Video: Motley Fool Says to “Consider This Before Buying a Hybrid or Electric”


Temperature has a profound impact on the range of electric vehicles.

It's a Well Known Fact That Temperature Affects Electric Range

It’s a Well Known Fact That Temperature Affects Electric Range

That’s a well-known fact, but it seems the general public may not know this.

It’s not like an automaker is going to advertise the fact that EV range falls off dramatically as the mercury dips, so Motley Fool took it upon themselves to get the word out.

After all, we wouldn’t want the general public buying into a vehicle that won’t meet their needs in a given cold-weather region of the world, right?

Education is important.

As Motley Fool states:

“…there’s a key factor in determining if a hybrid or electic car is worth your money. Though its a well-known factor in the industry, its one that many folks looking to buy a car might not be aware of. In this video, Motley Fool contributor Brian Stoffel discusses what this factor is…and what consumers need to know.”

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39 Comments on "Video: Motley Fool Says to “Consider This Before Buying a Hybrid or Electric”"

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Of course gas car range and MPG also drops in both extreme heat and extreme cold. But no gas car companies talk about that either.

Indeed. I thought it somewhat deceptive to say that cold weather only affects hybrids and EVs. In fact, in the case of the Prius it is not the battery that is losing efficiency in the cold, it is the ICE that is at fault.

Yes, to be fair, he should mention that cold weather also affects ICE vehicles too. While hybrids and PHEVs getting lower miles is annoying, for BEVs it can make a longer commute untenable. So for shorter range BEVs it does make sense to know your limits during the winter.

And we’ve already learned that the colder it gets, the more EV’s save you.

To be scientifically correct, the Prius engine yield actually increases in cold weather because the Carnot cycle operates in an increased temperature differential. Cold is good for yield and warmth is bad for yield.
This said cold weather also means less time with an engine out to provide cabin heat and also more resistance to movement when the tires have to push flat or aside the snow in front of them.
So overall a Prius uses more fuel when the weather is cold but the engine yield is not lower but actually higher.

That’s right. Though range is important and it does go down, the “cost” of an EV actually get better than an ICE in cold weather. I thought the Fool cared about money?

The Fool cares about their own money. I have found that the Fool, and other so called “financial” websites will present the “facts” in a certain way to get people to buy or sell stocks that will fit the Fools needs. When it comes to electric cars, some of these sites will overhype electric cars to a point they are not yet at, while other sites treat electric cars as the end of the world, all depending on where they put their money.

I’ll speak for myself. I’ve had 7 non-hybrid ICE cars. Models from the 70’s, thru today. All would loose 10-15%, from their average. If I say the Volt averages ~42 miles per charge, getting under 30 miles on a day like today translates into -31%. I don’t see how others can favorably compare the loss to a gas car, if they contest “EV range falls of dramatically as mercury drops”.

On a 50 mile trip, I might get 40 miles of range (first, warming the battery with engine coolant). But on a 40 mile trip I won’t get 40, because all that heat has to come from one place. Does that make sense? So, I’m qualifying the -31% loss as coming off a 30 mile trip. That’s as fair as I can be, and a more common trip distance.

People getting the new <10kwh PHEVs also need to bear in mind that tapping into their ICE every day, for less than a dozen miles, can also hit mpg's by 30-40%. Economically, the trick is having enough all-electric range to do the job.

All cars are less efficient in the cold. If buying a more efficient car makes sense in the summer, it makes just as much or more sense in the winter. Smack down.

See MTN Ranger’s comment. With the issue of range aside, I guess your statement is correct. My commute is 50 miles, 80% highway. My wife’s brand new Leaf can barely get me there and back with the wimpy heater blasting plus the seat heater. If I get caught in traffic, I need to use the heater sparingly to avoid needing Flintstone Power.

Adding the cost and time of a tow home – or the cost of treating frostbite – would, in certain wintry situations, make the Leaf a little less efficient than my van.

Intelligent engineering can alleviate a lot of the cold weather range issues. Allow user to select departure time, keep battery at a minimum temperature when outside temps are below a certain temp (requires internet connection like Model S or other comm like OnStar), warm battery with charging as needed, allow cabin pre-heat (auto with departure time or manual start), seat heaters, heated steering wheel), PHEV engine on (e.g. Hold mode) to allow for engine heat when plug heat not available.

Most EVs have some of this but none have all.

