Electric vehicles’ cold weather range can drop by 50 percent.

If you’ve forgotten your fully charged phone outside during winter, only to return an hour later and find it nearly completely drained, you’ll know the effects low temperatures have on batteries. The same is true for electric vehicles whose real world range can drop quite dramatically in winter compared to warmer months.

The drop can be big as 50 percent, which is why you need to know all the things you can do to limit its extent. You can limit just how big the drop is just by pre-conditioning the car, which essentially tells it to turn itself on and warm itself up while still being plugged in - this not only grants you the maximum possible range in cold weather, but it also saves you from having to scrape the frost off the windscreen.

This is just one of the tips suggested by Mike Coulton, EV Consultant, Volkswagen Financial Services Fleet. He also mentions smart charging, or in other words, charging according to your schedule, among other things:

“If you know what time you’re leaving in the morning, make sure your overnight charge finishes as close to this time as possible. This will mean the battery will be warmer because of the charging activity, so you won’t lose (as much) range by the vehicle having to warm the battery from its own energy reserves. You should also feel more regenerative braking as a result, which is good for range.”

He also points out the effects of cold weather on brake regeneration:

“Regenerative braking can also reduce in cold weather, because this is also linked to battery temperature and charging. This means the car may feel different to drive in cold weather, requiring more manual braking from the driver as the effectiveness of regenerative braking is often reduced.”

Heat management is also important:

“Surprisingly, it is much more efficient to use the heated seats and steering wheel than it is to heat all the air in the cabin. Therefore, to maximize range in cold weather, it’s recommended that you pre-heat the cabin whilst the vehicle is plugged in and charging to a nice warm temperature, then when you get in turn the cabin heater down 1-2’C and use the heated seats/steering wheel/etc. to maintain a comfortable temperature for the driver and passengers. This is particularly important if you do find yourself low on charge due to the above and need to maximize your range to get to a chargepoint. Many EVs also have an “ECO” or “ECO+” mode which will automatically reduce the effectiveness of the air con and heating systems in order to maximize range.”

And he also talks about the differences between internal combustion-engined cars and EVs when it comes to how cold weather affects them:

“In a petrol or diesel car (ICE vehicles), waste heat from the engine is used to warm the cabin. This is one reason why ICE vehicles are only 20-25% efficient as they generate a lot of waste heat and noise. EVs, which are 75-90% efficient by comparison, do not have an engine so do not create waste heat. Heating the cabin from a cold temperature can reduce range by as much as 30% in extreme conditions.”