When the cold sets in, what should you be doing to maximize your EV driving experience?
Winter is now right around the corner for the majority of the U.S. and so too is the cold weather that comes with it. As we all know by now, batteries don't much care for extreme cold. Therefore, it's important to understand that cold will decrease your electric car's range, but some tips will help gain some miles back.
This is just a general primer for driving an EV in the cold. Look for us to present some in-depth analysis on cold-weather driving and the impact on specific models in the coming weeks.
Just about every new EV sold today offers preconditioning features. Preconditioning allows the owner to heat or cool the battery and cabin as needed.
You should use the precondition function as much as possible, preferably while connected to a 240-volt charging source. By using preconditioning to preheat the battery and passenger cabin, you'll leave with a fully charged and heated battery, plus a warm cabin.
Preconditioning varies by model, so consult your owner's manual for more information.
Unlike ICE vehicles, there's no waste heat from the combustion engine to heat the passenger cabin, so EVs need actual onboard heating systems. These systems are generally the biggest energy draw an EV will have, other than the propulsion motor.
Maximizing your range will mean limiting the use of the cabin heater as much as possible. Dress warmly so that you remain comfortable in the car. Make use of heated seats and steering wheel (if available) as much as possible as these systems draw less energy than the onboard heater.
Properly Inflated Tires
This might be the most overlooked way to increase your EVs range in the winter. As the temperature drops, the air in your tires contracts and the tire pressure falls.
Tire experts say that for every 10 degrees of temperature drop your tires can lose 1-2 lbs of pressure. Under-inflated tires create more road friction which will reduce the vehicle's efficiency.
Always make sure to check the recommended and maximum pressure for your tires, because it's different for every tire and car. Be sure to check your tire pressure frequently during the winter.
Using the regenerative braking system on your EV to maximize range is always a good idea. However, it can be an even bigger asset when you really need to squeeze out every mile of range possible.
It's also important to note that when the battery is very cold, the regenerative braking system will be less effective. Cold batteries can't accept as much energy as warm batteries can.
Park Inside Or in Direct Sunlight
Whenever possible park the car in garages, especially if they are heated. If you park outside for an extended period, like during work, try to find a spot that will be in direct sunlight.
By parking in direct sunlight you’ll have a warmer cabin and battery when you return to your car. Every little bit helps.
Charging Times Increase
Cold batteries won't accept as much energy as warm ones will, so expect longer charge times.
Also, if equipped, your car's thermal management system may also be working to warm the batteries. The thermal management system takes some of the energy that would have gone directly into the battery, so that can extend the charge time also.
Also, the simple act of charging the car warms the battery. So you may want to use the charge timer on your car, or on your EVSE, to make sure the charge ends right before your departure time.
Use Eco Modes
Most EV have various operating modes. Eco modes are designed to reduce energy usage, sometime by limited motor output and other times by reducing the amount of energy HVAC systems can use (or a combination of both).
Eco modes can, therefore, extend the range of your electric car.
By following these tips, tricks and techniques, your electric car's range shouldn't diminish by too much in the cold winter months ahead. Just be sure to account for the fact that no matter what you do, your range will drop in the cold (the same is true for gasoline vehicles) so plan your trips accordingly.