Make no mistake: electric cars are less efficient in winter. Cold weather affects battery performance, reducing range and forcing you to charge more often. But with electric vehicles accounting for 14.5 percent of new vehicle registrations, how much mileage could be lost? And can you still drive an electric car when the temperature is below zero?
The short answer to the second question is of course yes. For years (thanks to strong incentives), EV adoption in Norway far exceeded any other global market – despite the extreme winters. In contrast, the UK has a relatively mild climate, so driving an electric vehicle here should be a breeze all year round.
Some companies like Renault offer online calculators that you can use to calculate what range you can expect as the temperature drops. For example, if you drive a Zoe in normal conditions (20 degrees Celsius at a steady 50 km/h), Renault expects 234 miles on a full charge.
If the temperature drops to just five degrees and you run around everywhere with the heating switched on, according to Renault this can tip to 300 kilometers – a range reduction of 20 percent. It’s even worse when temperatures drop below freezing; At minus five degrees, a Zoe R135 only covers 240 km before it has to be reconnected. It is important to note that the larger the battery, the greater the potential for energy loss.
Cold temperatures are detrimental to EV batteries because they rely on chemical reactions to store and release electricity. Lithium-ion batteries – the cells most commonly used in electric and hybrid cars – work when lithium ions move from the anode to the cathode; Cold slows this process down and limits battery performance. The result can be a dramatic loss of usable range.
But for many drivers even 152 miles will be enough. If you have a short commute and can charge at work or at home, you can even use pre-conditioning – heat your car’s interior, defrost the windows and turn on the heated seats – before you head out in the morning.
Not only does this keep you and your passengers nice and warm, but it can also help condition the battery to limit energy loss. The warmer the battery is, the more likely it is to perform at its best. For this reason, cars with an additional heat pump often perform better in winter; If you live in an area that is particularly sensitive to cold, we would seriously consider ordering a heat pump as an option.
While there are no additional hazards to charging your car in the rain or snow, another negative effect of the cold is that charging speeds from public fast chargers can be slower. Tesla acknowledges that extreme weather can result in reduced charging speeds at its Supercharger stations, and the same is likely true of other networks.
But aside from keeping an eye on your model’s estimated range, the weather and the prevailing road conditions, there’s not much you need to worry about when driving an electric car in the winter months.
While electric cars are generally heavier than their petrol and diesel counterparts – skids may be more difficult to control – common sense dictates that we should all drive more cautiously when it’s cold or wet, whether we’re in an electric car or not . Any handling disadvantages can of course be mitigated somewhat by investing in a good set of winter tyres, which is just as important with an electric car as with a petrol one.
So yes, you can still drive through the winter in an electric car. Make sure you get your car serviced regularly – check your windshield washers, antifreeze and tire pressures to a bare minimum – and you should be fine. Oh, and remember, at least you’re not standing by the car in the sleet for five minutes, filling up on diesel.
This is how you get more out of your electric car
Wondering how to get the maximum mileage out of your electric car during the colder months? Here are our top tips.
Plug in your car and preheat it
If you can, it’s always worth preheating the cabin while your car is plugged in. That way you’re using the grid to warm the car instead of sacrificing range by using the battery after you’ve driven off. Plugging in more often than usual can also save you from range anxiety.
Use seat heaters (and turn off the heater!)
The heated seats and steering wheel of an electric car use far less energy than the fan or air conditioning. If you can take it, turning off the air conditioning can significantly increase your projected range.
It may sound obvious, but the faster you drive, the less efficient your car will be. Even a drop from 70 to 65 mph on the freeway could make a big difference in range. Driving gently and using the car’s Eco setting can also help.
Use your GPS
The navigation systems in most electric vehicles can calculate the most efficient route when you enter a destination – potentially saving valuable miles. The same now applies to Google Maps if you prefer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Maximize regenerative braking
Increasing the level of regenerative braking on your electric car can help capture energy that would otherwise be lost when slowing down or coasting. However, be aware that in heavy snow or ice, such a system may cause your wheels to slip. We would turn it off in extreme conditions.
Is your car winterized? Check out our winter car checklist for more info…