Cold Weather Can Almost Halve Battery Electrics’ Max Range

A polar vortex recently gripped much of the Midwest, but even more modest temperatures can have a negative impact on the range of electric vehicles.

In a new study, AAA found that temperatures of 20° F (-6.6° C) can reduce the range of electric vehicles by an average of 41 percent. This is due to multiple factors, including the use of the climate control system to heat the cabin.

The study also found that cold weather has a greater impact on range than hot temperatures. When the mercury climbs to 95° F (35° C) and air conditioning is used to cool the interior, driving range decreases by an average of 17 percent.

The impacts on range are less dramatic when the climate control system is turned off. In 20° F (-6.6° C) temperatures, the range is reduced by 12 percent. At 95° F (35° C), the range drops by just four percent.

Since extreme temperatures affect the range of electric vehicles, drivers living in cold and hot climates can expect to recharge their EVs more often. According to the study, AAA found it costs an additional $24.27 (£18.72 / €21.37) to travel 1,000 miles when it’s 20° F (-6.6° C) and an extra $7.94 (£6.12 / €6.99) when it’s 95° F (35° C).

The test examined five different electric vehicles: the 2018 BMW i3s, 2018 Chevrolet Bolt, 2018 Nissan Leaf, 2017 Tesla Model S 75D and 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf.

It found that the BMW i3s performed the worst, as its range at 20° F (-6.6° C) with the climate control system on dropped by more than 50 percent. The i3s also performed the worst at 95° F (35° C) as its range fell by over 20 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Nissan Leaf performed the best as it had the least range loses at both 20° F (-6.6° C) and 95° F (35° C) with the HVAC system on.

According to Megan McKernan, manager of the Automotive Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, “The research clearly shows that electric vehicles thrive in more moderate climates, except the reality is most Americans live in an area where temperature fluctuates.” She went on to say, “Automakers are continually making advances to improve range, but with this information, drivers will be more aware of the impacts varying weather conditions can have on their electric vehicles.”

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  • Aporto

    Nothing new under the sun^^ it’s the same as good old ICE batteries^^

    • LJ

      The difference is that electric vehicles run on batteries.

      • TheBelltower

        And ICE vehicles need batteries to start. EV’s range may be reduced by cold, but you won’t see one that won’t start because of weather.

  • Bash

    Not even half surprised, the petrol in all our current cars evaporate faster in the hotter weather resulting reducing the overall range. But I see how this is a more and by far a bigger issue with the EV batteries. I guess that over time they will figure out a way to weather proof them.

  • TheBelltower

    Preconditioning the batteries before driving helps significantly. Range and charging speed improves once the batteries warm. But yeah, cold weather sucks the life out of battery range.

  • Paul

    This just goes to show that the electric race to the future ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.

    • LeStori

      Whilst an internal combustion engine vehicle is all things to all people, the EV is still a niche market. I personally would not consider one for at least another 5 to 10 years. I could have to travel over 360 miles at a moments notice in above 40C heat. Less than one tank of petrol sitting on 70 mph

  • WE’VE SEEN HUGE INCREASES IN EFFICIENCY IN GAS CARS LATELY BUT IT LOOK LIKE WITH EV’S THE EFFICIENCY THAT’S NEEDED IS IN HEATING THE CABIN.

  • Stephen G

    Oh bloody hell! There’s 2 meters of snow outside. It’s 10°C. The city is at a standstill. Now I find out my BMW won’t make it to the mall. Life is horrible and how do we go on this way!.

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