Bad Weather Guide: What to do if Your Electric Car Has Been in a Flood

It’s something we hope nobody who reads this has to encounter, but given the propensity for extremes of weather we’ve seen over the past few years — not to mention the weather the UK has been subjected to continuously for the past six weeks — waking up one morning to find your prized EV submerged in water is a real possibility.

Here at Transport Evolved, we’ve already discussed how you should drive in stormy, winter weather, but what should you do if your EV ends up in more than just a puddle? What if the water level is above the bottom of your car’s doors, and there’s muddy, wet water in the footwell? What if the only bit of your car you can see is above the water line?

Flood damaged EVs can be a total pain (Photo: Ben Nelson - Via YouTube)

Flood damaged EVs can be a total pain (Photo: Ben Nelson – Via YouTube)

First of all, don’t panic. As long as you have a fully comprehensive insurance policy, the chances are you’re covered against flood damage. (It’s worth noting however that if you just have the basic ‘third party’ coverage required as the minimum insurance in the UK, you may not be covered.  It’s worth ringing your insurance company to let them know exactly what’s happened as your first port of call.)

If your EV is plugged in, make sure you turn off the power to the charging station or power outlet at the wall box or master fuse. The chances are that you’ve already done this if your home is badly flooded, but if you have a separate garage at a lower height to your house there’s a possibility your garage or EV has flooded while the rest of your house is fine.

One you’ve done that and depending on the amount of water in the car, it’s probably okay to unlock the doors with the key that came with your car to retrieve any personal effects not damaged by the flood

We reached out to Nissan GB for official advice on what to do in the case of finding a flooded Nissan LEAF, and was told that it’s also okay to use the remote control to try and unlock your car if the flood water has subsided. However, we were told, if the flood damage is severe, this may not work.

If your car does open, however, it is important that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU TURN YOUR CAR ONOnly unlock the car to retrieve any personal effects you have inside the car, and only do so if the flood waters have subsided to a safe level. NEVER return to a flooded car if  it is unsafe to do so, for example, if the car is still in strongly-moving or deep flood water, is in a precarious position, or is near structurally-unsafe buildings.

Transport Evolved Regular Kate Walton-Elliott had the misfortune of having her vintage Enfield EV flooded many years ago.

Transport Evolved Regular Kate Walton-Elliott had the misfortune of having her vintage Enfield EV flooded many years ago.

Instead, Nissan told Transport Evolved, customers who suspect any form of flood damage to their car should call Nissan’s EV recovery helpline to arrange for Nissan to retrieve the car and take it to a local dealership for a full health check. The dealership will then be able to carry out a full, comprehensive examination of both the car’s electronics and the battery pack before attempting to turn it on in a safe, controlled environment.

While we’ve only spoken to Nissan, we’d guess following a similar route with any plug-in car you have will not only keep you safe, but ensure your EV stays safe too. Even after the water has subsided, the sediment in river — or flood water — can get inside your battery pack and do a serious amount of damage, as this video below of a flood-damaged Mitsubishi i-Miev shows. (Ben is an EV self-build expert who found out the hard way that flood-damaged EVs can be really badly damaged by flood water.)

To recap:

  1. Call your insurance company
  2. Call your dealer/automaker and arrange for a dealer-arranged pickup of your vehicle.
  3. If you need to get things out of your car you can — but only if it’s safe to do so. Remote central locking may not work.
  4. Do NOT try to move or start your car by yourself. Let professionals do it!

Finally, if your insurance company wants to move your car, tell them you want it to go to your dealer for an official quotation/repair/disposal. It’s your right to have your car taken away by the people you chose: insurance ‘approved’ repair and salvage companies may not have the appropriate training with plug-in cars and could damage themselves or your car if they don’t understand the high-voltage system correctly.

Have you had the misfortune to have your EV damaged by flood waters? What happened next? Did you follow the steps above? Let us know your story in the Comments below.


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