Electric Vehicles in Cold Weather: Stay Ahead of Range Loss

Electric vehicle in cold weather.

Electric vehicles can face some challenges in cold weather due to the impact of temperature on their batteries. However, they have become increasingly popular due to their environmentally friendly nature. Unlike traditional gasoline-powered vehicles, EVs are powered by electric motors that run on electricity stored in their batteries. However, it’s important to note that cold weather can impact the performance of EV batteries, which we’ll explore further in this article.

Range Loss in Cold Weather

In cold weather, electric vehicles (EVs) can experience a range loss of up to 30%, as per a study conducted by Recurrent. The extent of range loss is influenced by various factors like temperature, battery size, and the effectiveness of the car’s heating system. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the negative factors affecting EVs in cold weather.

In January 2024, the eastern half of the USA experienced extremely cold weather. Stories in the media were surfacing of electric vehicles stopped working due to cold weather. Such a case was a story where Faustine Ngila of Quartz wrote, “Some cars have been running out of battery while waiting in line to charge up. If you’re waiting in that line and you only have 50 miles, you’re not going to make it.” There were reports of EV chargers that stopped working due to cold weather. Fuastine continued to point out that when EVs dip below freezing at around 5F, battery range can drop up to 54% in range. Post, winter storm additional reporting pointed to newer electric vehicles having heat pumps included to help combat cold weather range loss by preventing the EV battery from reaching extreme cold.

 Since 2021, Tesla has been equipping its electric vehicles with proprietary heat pump technology. However, it’s not just Tesla that’s getting in on the game. Some of the latest electric and hybrid models from other manufacturers are also coming equipped with heat pumps. For instance, the Jaguar I-Pace, BMW’s latest i-series cars, Hyundai’s Ioniq 5, Audi’s newest e-Tron, and Kia’s flagship EV9 all feature this technology. It looks like heat pumps are becoming an increasingly popular choice for EV manufacturers looking to provide a more efficient and comfortable driving experience for their customers.

“Any electric vehicle that comes out right now and doesn’t have a heat pump is a dinosaur already,” says John Kelly, an automotive technology professor and instructor focusing on hybrid and electric vehicle technology at Weber State University.

Aarian Marshall, WIRED

Factors of Range Loss in Cold Weather

  • Reduced battery efficiency: In cold temperatures, the chemical reactions within a lithium-ion battery that produce electricity are slowed down, resulting in reduced battery efficiency. As a result, the battery must work harder to deliver the same amount of power, which ultimately reduces its overall range.
  • Increased energy consumption for heating: Electric vehicles use energy to heat the cabin, which can reduce the driving range.
  • Thicker lubricants: The cold weather causes the lubricants in electric vehicles to thicken, leading to increased resistance and reduced efficiency.
  • Decreased air density: Cold air is denser than warm air, which means that there are fewer air molecules to push against the tires. This can reduce the range by up to 10%.

Tips to Minimize Range Loss in Cold Weather

To minimize range loss, here are some tips to maximize your electric vehicle’s performance in cold weather.

  • Before driving, preheat the battery to improve its efficiency.
  • It is advisable to conserve the climate control usage.
  • To maximize range, it’s best to avoid sudden acceleration and braking.
  • Remember to keep your car clean to prevent snow and ice from blocking the air vents, which can reduce heating efficiency.
  • When planning trips with your electric car, keep in mind that cold weather will affect your range.

Electric Vehicle Charging in cold weather

Charging an electric vehicle in cold weather may take longer than in warmer temperatures because the battery needs to be heated up first before efficient charging can occur. To decrease the charging time, you can preheat the battery before charging. It’s important to consider the following factors when charging in cold weather.

  • Charging speed: Cold weather can slow electric vehicle charging because the battery must be heated before it can charge efficiently.
  • Charging location: If your electric vehicle is not in use, park it in a garage or other enclosed space to keep the battery warm and improve charging efficiency.
  • Charging schedule: If you anticipate driving in cold weather, adjusting your charging schedule accordingly would be helpful. Plan to charge your vehicle during warmer times of the day, such as in the daytime or early evening.
  • Charging equipment: Make sure to use an electric vehicle charging station designed for cold weather to avoid issues.
  • Battery health: Cold weather can stress an electric vehicle battery, so avoid deep discharges and frequent fast charging to protect it.

Charging Tips in Cold Weather

Here are some straightforward guidelines to follow:

  • For better charging efficiency, warm up the battery by preheating it.
  • Use a DC fast or Level 2 charger instead of a Level 1 charger. DC fast and Level 2 chargers provide more power, which can help to reduce charging time.
  • Keeping the battery pack clean and dry is important to avoid blockage of the charging ports and reduce charging efficiency.
  • Keep an eye on the battery temperature. If it drops too low, charging may stop.

When driving an electric vehicle in cold weather, taking additional precautions is important. For instance, it’s important to keep your car clean so that snow and ice don’t block the air vents, which can reduce the heating system’s efficiency. Additionally, you should be aware of the range limitations of your EV in cold weather and plan your trips accordingly. Make sure you can charge your car if you need to. If you have any questions about EVs or want to find the best EV for your needs, check out Electric Driver.

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