Fact Check-Electric cars not more likely to get stuck in traffic jams

A graphic circulating online has claimed electric cars run out of power in three hours when stuck in traffic jams, leaving people stranded with no heating. However, electric cars use little power when not moving and would likely last longer than petrol cars with the heating on in a traffic jam, experts told Reuters.

Several social media users have shared the meme, which shows a stream of traffic in snowy weather conditions (here, here, here).

“If all cars were electrically powered... Imagine three hours of traffic jam, battery flat, what are you going to do?” the graphic reads.

It adds: “There is practically no heating in an electric vehicle over extended periods.

“If you are stuck in traffic during the night, no battery energy left, so no heating !!!”

However, it is false to suggest all electric cars would run out of power within three hours and that heating systems would fail. It is also misleading to suggest electric-powered vehicles wouldn’t last as long as their petrol counterparts.

“Electric vehicles use very little power when stationary,” David Howey, associate professor in engineering science at the University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science, said.

“The motor doesn’t consume power at zero speed,” he told Reuters in an email. “Only the car electronics and heating/cooling systems use power when the car is stationary, and the amounts are relatively small.”

A typical stationary electric vehicle (EV) with full battery could likely run its climate settings and electronics for “at least a day, probably many days”, Howey added.

Dr Katherine Collett, Senior Postdoctoral Researcher in Energy System Transitions at the Energy and Power Group, University of Oxford, also told Reuters that electric vehicles do not require much power to maintain reasonable temperatures.

“Many of them are installed with very efficient heating systems nowadays,” she said.

Using the Nissan Leaf electric car (here) as an example, Dr Collett said: “Say the heating was on constantly at 2kW (which would be unlikely due to insulation of the vehicle), even if you only had half the battery charged, you would still have almost 10 hours of heating.

Dr Collett added that petrol vehicles experience the same issues when stationary in traffic jams. However, the “inefficient” burning of petrol while heating reduces their range.


False. Electric cars are likely to last longer than three hours when stationary, even when using heating or cooling systems.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.