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What happens if I break down in an electric car?

As an ever-increasing number of people buy electric vehicles, the more roadside assistance companies are needing to invest in the correct tools and training for their staff

a car mechanic showing a car owner something on the wheel of a car

Breaking down and towing electric cars is very different to petrol or diesel-powered cars because the electric motors are much more delicate, and the batteries operate at a dangerously high voltage, meaning more care has to be taken to avoid any risks of fire.

What should I do when my electric car breaks down?

You should treat breaking down in an electric car more or less the same as when it happens in a petrol- or diesel-powered car. This means moving out of the way of moving traffic and putting your hazards on when you’ve stopped in a safe place.

The majority of electric vehicle (EV) breakdowns are actually to do with running out of charge. Despite the warnings the car gives you, sometimes drivers don’t pull over or perhaps can’t find a suitable charger, depending on where you are in the country.

If you do break down and have followed the standard procedures, make sure to contact your breakdown cover agency and take it from there.

Will roadside assistance charge my electric car?

If you do break down due to a lack of charge in your electric vehicle’s battery, most roadside assistance companies will be able to charge it up. However, they are usually only allowed to give you enough juice to get to a proper charger as this saves them from using up too much time and energy from the generator.

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Can I tow an electric car?

If you’re unable to get to a charger because they’re too far away, then some roadside assistance companies will take you and your car to the nearest charging point.

This isn’t that straightforward though, as towing an electric car is not the same as petrol- and diesel-fuelled cars.

The reason you can’t simply tow an electric car is because there is no proper neutral gear, so if you try and tow it in drive or reverse, you will create kinetic energy that builds up and can damage the battery.

Some EVs (Teslas and Nissan Leafs) have a dedicated towing mode to make this process easier, but if not then it is best to load the car onto a flatbed truck, following the manufacturer’s guidance, and take it from there.

Are the electric car batteries safe after breaking down?

If you’ve simply broken down from running out of charge then the batteries should be fine. However, if you were involved in an accident then the situation should be treated the same as any car.

Whether it’s an internal combustion engine or batteries, there’s always the potential risk of a fire, so this should be monitored carefully.

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