AAA recently jumped on the "EVs are bad in winter" bandwagon and painted a pretty horrible picture with its headline.
Yes, EVs lose range in winter. Yes, all cars (regardless of powertrain) are impacted by extreme temps (cold and hot). Yes, electric cars tend to take a more obvious hit. We've said all of this time and time again. There's no hiding the reality.
However, multiple headlines about how EV range loss is greater than 50 percent in cold weather and people can barely even drive their EVs, etc. etc. are a bit of a stretch. After AAA published its recent article, a whole slow of mainstream media used it as fuel to convince the public that electric vehicles are just about plain useless this time of year.
Even AAA's own article is entitled, "Icy Temperatures Cut Electric Vehicle Range Nearly in Half." Then the subhead reads, "AAA research finds HVAC use in frigid temperatures causes substantial drop in electric vehicle range."
According to AAA's research, outside temps below 20°F can decrease electric car range by an average of 41 percent (as long as the HVAC system is turned on and heating the car). Of course, it only makes sense the people would use their cabin heat in the winter. But there's more to the story here. The HVAC system is a significant part of the range loss equation. With the ability to precondition the cabin in most EVs, plus the advent of heated seats and heated steering wheels, drivers may not necessarily have to crank their heat up significantly for the entire drive time to match AAA's worst-case results.
The organization tested five all-electric vehicles: the Tesla Model S, Nissan LEAF, Chevrolet Bolt EV, BMW i3, and VW e-Golf. Range consumption was compared with outside temps at 20°F, 75°F and 95°F. As originally shared by Green Car Congress, AAA concluded that the hot and cold temps only had a "modest" impact on range until the HVAC system was used:
On average, an ambient temperature of 20°F resulted in a 12 percent decrease of combined driving range and a 9 percent decrease of combined equivalent fuel economy (when compared to testing conducted at 75°F).
On average, an ambient temperature of 95°F resulted in a 4 percent decrease of combined driving range and a 5 percent decrease of combined equivalent fuel economy (when compared to testing conducted at 75°F).
On average, HVAC use at 20°F resulted in a 41 percent decrease of combined driving range and a 39 percent decrease of combined equivalent fuel economy (when compared to testing conducted at 75°F).
On average, an ambient temperature of 95°F resulted in a 17 percent decrease of combined driving range and an 18 percent decrease of combined equivalent fuel economy (when compared to testing conducted at 75°F).
The most interesting part is that, according to the EPA, "in city driving, traditional vehicles can suffer from 12 percent or greater loss in cold weather." While the key here is city driving, this shows that AAA's study proves that cold weather alone doesn't impact EVs significantly more.
As we've previously reported on a number of occasions, it's important for new EV owners to understand their vehicles and take the proper steps to help reduce the impact of cold weather and HVAC use. Much the same, owners of gas-powered cars must plan ahead to assure that their vehicles will successfully start in cold weather and not overheat in extreme heat.
Source: Green Car Congress