Do Electric Vehicles Work in Cold Weather?
Yes, they do! But....
A heavy load of snow, some icy cold winds don’t quite drive an electric vehicle to a frosty halt, however performance is affected by a drop in the mercury. Incidentally, it’s not just electric vehicles alone, even their petrol and diesel counterparts experience the same effects.
Overall, electric vehicles are more efficient in colder conditions as stored electricity converts easier into motion than an internal combustion engine’s process. However, electric vehicles do experience a reduction in range during colder weather, as the electric heating system used to warm up the interior uses power from the same source that powers the electric drivetrain.
According to AAA, driving and using the car’s heating system at or below this temperature decreases the average driving range of an EV by 41%. That doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless, however, it is simply a matter of integrating some good habits into the EV’s maintenance and care, especially if you’re owning an electric car.
Heliox’ 5 tips for car owners on how to brave the winter weather in your EV:
1- Precondition your battery during the winter months!
Planning when you will need the most charge for your car is ideal during the winter months.
If you need to leave early for work and temperatures are going to below 40 degrees (Fahrenheit), set the overnight charge so it finishes as close to when you need to leave. This is the single most recommended thing you should do. If your car offers the option of setting a time to depart and warming up the battery while it's still plugged in, use it! A cold battery is not nearly as efficient as a warm one. By not using cold battery energy, you can increase your initial range in cold weather by 15-20%.
Additionally, heat the cabin (along with the battery before unplugging your vehicle). That way, it uses grid power instead of battery power and your interiors can get nice and toasty!
2- Use the Eco Mode!
Using the Eco mode doesn’t require sacrificing comfort for functionality. In fact, eco is a good mode to adapt to for all your driving, even in standard vehicles, where it improves fuel efficiency.
Eco-driving is characterised by smooth, controlled acceleration and braking. Avoidance of hard accelerations and last-minute braking in favor of the more gradual approach lets the battery recharge through regenerative braking once it is up to temperature. Eco-driving can positively impact range by 15-20% depending on the aspects you apply to your driving.
3- Check your Tyres Regularly
EVs tend to be greatly impacted by low tyre pressure as against the diesel/petrol variants. As the pressure drops so will your tyres have the same drop, with every 10-degree dip in the ambient temperature decreasing tire pressure by one pound per square inch (PSI). The colder it gets, the lower your tire’s PSI becomes. Regularly checking your tyres in winter and ensuring they’re properly inflated is a great way to maximise winter range.
4- Plug in when you can!
When it is cold, the car’s battery management system likes to reserve a certain percentage of the battery capacity to heat the battery. The reserve percentage is generally about 15-20%. If you usually keep your battery charged above 15-20% – let’s say a minimum of 50% – then you will always have a nice margin to keep your car’s performance as high as possible. Not only does charging give you kilometres back but it warms your battery. A warm battery is a happier battery.
5- Keep your car and tracks clean
A very simple trick is cleaning off your car of ice, slush and road debris when possible. It adds weights that affect the aerodynamics. And, remember there's no engine to leak waste heat through the front to melt any snow forward of the windshield. That means you have to brush it all off yourself, paying particular attention to ensure all your lights are completely clear of snow and ice.
Fill your car’s windshield washer tank with a non-freezing solution and stock the trunk with a small shovel, brush/scraper to help get your car moving if it becomes stuck on snow or ice. Fortunately an electric car’s lower center of gravity and weight distribution helps bolster its traction on slippery surfaces, especially for those with all-wheel drives.
Adopting some best practices ensure you’re winter proof with your EV. But also ensure when you’re on the road, that you identify the quicker charger stations along your route. Heliox suggests its 50kW and 150kW rapid chargers and similar, as it rapid charging keeps the battery warm and ensures a full but quick charge for a longer lifespan for the battery (and car) and a quick back-to-the-road for you.