EV Charging in Extreme Temperatures Could Pose Challenges for Drivers - Carolina Country
February 2020

Did you know that extreme weather — whether very hot or cold — has an impact on your electric vehicle’s driving range? Generally, all batteries, whether they’re in cars, cell phones, or laptops, have an ideal operating temperature where they can deliver the most energy without losing efficiency.

This is why your cell phone doesn’t last as long if you’re using it while it’s cold outside, or why it may automatically shut down if it begins to overheat.

Specifically, extremely cold temperatures slow down chemical reactions within a battery, reducing power output and threatening battery life. And when it comes to EVs, road conditions can also make a difference. Winter brings wet and snowy roads, which increases the amount of resistance a car has to overcome to get moving. Therefore, the car has to use more electricity to get up to speed compared to a dry road, resulting in less range.

EV manufacturers are improving temperature-control technology to compensate for some of these issues. For instance, several models are now available with battery heaters or other technology to heat the battery and improve efficiency in cold climates. In addition, there are many things drivers themselves can do to improve the efficiency of their electric vehicles, with weather and road conditions in mind.

  • Use accessories wisely. Accessories such as heating, air conditioning, and entertainment systems affect fuel economy on all vehicles but can have a greater effect on EVs. However, using seat warmers instead of the cabin heater can save energy and extend range.
  • Use the economy mode. Many EVs come with an “economy mode” or similar feature that maximizes the vehicle’s fuel economy. In some vehicles, this mode can be activated by simply pressing a button. The economy mode may limit other aspects of the vehicle’s performance, such as acceleration rate, to save fuel.
  • Plan ahead before driving. Pre-heating or pre-cooling the cabin of an all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle while it is still plugged in can extend its electric range, especially in extreme weather.
  • Avoid hard braking and anticipate braking. This allows the vehicle’s regenerative braking system to recover energy from the vehicle’s forward motion and store it as electricity. Hard braking causes the vehicle to use its conventional friction brakes, which do not recover energy.
  • Observe the speed limit. Efficiency usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph.

Other ways to improve efficiency include avoiding hauling cargo on your roof, removing excess weight, and keeping your tires properly inflated.

Ultimately, most cars experience a range reduction in cold weather, even conventional gas-burners. With these tips, drivers will be knowledgeable about what to expect of their EV during extreme temperatures and will be better prepared for the challenges that may occur.

Learn more about programs and services Union Power Cooperative has to offer to members who drive electric vehicles.

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