It’s common knowledge that cold weather can take a hit on car batteries, and vehicles need special care and maintenance during the winter. But does it apply to electric cars as well? Are electric cars reliable in cold weather? Should you consider the weather conditions of the area you live in before buying an EV?
These are some common questions people, particularly those living in cold areas, ask when considering buying an electric vehicle. If you’re wondering the same, keep reading because we are going to answer all the questions about the performance, reliability, and maintenance of electric cars in winter.
How Cold Weather Affects Electric Cars?
In 2019, American Automobile Association (AAA) published a report on Electric Vehicle Range Testing.
According to that, the driving range of an electric vehicle can reduce by 12% when the temperature drops from 75oF to 20oF. It also decreases the fuel economy by 8%.
The decline in vehicle range can reach up to 41% if you turn on the heater, and the energy efficiency can reduce by 39%.
Does this mean electric cars are not reliable in cold weather?
Both general vehicle and electric car experts agree that EVs, just like gas-powered vehicles, come with their own set of pros and cons. Their performance may take a slight dip in the winter, but this doesn’t make them completely unreliable.
You just need a little more care and a few small additional measures to keep your electric vehicle performing well through the winter season.
And this doesn’t just apply to electric cars. Those who live in cold areas know that the standard gasoline vehicles also require more care and maintenance to perform efficiently and reliably during the cold season.
Electric Car vs. Gasoline Car – Which One Performs Better in Winter?
Let’s compare some primary features of electric vehicles and the standard gas-powered cars to get a better understanding of how the two are different and if one performs better than the other during the cold weather.
Starting the Car
When it comes to starting the car in cold weather, electric vehicles have been found to be more reliable. Not only their process is simpler, but they also use significantly less power when starting up as compared to the gas run cars.
As discussed earlier, the range of electric vehicles can decrease anywhere from 12% to 41% at 20oF, depending on whether you are driving without a heater or with it being turned on.
What about gas-powered cars? The dip is comparatively lower. According to the U.S Department of Energy, the gas mileage of conventional vehicles can drop by 15% to 24% at the same temperature, i.e. 20oF.
They did not provide an estimate of range decline when the heater is on. But, if we compare the change or drop in range without a heater, it’s clear that EVs experience a lower decline than gas-powered cars.
Climate Control (Heat)
The statistics for the decline in an EV’s range in winter clearly tell that a significant decline occurs only when the cabin heating is turned on.
Since EVs use the electric charge from the battery to run the heater, it gets drained more quickly. Gas-powered vehicles, on the other hand, draw energy from the vehicle’s engine to heat the cabin.
The primary reason to mention it is to clarify that the underlying process of cabin heating is completely different in both types of vehicles, and you can’t compare apples to oranges.
Having said that, even if you compare the efficiency of EVs and conventional cars with the heating system turned on, the former loses 41% of range whereas the latter can utilize about 58% to 62% of the available energy (from gasoline) during the process.
It’s also important to note that conventional vehicles lose the majority of this energy in the combustion process, and only a very small amount is used for cabin heating.
The bottom line of this whole discussion is that electric cars are more fuel-efficient than their conventional gas-powered counterparts, even during the cold weather.
Check out, Electric Car Charging at Home
Driving and Handling the Car During Slippery Conditions
EVs tend to be heavier than regular cars, primarily due to heavier batteries. However, those very heavy batteries make EVS safer to drive during slippery conditions.
The batteries are placed at the base of the car in most EVS. This lowers their center of gravity, giving them higher stability and traction.
For even higher protection and safety, use snow tires, regardless of what type of drive system your car has. The Latest research has busted the long-held misconception that all-wheel-drive cars are the best choice for driving in snow, sleet, and ice.
According to Consumer Reports, snow tires offer the best traction and easier handling regardless of the drive system of a car.
Driving an Electric Car in Winter – EV Cold Weather Maintenance Tips
Keeping your vehicle in topnotch condition (performance-wise) and driving safely in cold weather requires a little extra care and effort, no matter what type of automobile you have; conventional or electric-powered. Here are some simple, but highly useful tips to winterize your electric car:
Protect the Battery from Cold
Cold weather does have an impact on a car battery. While you may not be able to prevent it completely, you can reduce the effects by keeping your battery as warm as possible.
This can be done by physically removing ice or snow off the vehicle, parking in closed (ideally insulated) spaces or under the sun, and charging frequently.
