What Happens When an Electric Car Battery Dies?

With the UK Government moving to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the next decade, the consumer focus is shifting to choosing an electric vehicle. One of the main concerns that people have when switching to an electric car is whether they will have enough charge for their normal journeys or not, a term also referred to as "range anxiety". This is largely due to them still feeling unknown and buyers being unsure of how available charging stations are when out and about.

With all newer models, electric car drivers can relax a little bit as technology has improved since the initial electric vehicle batteries were used and the distance a single charge can get has greatly improved since electric cars were first introduced.

What kind of batteries are used in electric cars?

Most electric vehicles run on lithium ion batteries as they have a high power-to-weight ratio that means that they hold a lot of energy for their weight, which is crucial when being used in an electric vehicle. Lighter batteries mean that electric vehicles can travel further on a single charge.

The other advantage of lithium ion batteries is that they have a low "self discharge" rate that means that they maintain a full charge over time better than other battery types.

Battery capacity is expressed as kilowatt-hours (kWh) which is the equivalent to a petrol or diesel engine size. Electric car batteries with a higher kWh will give you more miles in a single charge, with some EV batteries with a capacity as large as 107.8 kWh.

What is the range of an electric car?

The range of a single charge varies between every different electric vehicle so it is definitely worth doing some research into what you need for your daily journeys to make sure that you don't suffer from range anxiety every time you drive the car.

For example, someone who only drives to work a few days a week might be suited to the Mini Electric's advertised range of 140 miles whilst someone with a 40 mile commute 5 days a week would be more suited to something with a larger range like the Audi Q4 E-Tron with it's advertised of 314 miles.​

Will my electric car run out of charge?

All electric cars have a gauge for the charge in the same way that an ICE car will have a fuel gauge. These are usually very reliable and adapt as you drive to keep its accuracy. This will take into account factors like temperature, which features are being used in the car, and how the car is being driven.

As previously discussed, the range of your car will be specific to your model. It is worth noting that the range advertised by car manufacturers is not necessarily the exact mileage that you will get from one charge as real driving is not the same as the conditions that they are using to test the battery capacity.

As well as this, battery powered vehicles have regenerative braking, meaning that some of the kinetic energy produced when the car slows down is then converted into electricity which is then moved to energy storage within the battery. It's not a huge amount but it does mean that there is some charge being fed back into the engine to help reduce the amount being used overall.

According to Zap-Map there were 19150 electric charging point locations in the UK as of March 2022 compared to approximately 8370 active petrol stations. This means that realistically it should be easier for you to charge your car than to find somewhere to fuel it, and that if you are low you should have more locations nearby. Some electric cars will be able to use the internal sat nav system to let you know where your nearest charging station is to reduce stress further.

Overcharging or allowing electric car batteries to run almost completely flat, which is called "deep discharging", on a regular basis can damage the battery itself. When you do give it a full charge, the full range will then have slowly decreased from when the battery was brand new.

What happens when an electric car runs out of charge?

In the same way that conventional cars will give you a warning when the fuel level is low, an electric car will do the same thing when it's running low on charge. Which makes it unlikely that you will be left stranded.

However, if you've planned your journey incorrectly and are driving on a motorway wondering where your next charging point is you'll be wondering if your electric car gets to zero and then cuts out immediately.

When they do reach 0% many electric cars will still be able to travel a few miles, which is great for being be able to get to and stop in a safe place, or if you're very close to the nearest charging point. The car will then reduce what is being powered, such as the climate control, until it eventually slows to a controlled stop.

This will differ between different electric vehicles and EV battery capacities so it's unwise to rely on reserve power to be able to get you anywhere.

Can an electric car be towed?

What happens when the car does run out of charge completely and is miles from the nearest charging point?

Many electric cars cannot be towed as it damages the electric motors within the car. For this reason, if you do need to call for assistance when you're stuck, always explain that it is an electric car and that it will need a flat bed truck to be moved. Some models will allow towing with the front wheels raised, such as the Nissan Leaf, but this is not common.

Can you charge dead batteries at the roadside?

Some recovery services will now have the capacity to provide a small charge as part of their roadside assistance, meaning that you can receive enough power to get yourself to a charging station for a full charge. However, this is not provided by every roadside assistance service so is not to be expected if you do need to call.


You're probably as likely to run out of charge when driving an electric car as you are when driving a petrol or diesel, a lot of it comes down to how drivers anticipate their journeys and their driving style.

Many people are worried that it will be more difficult to know where they can charge their cars when low, which then makes them worry that they will run out before they can charge.

However, with apps like Zap-Map to show you the locations of all public charging stations in the UK it's much easier to plan where to stop or to find one in a hurry. As well as this, their data shows that there are twice as many locations for EV battery charging than fuelling a conventional car.

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