Thinking about getting an EV but not sure how it will perform in cold weather? Especially if you’re in the northern part of the country, in states like Alaska, Minnesota, or North and South Dakota, it’s important to know about car performance in freezing conditions. No worries. As with all things EV, it’s been tested, and we’ve got the research.
Read on to understand how EVs are affected by extreme winter weather.
Cold Weather Impacts all Cars–but Especially EVs
Whether you’re driving a gas-powered car or an EV, winter weather makes a difference. Both gas-powered and electric vehicles are complex systems with various interdependent parts that must all work together in very specific ways. Many of these parts react differently and more poorly in cold temperatures.
Generally, a car’s most energy-efficient temperature is between 195°F to 220°F. Since it takes a car longer to reach that point in colder weather, most of your drive is spent in less-than-ideal conditions. Fuel and energy economy goes down as you warm up your car and leave it idling. Plus, using all the heating features uses extra power. Drag is increased as your car moves through the denser cold air and as tire pressure decreases.
Battery performance is also affected in gas-powered cars, but in EVs using lithium-ion batteries, it makes a bigger difference. Range and charge time are impacted. While how much exactly depends on the make and model, a few different studies show that, overall, these vehicles can see an average loss of range between 18.5% to 41%.
The Straight Facts: U.S. and Norway Test EV Efficiency in Cold Weather
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, fuel economy tests demonstrate that in city driving, an internal combustion engine (ICE) sees a 15% to 24% drop in gas mileage when the temp is lower than 20°F compared to 77°F. For EVs, that drop is around 40%. Most of that drop is due to the extra energy used to warm the cabin.
If anyone should be testing EVs, however, it’s the Norwegians. EVs made up 86% of Norway’s car sales in 2021, compared to 5% in the U.S. Europe uses a standardized Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) to measure fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from passenger cars, as well as their pollutant emissions. When it comes to EVs, the WLTP measures range and energy use. While the test helps to reflect on-road performance and uses real-driving data, it’s conducted in summer weather.
To measure range and energy consumption in colder weather, the Norwegian Automobile Federation (NAF) tested 20 of their most popular EVs to measure range, consumption, and charging time during the winter. Norway’s average winter temperate is a little lower than 20°F. Of course, different makes and models will have different results, but the test provides a clearer idea of how EVs perform in colder conditions. Here are a few of the findings from the test:
Range Loss and Consumption
Compared to their WLTP performance numbers, the EVs tested lost an average range of 18.5%. Nevertheless, even the lowest winter range of 123 miles is more than enough for the average American’s daily roundtrip commute of 55.2 miles. The Tesla Model S boasted a healthy winter range of 292 miles.
Some drivers worry that their EVs will suddenly stop if they run out of power. The test revealed that it is not likely to happen. Drivers get plenty of low-battery warnings. In some cases, even if the car completely runs out of battery, just leaving it turned off for about half an hour will allow you to drive a few more miles.
To conduct this portion of the test, the cars were driven on the highway for a minimum of two hours. They were charged to at least 80% capacity. The best performing car, the Audi E-tron 55 Quattro, took just 27 minutes to reach that percentage. The popular Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S took around an hour, still relatively fast charging speeds.
Improving EV Performance in Cold Weather and Other Tips
Do you need to bolster performance in cold temps? Check out the experts at Ride & Drive Clean. They’re working to advance the adoption of electric vehicles in a fair and just marketplace and have curated some great information for EV lovers and curious shoppers. Check out their tips and tricks to help maximize EV efficiency in the winter.
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By evee Life Contributor
Published November 3, 2022 8:50PM
Eveelife is an eco-oriented lifestyle platform that helps consumers make more purposeful choices about how they live and what they consume. We do it by curating content and products that help them make more conscious, carbon-free choices while amplifying their EV ownership experience.