OK, you didn’t say anything false, but your warning would be perhaps a bit incomplete without this tidbit:

We have to stop using the atmosphere as a toilet somehow very soon.

This is why I hate words like significant. Give me some numbers in a range please.
Btw Tesla’s have shown to be more resilient, i.e. losing less range around 25% less than other ev’s. So let’s say at zero C ev’s on average lose 10% of their range and then every 5 degrees lower they lose another 1%. So at -10 they lose 20% of their range. Some sort of scale, not amorphous words like significant. I suppose in his example that would be 15% loss of range, 50 miles as opposed to 35, and as pointed out part of that loss, say 1/3 is from gasoline engine reduced efficiency.

Quick math check – 50 to 35 is a 30% loss.

When you say the S loses x% of its range, I think you are just referring to the electrical output of the battery packs. ?

Real world data. My wife’s Leaf – optimal (72 degrees, no wind) around 110 miles. Worst case (-10 degrees, 20mph wind, snowy roads, wipers, headlights, cabin heater, seat heater, steering wheel heater… oh and the radio to hear the traffic and weather reports) around 40 miles. Cabin heat, sloppy roads, traffic and wind can suck >50% of the range out of any EV. Because all these things are inherent to cold temps, they need to be factored into cold weather range discussions and estimates.

110, to 40, is a little steep, considering EPA is no better than 84. While possible, I imagine Leaf owners would really have to “game” to get numbers like that. Anyone else?

Yes, the 110 was not accomplished by driving normally. It was a “let’s see how much I can get” kind of test, in ECO mode. The 40 was also [sort of] a test, starting off cold, rather than from my garage. Anyone with a BEV should do these two tests, as well as a drive-as-fast-as-you-can-on-the-interstate test… just as a matter of getting to know their car’s characteristics and limitations. EPA is from a series of tests also, which includes one at 80% SOC and another at 100%, if I am remembering correctly. They really should rate EV’s by miles/kWh, as a set of numbers. Examples: Leaf={2.2 low, 4.6 high, 3.9 typical} mi/kWh @ 24kWh + 0mpg ICE @ 0 gal Volt={1.6 low, 3.5 high, 2.8 typical} mi/kWh @ 12 kWh + 28mpg ICE @ 8 gal This MPGe stuff is stupid, especially with PHEV’s. Their tests should be something like this: 1. Mild Climate grocery-getting: 72 degrees, no wind, no accessories, start & stop n times, 40mph max 2. Winter: 0 degrees, everything reasonable running (wipers, heat, seats) 3. Highway: 65 mph nonstop, reasonable weather 4. (If applicable) avg mpg all ICE (using current methods) FWIW, when you get into… Read more »

Issue is relatively small battery capacity in the LEAF, and the added accessory load drawing a large portion of the energy. While range from a pack is reduce a bit by colder temperature; the majority of range loss comes from using energy for running accessories vs. generating miles.

An ICE-V in comparison actually begins to make use of some thermo energy that normally is wasted.

OK, I will give you some numbers:
I drive a 2014 Honda Fit EV, and I live in the northeast. The car has a 20 kW Li-ion battery.

During the summer, with ambient temps of 70-90F, my range is 80-95 miles on a full charge.
During the winter, when temps drop to 32F, the range plummets to about 40-45 miles.
When the temps drop to 20F, the range drops to about 30-35 miles.
A fellow Fit EV owner has seen his range plummet to 14 miles at an ambient temp of 3F.

All of the above range variations are without the use of heat or AC.

FOURTEEN MILES?!? Wow. I think that car might be a piece.

Thanks for the data…
Size of cajones on a person who will leave his driveway with 14 miles of range in 3 degree weather = ?

Condition of dealership’s windows, tires and families after I realized that I had leased a car that can go 14 miles on a full charge = ?

Sorry boss. Gotta work from home today. It’s 3 and my car can’t even be a car when it’s 3.

That’s just a fail on Honda’s part. Or perhaps a defective unit, because that’s just insane.

I only wish that it was a defective unit, but sadly no…

Check out to read the tales of woe… we are ALL getting slammed with 50-75% loss of range due to the cold.

We have even given the car some pet nicknames, such as GARAGE QUEEN and DRIVEWAY DECORATION.


