Driving Electric Vehicles (EVs) in Cold Climates

Are you thinking of going electric with your fleet but you’re concerned how cold weather may affect the range and/or performance? You’re not alone, and this is a worry of EV owners and potential buyers who operate in harsh winter conditions around the world.

Studies have been completed to scientifically determine just how much cold weather can affect EVs and the results may surprise you.

The main reason that EVs are affected by cold weather is because of the battery temperature dropping below the ideal temperature range (60-80 F or 12-26 C). When battery temperatures drop below the low end of their ideal range, the chemical reactions that generate electrons to supply the current of the battery slow down, resulting in the battery producing less current.

AAA completed a study on EVs and the reduced mileage range as a result of cold weather. A wide variety of EVs with an average mileage range per charge of 100 miles were tested at 20 F and 75 F.

The study found that at the colder temperature the average range fell 12% when no heater was used in the vehicles. When a cabin heater was on, the driving range dropped by an average of 41%.

While those statistics may shock some, it’s important to note that cold weather also affects fuel efficiency of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. In fact, a study completed by FleetCarma (a Geotab company), found that on average, ICE vehicles had a 19% decrease range at 0 F.

Since most of the latest EV models have a range of 200-300 miles per charge, and using the average 12% reduction of range from AAA’s study, drivers should expect to get between 170-260 miles per charge from your EV under cold winter conditions – which should be sufficient for most daily usage.

So what can you do to help extend your winter mileage range for your EV?

Check your tire pressure. While you should be checking your tire pressure at least once a month, you may want to consider making the habit more frequent in winter months (your Geotab telematics solution will have your tire pressure monitor information on your app should your vehicle be equipped with tire pressure monitors). Tire pressure is important since tire pressure drops as the ambient temperature falls and improperly inflated tires can reduce mileage range. With properly inflated tires you can save as much as 13% of your average mileage range.

Make preconditioning a routine. Preconditioning (warming the battery while your EV is still charging) makes the vehicle cab nice and warm so you don’t have to waste valuable battery usage to blast the heat while driving. Preconditioning can give you 10-15% more range and some EVs allow you to manage preconditioning through apps to make it even easier to do before you hit the roads. It’s important to note that a 240V level 2 charger is required for preconditioning as it requires more than a 120V level 1 charger can provide.

Park indoors when possible. As super-chilled batteries won’t perform as well or take as much charge as a warmer battery, you should try and park your EV indoors whenever possible. If indoor parking is not available, then parking in direct sunlight in the next best alternative.

Minimize your need for cabin heating. Using the HVAC in an EV is the number one battery drainer and can decrease mileage range by as much as 30%. Instead of using the HVAC in your EV, it’s recommended instead that you wear warm driving gloves, your coat, and use features such as heated seats and/or heated steering wheels instead as these features draw less energy than heating the entire cabin.

Drive conservatively. While this tip doesn’t only apply to winter, it will help your mileage range significantly. Excessive acceleration, braking, and driving at high speeds all drain EV battery life. Anticipate any stops ahead of time and give sufficient spacing between you and other vehicles to stop safely without having to brake harshly.

Use your eco-mode. While eco-modes can function differently between EV models, they all generally work to reduce power consumption and increase mileage range by reducing the energy supply to the drive motor and high energy features such as the cabin heater.

Be a smart charger. Since cold batteries have a greater resistance to charging, meaning they charge slower in colder temperatures, use a 240V level 2 fast charger for your main charge whenever possible. Also, if you plan on taking a longer road trip with your EV, it’s a smart idea to map out any fast chargers along your route for the most efficient charging stops.

If cold climates have been causing worry and stopping you from taking the leap to an EV, we hope the information provided has helped ease your worries and shown you how many manage their EV usage in the winter months to reduce loss of mileage range.

If you have any questions about how GPS to GO can help your fleet find efficiencies for ICE vehicles or how we can help you transition to electric, contact us here.