Electric Vehicles Don’t Like Cold Weather

Or perhaps I should say that lithium-ion batteries don’t do well in the cold. AAA confirms what Tesla, BMW, Nissan electric car owners suspected — cold weather saps EV range. Even turning on the car drains power. But then I don’t much like cold weather either.

The reporter is shocked to discover that all manufacturers have the same problem, as if chemistry would work differently for BMW and Tesla than it does for Chevy.

Different factors can affect the loss of range, he and other experts have noted. Simply turning on the electric vehicles, or EVs, AAA studied in 20 degree weather revealed a 12 percent loss in range.

And that is BEFORE you turn on the cabin heat or heated seats.

Using climate control revealed an even bigger surprise, according to Brannon, as range dipped by an average 41 percent — which would bring an EV like the Bolt down to just 140 miles of range.

Again, I have no idea why this should be a “surprise.” (Or why they only list the bad numbers relative to the Chevy, and not relative to say Tesla.) Apparently reporters live in a world where energy – like heat – appears out of nowhere. The author of the piece seems to be genuinely surprised that internal combustion engines have waste heat that they can use, while electric motors don’t, (or don’t have enough for this use) and have to use electric heating elements whose energy comes out of the battery. The proposed mitigation, BTW is stupid.

Grewe has experienced sharp reductions in the range of his own Chevy Bolt, but he also said there are ways to limit the impact of cold weather. That includes storing a battery car in a garage, preferably one that’s heated. And wherever it is parked, it helps to keep the EV plugged in.

Of all the homes I’ve owned in the past 30 years, all but 1 have had a garage. None of the garages has been heated. Indeed, it is a standard to make sure that in an attached garage, fumes from the garage CANNOT enter the house. (This may actually be a part of the building code.) So no vents, heating ducts, etc. and an effort should be made to keep the drywall intact and sealed. Otherwise you risk asphyxiation. So you would need a separate furnace for the garage. And probably a new garage door, and extra insulation, etc. So where did all that energy saving go now? And 20 degrees F? That would have been like a heatwave coming through here last week, the mercury hit minus 14 degrees Fahrenheit. That is BEFORE windchill, so yes, you would need to use ‘climate control.’ (Otherwise the windshield would fog up.)

As for keeping the car plugged in all the time… contact your employer, the local cinema, your favorite Mexican restaurant, Walmart, Starbucks, and anywhere else you might ever go to ensure that every parking space has an outlet. Oh, and don’t ever plan on leaving your car at the airport in long-term-parking, unless that is heated and/or has an outlet.

Electric vehicles also lose range in hot weather, even before you turn on the air-conditioning. (Hat tip to Pirate’s Cove and Not a Lot of People Know That.)

Note: I put this in the “Math is Hard” category, but I should probably make a “Science is Hard” category for it.

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2 thoughts on “Electric Vehicles Don’t Like Cold Weather

  1. I wonder if the owners manual points out that problem as a warning to the car owners?
    However, who ever reads the owners manual anyway?

    • I doubt it. Tesla – a not random example – didn’t tell people who spent big bucks on the Fast Chargers, that there was a limited number of times they could use Fast Charge. So everyone came home plugged in the car and hit fast charge. (They paid a LOT of extra money for that.) Eventually it stopped working.

      Tesla also didn’t tell people the limits on “performance mode.”

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