Not a defective unit, just an under-engineered car. I think EVs that will operate in cold regions should have battery heating systems that will turn on when needed . . . especially when the car is attached to a charger. For example, if the temp drops really low then the heater should turn on and keep the battery warm if it can draw AC power. W/o AC power . . . that is much more difficult question.

No wonder it’s just a compliance car.

The cold weather charging parameters and the high conditional threshold for regenerative braking on the Fit EV probably should have kept the car limited to southern California – or at least to those who have heated garages at both ends of their journeys.

You do get all the unlimited mileage you can stand in the lease…it’s just a little harder to take advantage of in the winter, (;

Battery Thermal Management adds cost, bulk, weight, maintenance, and complexity to an EV. In California, where I can compensate for frigid winter temps with long sleeves and closed toed shoes, The Fit EV is perfectly engineered for the conditions. I have also worked in New Jersey for several years and would not be so please with it there. A Focus Electric, i3 REx, or Volt would be more appropriate. As with 4 wheel drive or a convertible, utility varies with circumstances.

It is probably the Lithium-Titanite batteries in the FitEV. Though – Northeast? They only leased them in California. Was it shipped to the Northeast?

It is very simple and affordable to install optional ethanol/methanol/propanol/kerosene burning heater to EV in cold climate regions. Therefore cold climate range performance is a non-issue in a long run.

There is a Tesla owner doing a NY to CA drive right now in the middle of deep winter and they are making it – though they are only getting as little as 130 miles out of a 235 rated mile charge. Driving in heavy snow and cold/wind. On the Tesla forum, they go by the handle “myfastlady”

Motley Fool is like listening to the gym teacher for AP Physics.

Don’t even bother with Motley Fool articles, writeups, videos and chit-chat. A good EV in cold weather is the Chevy Volt. With the engine on-board, it can make up for the range issues and you still can use the battery as needed. Range loss is not that much of a concern.

Notice he does NOT say that typical ICE cars also get lower mpg in the winter and give the reasons why. All vehicles drop their effective mpg in the winter. A 25 mpg car may get 21-22mpg, for instance. His claim of 35% as a general drop is also misleading.

I thought his presentation was nonsensical in that he blamed the loss on battery ineffiiency. I blame the loss on running the resistance battery heater. What’s so difficult to understand about that?

Well, ICE do lose ranges too..

But the difference is that a 400 miles range might be reduced to 300 miles. Which is still far more than average “need”.

If a 80 miles EV loses the same % and becomes a 60 miles EV, then some people might NOT get home…

Oh by the way MMF, I charged my car and it was 4 degrees F in the garage last night. Apoarently 30 amps thru the batteries was still not enough to keep them warm, as the heater had to run for an additional 1 1/4 hours in the middle of the night (no charging takes place while its on) before the Tesla can resume charging. I’m used to gaining around 24 miles per hour of charge, but when the car has much less than you expect, its always a battery or Power Electronics Module temperature issue with the Roadster.

That is interesting. I am surprised that charging alone won’t generate enough heat to keep the battery within the acceptable temperature range.

I know that Volt charging slows down during hot weather b/c some of the charging power is diverted to the A/C….

Interesting with the cold temperature.

Does it happen with the Volt? I imagine that Volt battery has a much better insulation.

Hot weather with the Roadster also is impacted due to the use of the air conditioner to cool the batteries, both while driving, and while charging, obviously being more of an issue at a 70 amp charge rate. The new PEM/Drive motor blower assembly appears to be roughly 1/5 hp. I’ve learned to keep the speed of this motor low since I don’t want it sucking in leaves and other street crap so that it (the PEM) has to be cleaned every year and charging slowed because of an overheated power electronics module. Also, my ‘second’ blower assy was changed out under warranty due to the above problem since the bearings didn’t have enough grease in them to run at high speed all the time. Since the car is coming off of warranty, I obviously don’t want the ‘third’ unit to run much at all, which it doesn’t really need to anyway. The first one, with 2 separate motors, seemed to me to be the quietest and most reliable, but Tesla on their own said it was no good and changed it out (!!!). The new one has one double sized double shafted dual centrifugal blower motor, with the 2… Read more »

I generally research cars before buying them. Who buys a car with a nominal 60 mi range in their climate and their commute is 60 miles? It’s not only Motley that has fools.

Steve Marsh did and sort made it with his LEAF for about 100K miles…

I recommend a name change to Motley Fools!

At least they are honest that they are fools!