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Driving an electric vehicle in a thunderstorm or heavy rain

Is it safe to drive an electric vehicle in thunderstorms and lightning and is it safe to charge in the rain? What happens if I am struck by lightning while driving? Read on to find out.

Chema Bermejo
Jan 29, 2024
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We know that water and electricity do not get along well. So when driving an electric vehicle, it's logical to wonder what might happen if it starts to rain heavily or, worse still, if a thunderstorm hits. Well, the electric cars that are becoming more and more common on the market are prepared for all types of weather, from heat waves to cold spells and snowfall. In any case, the best thing to do during a severe thunderstorm is not to drive, regardless of the type of vehicle, as this increases the risk of an accident.

But if there is no other option, we have to be extremely careful and slow down to have more control

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Faraday cage: your car's protection against lightning strikes

Like other transport vehicles, such as aircraft, cars are designed to allow lightning to pass through the outside of the body without harming the occupants by acting as a Faraday cage, cancelling out the electric field inside the vehicle. This happens in both electric and petrol cars, as long as they have a hard top. Staying in the car during a thunderstorm can therefore be a very good option.

Apart from the fear the storm or the stress it may cause you on the road due to the increased attention it requires, it should not affect the occupants of the vehicle. However, after a possible lightning strike, always avoid touching the metal parts of the vehicle, which may still contain much of the electricity from the lightning. Once on the ground, try to walk slowly with very short steps to avoid being electrocuted.

It is possible that the lightning affect some of the car's systems due to the overload received. This is likely to happen to any type of vehicle, regardless of its energy source.

In the event of a lightning strike on the vehicle, having the windows up can also help to minimise its effect.

Can heavy rain and large puddles affect electric vehicles?

In the event of a storm with heavy rain, electric cars are prepared with special seals for all components that are likely to get wet, either from heavy rain or from driving through flooded areas. However, as usual, the best thing to do in these cases is not to drive, not because the car cannot withstand these situations, which it can, but because driving becomes very complicated and can be dangerous.

In this sense, in addition to the sealing of the main parts of electric cars, such as cables, terminals, connections, etc., the batteries, located in the lower part of the car, also have special protections that prevent them not only from humidity, but also from hard knocks, to avoid major problems in a possible accident.

EV batteries
Electric car batteries: The batteries of an electric vehicle, as well as the cables and connectors, are adequately protected from moisture and shocks.
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Is EV charging safe in rain or storm?

It is quite possible that after a few charges, users will not even ask themselves this question, as it is something that is done with the same confidence as refuelling a petrol or diesel car.

Charging an EV can be a 'bit 'scary'—especially at first—when it is raining, as many of the public charging points are outdoors. However, this should not be a problem as both the connection points and the cables themselves are designed to work in all weather conditions, including heavy rain which can wet both components.

In the event of a thunderstorm, although the aforementioned elements are well protected, it is advisable not to handle them because of the possibility of a lightning strike, which would probably be harmful if it caught us making the connection.

Save EV chargers

If you wonder whether electric cars are safe in a rain, hail or thunderstorm, just look at the thousands of charging points out in the open, exposed to all kinds of weather. These points supply a large amount of electricity and have all the necessary safeguards in place to ensure they are safe to use.

Till Wilmschen, Director of Product - Fast Charging at Wallbox, explains that "Charging an electric vehicle (EV) during a storm is generally safe because EV charging stations are designed with grounded and weather-resistant components, and the charging process itself is isolated from the vehicle's battery, minimizing the risk of electrical hazards. Additionally, modern EVs and charging infrastructure comply with stringent safety standards to ensure protection against adverse weather or grid conditions."

Electric car charging in Wallbox Supernova charger in the rain
Electric car charging in Wallbox Supernova charger in the rain

10 essential tips for driving an EV in heavy rain or stormy weather

1. Charge your electric car batteries before the trip

Try to always go out with a full or nearly full battery to avoid running out of power in a critical situation.  

2. Check the tyres

Make sure the tyres are in good condition - the deeper the tread depth, the better. Tyre pressure should also be correct; check your vehicle's tyre pressure in the owner's manual. Remember that good tyres improve traction and reduce the risk of skidding.

3. Drive at a safe speed

Road grip is reduced by up to 50% in heavy rain. Therefore, driving at a moderate speed will help you maintain control of your car.

4. Increase the safety distance

Braking distance increases by 20-30% on very wet roads.

Distancia de seguridad en carrretera - DGT
Source: DTG

5. Drive smoothly

Avoid hard braking or sharp turns that could cause you to lose control of the car. 

6. Drive on the traces of other vehicles

The traces of other vehicles tend to have less water accumulated in them. Driving on them can reduce the risk of aquaplaning.

7. Keep the windscreen as clear as possible

Visibility is reduced in heavy rain, hail or thunderstorms, making driving more difficult. Make sure the wiper blades are in good condition and keep the windows demisted.

8. Avoid flooded areas and deep puddles

For your own safety and that of the vehicle occupants, always avoid driving in flooded areas. Your vehicle can be swept away, with fatal consequences. Deep puddles can hit the underbody of your vehicle and damage some parts (including electrical parts), despite protection of sensitive components.

9. Always drive with lights on

Drive with your lights on to increase visibility. This will also help other drivers see your vehicle and minimise the risk of collisions.

10. Reduce the use of electrical accessories

Limit the use of electrical accessories during heavy rain or thunderstorms to save battery power and reduce the risk of electrical problems in critical situations.

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In summary, using an electric car during a storm does not pose any risks beyond the problems that may arise from the danger of driving in bad weather conditions. Therefore, the best advice is to exercise extreme caution or try not to use the car if driving is very difficult.

Chema Bermejo
Jan 29, 2024
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