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Clever technology helps keep EVs juiced up during widespread California blackout

There are more electric cars registered in California than in any other state in the nation, so motorists who chose to ditch gasoline had to charge their cara as quickly as possible when the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced it would cut power to 800,000 customers in 34 counties to prevent wildfires. Tesla immediately warned customers in locations affected by the blackout to plug in their car while they were still able to.

Without technology, the outage could have wreaked havoc on California’s huge fleet of Tesla vehicles. The company’s novel over-the-air software updating system helped save the day. Owners living in or near the power-less counties saw a message pop up on their car’s touchscreen that informed them of the looming situation, according to Autoblog. “We recommend charging your Tesla to 100% today to ensure your drive remains uninterrupted,” it explained.

The outage took out some of the company’s Supercharger stations, plus many gas stations, because the pumps are powered by electricity. Tesla’s infotainment system normally shows the live status of each Supercharger, so owners can tap the screen a few times to check whether their nearest public charger is online, rather than wasting range driving to it.

PG&E’s announcement seemingly caught Tesla off-guard, so the company is rolling out solutions to ensure it can keep Supercharger stations online during future outages. Company co-founder and CEO Elon Musk wrote on his personal Twitter account that every Supercharger located in the counties without electricity will receive a Powerpack, which is essentially a large emergency battery, and the company’s solar panels in the coming weeks. The firm is waiting to obtain the necessary permits before it begins the installation campaign.

Tesla owners who took the manufacturer’s advice and fully charged their battery are likely able to keep driving in spite of the outage. The Tesla Model S, the Model X, and the Tesla Model 3 have relatively long ranges, so they can go a few days without being charged if they’re driven sparingly.

PG&E tentatively planned to turn the power back on halfway through Thursday, October 10, though it asked its customers to prepare for an extended outage due to the wind’s severity (isolated gusts could reach 70 mph), and the huge latticework of power lines it needs to inspect before giving the network a clean bill of health.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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