Are Electric Cars Safe in Lightning and Thunderstorms? (Driving & Charging in Storms)

Are Electric Cars Safe in Lightning and Thunderstorms? (Driving & Charging in Storms)

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about electric cars – mainly because they are fairly new in the market – but nothing is as popular as this one: electric cars are not  safe to drive in lightning and thunderstorms. After all, electricity doesn’t mix well with water, right?

Of course, that is a big misconception. Electric cars are more than safe enough to drive in lightning and thunderstorms, and are just about as safe as any regular gas car. In fact, you can take your electric vehicle to a car wash, use it to drive through heavy rain, and survive thunderstorms in it just fine.

It’s also completely safe to charge your electric car in thunderstorms or in rain. Electric car charging systems are designed to be weatherproof and can be safely used even when there’s lightning (they are shock-resistant).

Tesla Model 3 - Are Electric Cars Safe in Lightning and Thunderstorms? (Driving & Charging in Storms)
A Tesla Model 3

With that being said, let’s get into the details about the safety features in modern electric vehicles, and then debunk some other common myths regarding EVs.

EV Battery Safety Features

Before we get to why electric cars are safe to drive in lightning and thunderstorms, we must first take a closer look at the batteries powering modern EVs. Modern battery designs protect power cells from the elements. The batteries themselves are encased in a sealed container to prevent contact with water and other elements.

This means materials like water and air are never in direct contact with your EV batteries, so there is no risk of short circuit or damage when you drive under heavy rain or wash your electric car. Some manufacturers go even further and add a structure to where the batteries are mounted, protecting them from physical damage that could break the seal.

Driving an Electric Car Under Heavy Rain

Now that you know how well-protected the batteries of your EV are, it is easy to see how driving an electric vehicle under heavy rain is no different than driving a gas-powered car. The shape of the car prevents water from ever reaching the battery compartment. The exterior shell protects key electronics and contacts – and the passengers, of course.

Rain will simply fall off the car. It is also worth noting that most electric cars store their batteries low in the car to lower their center of gravity. This means the batteries are usually located under the passenger, right between pillars A and B. In a Tesla Model 3, for example, the batteries are on the floor from just under pillar A all the way to the back of the car.

Will the batteries be affected by splashes from underneath the car? Not at all. Once again, good protection and a sealed battery compartment prevent water from ever reaching the compartment from any side of the car. Cars like the Audi E-Tron and the Chevrolet Bolt incorporate the same design principles for maximum protection.

Surviving Lightning and Thunderstorms

Lightning strikes are still scary regardless of the vehicle you are driving, but the nature of modern vehicles actually protects you from them perfectly. The car – including electric cars – acts as a Faraday cage, channeling the electric energy from lightning to the ground without ever affecting the car itself or the passengers inside it.

The real risk comes from the heat generated by a lightning strike, but your car is more than capable of surviving that heat. You may still see strike marks on the body of the car, but nothing that a body repair shop cannot fix. As long as you are not touching anything metal that connects directly with the outside of the car, you are completely safe.

The same is true with the electronics of your vehicle. All cabling and electronics are grounded and designed to be lightning strike-proof. They usually have enough clearance for protection, and they are not directly connected to anything outside the car. The batteries are just as protected, both by physical distance and safety measures.

When lightning does strike your electric vehicle and some of the charge reaches the internal circuit, a voltage monitor will recognize the extra volt and protect the battery from overcharging automatically. This is what stops additional hazards such as fire and short circuit from affecting the car. Some minor flickers are all you’ll get under the circumstance.

Since the car itself can survive a direct lightning strike, nothing should stop you from driving through a thunderstorm. While it is not something you want to do deliberately, being stuck in one while driving an electric car doesn’t mean you have to immediately stop. You can reach your destination without serious harm.

Other Misconceptions About Electric Cars

As mentioned before, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about electric cars. We have debunked the most popular question in this article, but there are others worth answering too.

“I’ll never get to my destination on a single charge”

Range anxiety is a common issue among new electric car owners and those who are considering getting one. Not all electric cars are the same, but newer models like the aforementioned Chevrolet Bolt are more than capable of hitting 200 to 300 miles on a single charge. The Tesla Model 3 has a long-range model that goes 322 miles on a single charge.

Tesla Model S at Supercharging Station
A Tesla Model S at a Supercharger

Range is also not an issue when you consider how quickly you can charge modern electric cars. Using the Tesla Model 3 Long Range version as an example, you can recharge the battery from 10% to 80% in just 30 minutes with Tesla’s own Supercharge.

“Electric cars are too expensive”

This too is a common misconception surrounding electric cars, because most customers look at premium models like Tesla Model S and the Jaguar I-Pace as reference. The majority of electric cars are very affordable. The Chevrolet Bolt is priced at around $35,000, while the Hyundai Kona Electric is priced at around $37,000.

Don’t forget that you still get a federal tax credit for certain manufacturer’s EVs (but that won’t last forever) as well as other incentives by simply opting for an electric car. The federal tax credit alone can land you $7,500, which makes electric cars even more affordable.

Even the more expensive Tesla Model 3 is still priced at around $40,000. Considering you get more features, over-the-air software updates, and plenty of new technology to play around in the car, the slightly more expensive price is justified.

“Electric cars are too slow!”

Well, this is definitely a HUGE misconception. Sure, we have vehicles like the REVAi hurting the image of electric cars, but these vehicles are not electric cars; they are marketed as neighborhood electric vehicles (NEV) with speeds limited to 40km/h.

Electric motors are far more efficient than a combustion engine in delivering power. This is exactly why the Tesla Model 3 can accelerate faster than a BMW M3 or the Mercedes-Benz C300 AMG, despite the bigger form factor. You can comfortably hit 210km/h with a Model 3 too.

It’s true that electric vehicles can’t sustain their top speed for as long as gas cars can (because the EV’s battery would overheat), but for normal highway speeds of around 100km/h, this shouldn’t be an issue. 

So, there you have it, most of the misconceptions about electric cars debunked! You can drive an electric car in heavy rain or through a thunderstorm without a problem. Next time your Uber driver picks you up in an EV, don’t be scared about driving through the rain!


Article written by Timothy Backes from dmv-written-test.com. Edited by Hugh.

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