Cold weather can cut electric car range over 40 percent, AAA says

Marco Green
February 10, 2019

A recently released report (PDF warning) claims that driving in the heat or the cold can dramatically reduces the range of an electric vehicle. It's not that the battery pack can't handle the cold; most modern-day electric cars are capable of keeping their pack within a pre-determined temperature bracket. AAA tested a Chevy Bolt, a Nissan Leaf, a BMW i3, a Tesla Model S 75D, and a Volkswagen e-Golf in hot and cold weather, with HVAC on and off.

"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", Megan McKernan, manager of Automotive Research Center, said in a statement.

Imagine how short the range was during the recent Polar Vortex when temperatures plummeted below zero. Owners of vehicles made by manufacturers including Tesla, the top-selling electric vehicle company in the USA, complained on social media about reduced range and frozen door handles during the cold snap.

Real-world driving conditions were simulated using a dynamometer, essentially a treadmill for cars, in a closed testing cell where ambient temperature could be closely controlled. For each vehicle, the driving range and fuel economy was tested at -7 C (20 F), 24 C (75 F) and 35 C (95 F), with and without the HVAC system running.

At 20 degrees, the average driving range fell by 12 percent when the car's cabin heater was not used. Range decreases simply because owners turn the heater on full blast to stay warm, according to the study.

AAA found range also declined when the air conditioner was on in 95-degree weather.

In a statement, Tesla disputed the AAA results. When the temperature tumbled to 20 degrees last week in Hickory, North Carolina, near Charlotte, Jason Hughes noticed the range fall when he drove his Tesla Model 3 on the commute from home to work.

The cars use energy to heat the battery coolant in cold weather, as well as for heating the cabin, Hughes said.

"It's definitely an issue", he said.

Cold weather reduces EV range by almost 50%.

AAA recommends that drivers heat or cool their cars while still plugged in to a charging station.

AAA advises electric auto owners who live in areas with extreme weather to plan ahead, especially during the winter months.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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