Can You Charge Your Electric Car During a Power Outage?

There are more ways to charge an EV in an outage than there are to pump gas.

Low Angle View Of Silhouette Man Repairing Electricity Power Cable
Pra Phasr Xaw Sakhr / EyeEm / Getty Images

It is possible to charge your electric vehicle (EV) during a power outage. But you may not need to; as long as your EV has some charge left, your car can likely go a few days between charges.

How to Charge an EV During an Outage

There are more ways to charge an EV in an outage than there are ways to fuel a gasoline car.

  • Solar Fueling - Generate your own electricity by putting solar on your roof. Solar systems tied to the electricity grid need to be turned off to protect the safety of line workers making repairs. But some solar systems can continue sending electricity into your car while disconnecting it from the grid.
  • Extra Charging Stations - Some charging stations are powered by solar energy or have battery backup systems, so they may never lose power at all.
  • Find Electricity Anywhere - Bring your charging cables with you and find any available electricity source. You don't necessarily need a charging station to charge your electric vehicle. Any available 110-outlet can give you some electricity.
  • Battery Backup - Many advanced battery backup systems allow you to program the battery to direct electricity to appliances and devices that need it most. Unless you need to flee, you may need to prioritize household heat or air conditioning
  • Microgrids - Microgrids are small grids with stand-alone (or “islanding”) potential. This allows them to provide electricity during regional power outages. Critical services like hospitals and military bases often rely on microgrids, but increasingly, community microgrids provide energy independence to neighborhoods or small communities.

Can Gas Generators Help Charge EVs?

It's not recommended to charge an EV using a gas generator. Generators create uneven sine waves of current, which can damage your EV's battery.

If you have an inverter to stabilize the current, you can use a generator. But otherwise, it's not worth the risk.

Using EVs as Emergency Heating

During power outages, heat loss can be seriously harmful. Some turn to their cars as a temporary heating source, but during a long outage in Texas in February 2021, several people died of carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to sleep in their gas-powered cars.

An electric vehicle produces no emissions at all, so it's safe to sleep in your car anywhere during an outage, even in your garage, as some people did during the Texas freeze.

Some EVs, like Tesla vehicles, come with “camp mode,” which automatically sets the vehicle to a sleep-friendly climate without drawing much energy from the battery—but any electric vehicle can be manually set to do the same.

Another consideration is vehicle-to-home charging. An electric vehicle is itself a large battery backup, and recent innovations in EV technology allow you to supply power to your home in an emergency. Not every EV is capable of vehicle-to-home charging, however.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Can you charge an electric car with a generator or portable battery?

    It's not always safe to use a gas-powered generator to charge an electric vehicle unless you have an inverter to stabilize the current. But you can use a portable battery or any 110-outlet to charge in the event of a power outage.

  • How can you prepare your electric vehicle for a power outage?

    It's simple: Don't let your battery run low enough that you would become stuck in an emergency. You should charge it nightly, ideally to about 80%.

  • Can you jumpstart an electric car?

    You can jumpstart an electric vehicle using a portable jumpstart device or a battery from a gas-powered car. You should not attempt to jumpstart an EV with another EV because EV batteries discharge much slower than traditional batteries and doing so could cause serious damage.

View Article Sources
  1. Jared Leader. Microgrid Trends Shine Spotlight on Role of Utilities and Policy Makers. Smart Electric Power Alliance, Sept 30 2020.

  2. Elisha Fieldstadt. Two dead from carbon monoxide poisoning after using car for heat in Texas storm. NBC News. Feb 16 2021.

  3. Michelle Lewis. How EVs were a lifeline for 3 families (and 6 cats) during the Texas blackout. Electrek. Mar 5 2021.

  4. Victor Tangermann. "Teslas Are Getting a 'Party and Camping Mode.'" Futurism. Feb 16 2019.