Lawrence Levee’s evacuation call arrived at 4 a.m. The Getty fire was only a few miles away. He and all of his Mandeville Canyon neighbors had to evacuate.
He took what he could and dumped it into his bright blue electric Chevy Bolt. His car battery was only charged 50%, but that left him with enough power to make a speedy getaway and then some.
But after driving around the next day, running errands in an area he wasn’t really aware of, he was in trouble. He couldn’t locate a charging station. And he had about 25 miles left to his tank.
“Where are the cheap charging stations?” Levy inquired a Facebook group for Bolt owners, where members have been discussing about how to charge up in a disaster situation.
Levee is one of those many electric car drivers in California, those who are caught in a state-wide problem for electric power. As flames rip through rural and urban areas, the public services are cutting about a million consumers off the grid. The blackouts sometimes last for days at a time, pushing some electric car owners to discover alternative ways to charge up.
It’s an ironic conundrum in a state that has housed more electric cars than any other state. California has just under half of the electric cars sold in the U.S.
Levee has been an owner of his Bolt for only eight months, and already he states that he will “never go back to a regular car”. Regardless of the brief inconvenience and the fire evacuations that are in his future, he added that California has better electric car infrastructure than any other state. There are about 18,000 public charging stations in the state, according to the California Energy Commission.
Some electric car owners are taking the benefit of these charging stations in new methods.
Clarence Dold resides in Sonoma County, which had been ravaged by the Kincade fire. Dold is an owner of a 2013 Nissan Leaf and was left without power for four days. Later on, Dold found a clever use for his car: as a generator to power his house.
All it took was some jumper cables that he linked to the Leaf’s battery and an inverter. The inverter box changes direct current (DC) power, the type that powers electric vehicles, into alternating current (AC), the electrical current that powers residences.
Throughout the blackout, the rest of the neighborhood was a cacophony of gas and electric generator rumblings. At the same time, his Nissan Leaf was basically silent.