For those who drive an electric vehicle or are considering switching to one – and let’s face it, the future is headed in the direction of electric mobility — a common question is how cold weather affects charging and mileage range of the vehicle. And for the millions living in areas with at least a couple months of very cold temperatures it’s only natural to want to feel confident about driving an electric vehicle during the winter.
Cold weather testing, by the U.S. Department of Energy, shows a reduction in fuel economy for gas, hybrid and electric vehicles with gas vehicles reduced by 15-24% and EVs by roughly 39%. And according to the director of the University of Michigan Energy Institute, driving and charging an electric vehicle in colder weather has its nuances because temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit can reduce charging power. With a bit of preparation and planning, your electric vehicle will get you where you need to go throughout the year.
Here are a few tips to help keep an EV running smoothly during the winter.
1. Charging may take longer
The vehicle controls the charging rate, not the charger. When temperatures are low, the electric vehicle’s software reduces its charging power, and for a good reason: to help avoid stressing the battery. The Idaho National Laboratory study found that at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, an EV battery took in 36% less energy than when the battery was charged for the same amount of time at 77 degrees Fahrenheit – this means the colder the weather, the more time the battery needed to charge.
So when temperatures are colder, it’s important to plan ahead for longer charge times, whether the trip is part of your daily commute or a longer road trip. It’s also important to note that the charging rate will always decrease as the battery reaches full capacity (state of charge, or SOC), to maintain battery life and durability.
2. Pay attention to overnight changes in your EV’s range
Check the forecast to be aware of overnight low temperatures during winter months – as cold temps overnight can lower an EV’s driving range by an average of 20%, according to the Norwegian Automobile Federation. Be mindful of that potential range reduction and pay attention to the vehicle’s console display, as some EVs can predict these range reductions during extreme temperatures.
3. Plan your charges
Plan for stops at public charging stations to avoid finding yourself with a limited range and a lot more driving to do. Thanks to the Electrify America mobile app supported by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, drivers can easily navigate to nearby ultra-fast charging stations and see which chargers are currently available, making it even more seamless to plan charges before and during a trip.
4. Park indoors when you can
Parking an EV in a garage with higher indoor temperatures, when possible, can help the battery charge more quickly and hold that charge longer.
5. Understand your EV’s cold weather features
Some EVs have a pre-conditioning feature that allows drivers to program or manually warm up the battery to more optimal temperatures. While this pre-conditioning process does use some battery power to provide a warming effect, it can make the battery more efficient while maximizing driving range.
By understanding your EV and its charging needs, especially during colder weather, you’ll be better prepared to rely on an electric car no matter when and where you’re driving.