Jan 18, 2024 - News

How Chicago's freeze spells bad news for EV drivers and homeowners

Photo of a woman dressed up in outdoor wear standing in the cold

A CTA rider braves freezing weather at a Logan Square station earlier this week. Photo: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Chicago is preparing for another deep freeze, starting Friday.

Why it matters: The frigid forecast comes just as the region thaws out from an abnormal cold spell.

The big picture: We just saw the worst cold streak since 1996. Plus, it came very close to breaking the record for consecutive days under 5 degrees, set in the 1880s.

Here are three takeaways to watch as low temperatures return this weekend:

Electric vehicles

Several local EV owners reported trouble with keeping their car batteries charged in the extreme cold, forcing some to wait in long lines for charging stations that stoked memories of gas shortages in the 1970s.

Context: Although all cars are less efficient in the cold, EVs are affected more, because the energy it takes to both power the vehicle and warm the cabin lowers its driving range, according to analysis firm Recurrent.

  • A Recurrent analysis of 18 popular EV models found that, on average, their range dropped to around 70% in freezing conditions.
  • Plus: Charging takes longer in freezing temperatures, Axios' Sareen Habeshian reports.

Be smart: How EV drivers can maximize their cold-driving range

Ice jams

The rivers aren't running through it. The Kankakee, Des Plaines and Illinois rivers all froze over, creating significant ice jams.

Reality check: This is normal, but the risk of flooding increases as we stay below freezing.

  • Many homeowners and business owners in towns like Kankakee and Riverside have long worried about flooding during rainy seasons, but winter poses its own risks.

Frozen pipes

Though they're often a concern in the winter, frozen pipes are more susceptible to long stretches of below-zero temperatures. Reports of frozen pipes were rampant in Chicago-area residences, commercial properties and restaurants in recent days.

  • Both Paulie Gee's restaurants (Logan Square and Wicker Park) sustained flooding due to broken pipes, while the city confirmed the same problem at City Hall yesterday.
  • Even worse, many of us won't know the extent of the damage until the pipes unfreeze, which could happen this weekend.

Be smart: What to do if your pipes burst

Failed heat

Chicago's 311 also received hundreds of calls from residents complaining about heat issues during the recent cold spell.

Be smart: Your rights under Chicago's heat ordinance


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