Maximize Your Electric Car’s Range in Cold Weather
Electric vehicles have been around since the late 1800s, in one form or another, but have recently grown in popularity thanks in large part to their low environmental impact and cost savings on gas. But, did you know your electric vehicle may be less efficient during the frigid months of winter?
Plugincars.com reports that a recent survey by PlugInsights, a research firm exclusively focusing on plug-in electric vehicles, shows the operating range on an electric vehicle can be reduced by approximately 25 percent to 50 percent in below freezing conditions, depending on the electric vehicle model. While Forbes reports that 68 percent of U.S. commuters travel 30 miles or less to and from work, based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this can definitely be a problem if you are traveling on longer trips to visit family for the holidays or attending farther work functions.
So what can you do to get more electric car range in cold weather? First, it might be helpful to understand what can cause a loss of range:
Why Is Electric Car Range Reduced in Cold Weather?
Forbes notes, however, that possibly the largest issue with electric cars in cold weather may come with the use of the heater. In an electric vehicle, the heater used to warm the interior is also electrically powered and takes more energy to raise the temperature than that in a gas-powered vehicle. This is because gasoline engines create a lot of heat when running, and that warmth can be collected to warm the cabin.
When the weather is cold, Forbes explains the battery performance of an electric vehicle may be diminished, just like any car battery in freezing conditions, and may make it more difficult to charge. In addition, regenerative braking (a process that recovers energy that would otherwise be lost during braking and sends it to the battery) may be restricted in frigid temps.
How Do You Get More Range?
Cold weather may affect how far your electric vehicle can go without a charge, but you can do several things to maximize your range. For starters, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests preheating your vehicle while it is plugged in, so the interior warms without digging into the battery’s charge. Once you have done this, Plug In America, a nonprofit chapter of the Electric Auto Association, proposes these other ways to increase your range in cold weather:
- Utilize your seat warmers instead of turning up your cabin heater, because they burn much less energy.
- Park in a heated garage if possible, or at least a spot in the sun, so the cabin and battery are slightly warmer while parked.
- Drive slowly, as going 10 or 15 mph under the speed limit on the freeway can give you as many as 5 or 10 more miles on your range.
Forbes also gives a few other range-increasing suggestions for cold weather, including:
- Since accelerating and braking aggressively require more power, try to prevent these actions.
- Be aware of your tire pressure and make sure it’s always at the optimal level. If all four tires are under-inflated by just 1 pound per square inch (PSI), gas mileage can be reduced by 0.3 percent.
- Get rid of outside accessories on the vehicle, including roof racks and decorations, to decrease wind resistance and potential drag.
Cold winter weather can reduce mileage or range on any type of vehicle, but it seems to be especially rough on electric cars. While you may not be able to get maximum electric car range as you cruise through the snow or heavy winds, if you follow these simple tips and prepare yourself, you might get a few more miles out of your electric car in cold weather.