand. When the power goes out, so do the fuel pumps, and without a way to get the gasoline out of the in-ground tanks, drivers are going nowhere fast.

After the storm last week, gas stations that still had grid-power, or at least a generator, were rationing fuel. Drivers had to wait up to three hours for fuel, and then could only buy $25 worth in Somerset County, NJ. Gasoline-powered vehicles, including hybrid electric vehicles, could be stranded. Would a plug-in vehicle make sense in such a situation?

Tom Moloughney, owner of a BMW ActiveE plug-in electric vehicle, is one of those still able to travel to work in New Jersey every day. Between charging at home on a generator since the power outage and charging at his restaurant, Moloughney drives one hundred miles every day back and forth, with no issues. He even has three free chargers outside his restaurant, which enables a few other plug-in vehicle drivers to avoid the chaos at the pumps.

Given that the infrastructure for electricity is much more widespread and available than fuel stations, it might make better sense to drive a plug-in vehicle after a disaster. Probably the best option is an extended range electric vehicle, such as the Chevy Volt, which only uses gasoline when the battery pack’s 37 mile range is exhausted. There are some Volt owners relating using just 0.3 gallons for 5,000 miles of driving.

This isn’t to say that plug-in vehicles are perfect, as they do require some sort of charging, whether solar, grid, or generator, so they could eventually become stranded if there are absolutely no power sources.

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