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California's power outage means problems for electric cars

San Francisco

AS more than half a million customers in the California area lost power on Wednesday amid a series of planned outages aimed at thwarting wildfires, Tesla owners were confronted with another troubling possibility: their cars running out of juice. The carmaker issued a preemptive advisory overnight to many vehicle owners, telling them to charge up ahead of the planned outages, which utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) began rolling out on Wednesday to try to lessen the risk of wildfires. Tesla went on to advise that the on- or offline status of its "Supercharger" stations, where owners can secure a faster battery refill, would be displayed on in-car maps. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request seeking additional information. Tesla owners reported that their go-to stations appeared busier than usual.

The advisory is significant for customers in the Bay Area, where Tesla's premium electric cars are a common sight. California is the country's largest electric vehicle market, according to EVAdoption.com, which tracks the figures on electric market share, and the sales are largely driven by Tesla, which made up more than half of the country's overall electric vehicle sales. The International Council on Clean Transportation reported this year that the San Jose area - in the heart of Silicon Valley - had the country's highest share of electric vehicles by population, followed by San Francisco, along with San Diego and Los Angeles.

Late on Wednesday, Tesla chief executive Elon Musk tweeted that Supercharger stations in the affected areas would be outfitted with Tesla Powerpacks, or battery storage systems for larger commercial applications. That will effectively give them a power reserve for future outages. PG&E said the outages would affect nearly a million customers in California across more than half of the state's 58 counties, the most extensive planned blackout ever for the state.

But it also wasn't all rosy for traditional internal combustion vehicles. Gas pumps could be affected, both by a rush to secure fuel amid the outages and by the fact that many gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps. WP

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