The Effects of Cold Weather on Electric Vehicles
Colder temperatures can cause reductions in the range of an electric vehicle of 25% or more. Batteries discharge more quickly in cold weather, and they charge more slowly. Also, the additional draw on batteries from electric heaters, electric seats, and electric windshield defrosters further reduces the range of electric vehicles.
To combat this loss of range, manufactures have come up with a couple of interesting approaches: The Nissan Leaf uses an electric heater to keep the battery warm. It seems completely counter intuitive that the electric heat used to warm a battery can increase range by a greater amount than the loss of range caused by the electricity needed to generate the heat in the first place, but the Nissan engineers are probably smarter than me, and I think that they probably tested the idea before they put this system in the Leaf. Telsa uses excess heat from the engine to warm its batteries. This process takes longer, though, because the engine must first produce the waste heat.
Engineers are working on other solutions to this problem as well. Specifically, they are trying to produce electrolytes that are less susceptible to cold weather discharge and will also charge more quickly in cold weather. It has also been suggested that manufacturers use thicker glass that will provide better insulation and reduce the amount of heat needed to keep occupants comfortable.
While waiting for technology to improve, there are a couple things that drivers can do to maintain as much range as possible in cold weather. Some models offer long range battery packages. These can be expensive and cost $10,000 or more. Drivers can heat their vehicles and clean their windshields while still tethered to their charging stations. Finally, drivers of electric vehicles can through on a pair on long undies and invest in hats and gloves. It’s a cold world out there. Be prepared.