Colder weather has an impact on the maximum driving range of an electric vehicle, because it adversely affects the batteries that are used to store the energy. Batteries rely on chemical reactions to release electricity and power the car, but low temperatures slow these reactions down and reduce the performance of the battery.
According to Renault, its latest electric Zoe model will do as much as 295 miles when travelling at a steady speed of 31 miles per hour when the outside temperature is 20 degrees.
In the highly unlikely case that the temperature drops to -15 degrees, the same car travelling at the same speed will do just 220 miles.
The faster the car is being driven, the lower the range, and in sub-zero temperatures, drivers can expect less than 100 miles of range in a Zoe at 80mph.
Colder temperatures can also have an effect on charging stations, as public rapid-charging stations may be slower.
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If drivers turn on their car’s heating before they leave the house, it will both heat up the cabin to their desired temperature and also warm up the battery to aid performance.
Most people charge their cars overnight, and if the car is still plugged in when they start heating the car in the morning, then none of the battery’s electricity is used up – it all comes from the grid instead.
When it reaches those colder temperatures, the car’s battery management system likes to reserve a certain percentage of the battery capacity in order to heat the battery up.
The reserve percentage is generally about 15 to 20 percent.
If the battery is usually charged about 20 percent, drivers will always have a nice margin to keep the car’s performance as high as possible.
David Lewis, Electric Lead at Select Car Leasing, has suggested that drivers should make use of an EV’s eco-mode.
He said: “Most EVs have a form of ‘eco-mode’, in which you can boost mileage through reducing power consumption by limiting the energy supply to the driving motor and cabin heaters.
“You may accelerate more slowly, but this can also make driving safer in icy conditions, limiting the chance of wheel spin on icy roads.
“By reducing acceleration and limiting the power of cabin heaters to a certain extent, you’re maximising the battery efficiency during cold weather.
“Like any vehicle, winter means planning in extra time for your journey and thinking about what your electric car needs before you set off.”
Since EVs do not have an internal combustion engine running hot, there’s little additional waste heat that helps warm the passenger cabin.
However, blasting the heating all around the cabin when it’s cold can drain the battery further and reduce its range.
Drivers should try to restrict the heating to just the driver, whether it’s by turning air vents on or off, or controlling seat and steering wheel settings.
It’s a more efficient use of the battery and consumes less electricity than heating the whole car.