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Yes, it’s safe to charge your electric vehicle in the rain

August 28, 2020

While it’s normally a bad idea to stand on a wet surface and plug something in, electric vehicles are built to do just that.

With electric vehicles growing in popularity, people are curious about charging in inclement weather, says Thomas Bruhl, a member of the board of directors for Safe Electricity, a part of University of Illinois Extension.

“My car sits outside year round,” says Bruhl, who owns an electric vehicle and is the electric utility supervisor for the city of Naperville. “It can be pouring rain while it’s charging and sometimes, I have to brush snow off the charger before I unplug. All of those conditions are suitable for the factory charger or a quality after-market charger.”

Electric vehicles are powered by an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine. The battery that powers the motor is charged with a dedicated plug-in cord that connects it to a charging station or regular wall outlet.

“When using a quality charging device, there generally are no safety related issues as long as the plug is not sitting in a puddle of water or the charging port on the car is packed with snow,” Bruhl says.

The charging equipment is designed to be insulated and waterproofed and undergoes testing by the Society of Automotive Engineers for almost any weather condition, with the exception being extreme weather conditions such as floods and hurricanes, according to Safe Electricity.

When it’s wet outside, Bruhl says the only area of concern is not where the plug meets the car, but where the charging cord plugs into an outlet or an extension cord, though Bruhl suggests that the use of extension cords come with its own set of risks.

“People could get into trouble if they’re plugging the charging cord into an extension cord,” Bruhl says. “You want to make sure that all cords are appropriate for the use, are in good working order, and that connections are not in water.”

Safe Electricity recommends that electric vehicle owners always follow manufacturer instructions and check charging equipment before using it.

With 7,950 electric vehicles on the road, Illinois ranks 10th in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Those numbers have increased, particularly in urban areas, as prices decrease, mileage range increases, and the technology generally becomes more accessible to consumers, Bruhl says.

“Accessibility to charging stations is currently the major drawback,” Bruhl says. “If you want to take a long trip and there’s not a car charging station along the way or near where you are staying, you have to think twice about whether you’re going to drive the electric car.”

As a result, many utilities and municipalities are working to install more public charging stations.