A Tesla driver details how he survived a 14-hour traffic jam in snowy weather with 50 miles of battery range to spare




Northbound traffic on I-95 is at a standstill following a tractor trailer that jack-knived in the snowstorm.
Northbound traffic on I-95 is at a standstill following a tractor trailer that jack-knived in the snowstorm.  
  • A Tesla driver said he survived a gridlock in snowy weather with 50 miles of battery range to spare.

  • Dan Kanninen said he was grateful that he was driving an EV during the I-95 traffic jam.

  • Cold weather reduces an electric car's battery range by about 20%.

A Tesla owner said he was grateful that he was driving an electric car when he got stuck in a traffic jam for 14 hours.

"While fellow drivers burned gasoline running their engines to stay warm, my EV intelligently directed power solely to temperature regulation," Dan Kanninen, a former White House liaison at the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a blog post. "As other drivers then fretted about their dwindling gas reserves, my EV intuitively monitored my power supply, giving me the peace of mind that other drivers did not have."

Kanninen was one of hundreds of drivers who were stranded on I-95 in Virginia earlier this month. Kanninen wrote the blog post in response to an opinion piece in The Washington Post that alleged the traffic jam would have been worse if every vehicle had been an electric car. The Post's Charles Lane said dead electric vehicles "might have littered the highway for miles."

The former White House liaison pushed back against the opinion piece and said EV drivers were less likely to worry about their cars' range in a traffic jam as most owners regularly charged their batteries overnight and at work, while drivers with combustion-engine vehicles rarely maintained a full tank of gas. He also said he was able to avoid long lines at gas stations as charging venues were available every 10 miles along the highway.

In the post, Kanninen included a picture of himself watching Netflix on his Tesla display amid the traffic jam. He said his Tesla Model 3 had 50 miles of range left when he finally got to a charging station. Kanninen's Tesla model is the electric-car maker's shortest-range model that's available for sale.

A Canadian long-haul trucker posted pictures of a different Tesla that was caught in the gridlock.

The I-95 traffic jam was precipitated by a snow storm that downed six tractor trailers and several trees. On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that several Northeastern US states are bracing for a blizzard this coming weekend.

Cold weather is known to reduce an electric car's battery range by about 20%, Consumer Reports said. Subfreezing temperatures slow down chemical reactions in battery cells, which requires the car to use more energy to maintain the battery's temperature, as well as heat the cabin.

Driving-range anxiety has been identified as one of the main issues the US faces when it comes to the electrification of transportation. A 2021 study found that one in five EV owners reverted to a gas-powered car because of the hassle of charging their electric vehicle.

But Kanninen said it was a "common misconception" that electric cars performed poorly in cold weather. In 2021, a Tesla driver tested his Model 3 in cold Norway temperatures and said the EV was able to idle with the heat on for about 72 hours.

Last week, Car and Driver tested out a long-range Model 3 in 15-degree Michigan weather and found that the car could maintain a 65-degree temperature while idling for over 45 hours.

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