Be Careful of the Charge
Since electric cars run entirely on batteries, it goes without saying that keeping them charged is the key factor behind their reliable performance, winter or not.
But, experts recommend being more careful of your car’s charging during the cold weather, and never letting your EV’s battery go below 20%. It’s vital to heat the battery.
Moreover, knowing that batteries tend to drain quicker in cold weather, you need to plan the timings for charging the vehicle carefully. You don’t want to charge the battery before sleeping, only to lose some of it in warming the battery even before heading out of the home.
A smart approach is to program it for overnight charging. This will ensure that you find a fully charged vehicle in the morning, and will also keep the battery warm.
Calculate the charging time carefully, though, keeping in mind that EVs take significantly longer to charge in cold weather.
Preheat the Car
As mentioned earlier, turning on heating can reduce the range of an EV by 41%. To make sure you don’t end up getting stuck in the middle of nowhere, on a cold winter day (or worse, night), you should preserve the battery as much as possible. But, this doesn’t mean driving without heat in the chilly weather. Preheat the car instead!
Turn on the car’s heat about half an hour before heading out, while the vehicle is still plugged in for charging. This ensures that you don’t lose mileage due to cabin heating and also stay warm and comfortable.
This smart feature is called pre-conditioning, and most EVs allow you to schedule it in advance or control it via an app, further adding to the conveniences of electric cars.
Dress for the Weather
It may not be the best advice to save your EV’s charge, but it certainly works. Instead of cranking up the car’s heat, how about you bundle up yourself while keeping the heat on low?
Wear warmer clothes, or if you have pre-heated the car, carry a warm coat or jacket with you to put on as the cabin temperature begins to drop again.
Go Easy on the Gas Pedal
In today’s fast-paced and busy life, almost everyone always seems to be running late for something. And for many of us, the best resort is to drive faster.
Fast driving not only raises safety concerns, but if you happen to own an EV, it also drains the charge quickly. The harder you press that gas pedal, the quicker your car’s battery will drain.
The aerodynamic drag of the car also increases when you’re driving at a high speed, requiring more energy to overcome.
So, go easy on the pedal when it’s cold outside. It’s safer and will also make your EV battery last longer.
Use Eco Mode
Driving slow is often easier said than done, especially for those who are used to driving at higher speeds.
Since our brain tends to go on autopilot, when we perform an action or activity repeatedly, people often not realize that they are pressing that pedal a little too hard.
Moreover, it’s difficult to drive slow deliberately when you’re running late. The eco-mode of an electric vehicle comes in handy in such situations.
Most EVs come with this incredibly useful feature that, simply put, reduces the speed of the car to help reduce power consumption or improve fuel efficiency.
Use the Regenerative Braking Feature
Since electric vehicles run entirely on electric power, and their reliability depends on how long that power lasts, many come with the innovative regenerative braking feature.
If you didn’t already know, regenerative braking is an energy-saving or recovery mechanism whereby the vehicle captures the energy released when the driver presses the brake and uses it to top up the battery. Isn’t it amazing?
If your EV has this feature, it is worth using it to make your battery last longer, especially during winter when the charge drains faster.
Should You Own an Electric Car Based on Where You Live?
Although electric cars are increasingly gaining popularity, many people still wonder if these modern vehicles are suitable for everyone. While owning an EV comes with its unique set of requirements, it’s not something limited to EVs only. All vehicles come with their own requirements, pros, and cons.
Although there are a few things that you need to consider before purchasing an EV, such as your budget, ability to afford maintenance costs, and access to charging stations, this list doesn’t include the weather of your area.
Electric cars are being made by some of the biggest companies (case in point, Tesla). Moreover, the industry is growing by leaps and bounds and gaining financial legitimacy, with developments like Tesla entering S&P 500.
With the industry expanding so much, you can’t expect that the manufacturing companies are not paying attention to EVs’ reliability in cold weather. They certainly can’t overlook it, knowing that 32% of the world population lives in cold areas. Rest assured that you don’t need to base your decision of buying an electric car on the weather of the area you live in.
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My name is Matthew, staying in Seattle, Washington. Electric Vehicles (Electric Cars & Electric bikes) caught my attention for the last few years and my love for electric cars and bikes is everlasting. I spend many of my weekends traveling to various places all over various cities with my electric vehicle (e-bike and electric car). Here I am sharing my expertise, experience, and invaluable information about electric cars and electric bikes. Check out more.