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Electric Vehicle Performance in Winter, and Summer!

Beach Weather Coming, Is Your Electric Vehicle Range up to Task?
Beach Weather Coming, Is Your Electric Vehicle Range up to Task?

Considering that we’re in the first half of February, you’re probably wondering why I’m bringing up electric vehicle performance in the summer. After all, we’re a few months away from beach weather.

We know that electric vehicles don’t perform the same in out-of-average temperatures, mostly in relation to their range. In snowy Norway, Tesla Model S is performing just fine, except for a charging glitch, which an OTA software update ought to manage. Most people think that cold weather would have a bigger impact on range than hot weather, specifically because of the heating system. In a conventional vehicle, the inefficient internal combustion generates so much heat that heating the cabin is essentially a freebie.

On the other hand, how to electric vehicles perform in hot weather, specifically, does range suffer? According to research by FleetCarma, air conditioning in hot weather basically leads to the same loss in range as does heating the cabin in the winter, actually slightly better range, thanks to the battery and electric motors running more efficiently in hot weather. So, how can you improve range in both winter and summer?

In cold weather, your best bet is to keep your electric vehicle in a heated garage. This improves component efficiency, as well as reduces the need to heat the cabin, both of which increase available range. In the summer, considering that better than 50% of electric vehicles are expected to be sold in the 17 hottest States in the Union, what happens to their range? Nissan, for example, estimates a loss in range of up to 32% for the Nissan Leaf when the temperature gets up to 110°F (43°C).

FleetCarma’s data, interestingly, shows that driving in these extreme conditions is actually not that common. Still, air conditioning use in summer is actually more efficient, using less power and drawing off less range, than heating in winter. So, what can be done to improve range for electric vehicles in summer? Nissan, for example, recommends using the smartphone app to pre-cool the car before unplugging. Another strategy, aside from storing your summer electric vehicle in the shade, is to drive differently. FleetCarma’s data, drawing from a couple dozen electric vehicles all over the United States and Canada, shows that the biggest impact on range has to do with how much heating and air conditioning you use.

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