AAA: Cold weather can cut electric car range over 40 percent

Posted: February 7, 2019 by oldbrew in Critique, Temperature, Travel, weather
Tags: ,

One for the ‘worse than we thought’ file. Anyone running out of power in an EV in winter due to sudden cold weather range reduction has no in-car way to keep warm while waiting for rescue.

Cold temperatures can sap electric car batteries, temporarily reducing their range by more than 40 percent when interior heaters are used, a new study found.

The study of five electric vehicles by AAA also found that high temperatures can cut into battery range, but not nearly as much as the cold, reports TechXplore. The range returns to normal in more comfortable temperatures.

Many owners discovered the range limitations last week when much of the country was in the grips of a polar vortex. Owners of vehicles made by manufacturers including Tesla, the top-selling electric vehicle company in the U.S., complained on social media about reduced range and frozen door handles during the cold snap.

“As long as drivers understand that there are limitations when operating electric vehicles in more extreme climates, they are less likely to be caught off guard by an unexpected drop in driving range,” Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering, said in a statement.

AAA tested the BMW i3s, Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf from the 2018 model year, and the 2017 Tesla Model S 75D and Volkswagen e-Golf. All have a range of at least 100 miles per charge. They were tested on a dynamometer, which is like a treadmill, in a climate-controlled cell.

The automobile club tested the cars at 20 degrees and 95 degrees, comparing the range to when they were tested at 75 degrees Farenheit, according to a report on the study.

At 20 degrees, the average driving range fell by 12 percent when the car’s cabin heater was not used. When the heater was turned on, the range dropped by 41 percent, AAA said.

At 95 degrees, range dropped 4 percent without use of air conditioning, and fell by 17 percent when the cabin was cooled, the study found.

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.

“It would easily use double the amount of power for that 15-mile trip,” said Hughes, who owns four Teslas and runs a business that refurbishes and sells salvaged Tesla parts.

Full report here.

  1. Graeme No.3 says:

    It would be remarkable if the batteries themselves were unaffected by temperatures below 10℃. Try them out at minus 10℃, preferably very close to a warm refuge.

  2. Sartenada says:

    This matter has been talked in Finland also. We cannot get ecar, because we drive long trips.

  3. ivan says:

    Many years ago, mid 60s, a company I worked for were asked to supply batteries to run film cameras in the Antarctic. The request said that the actual camera batteries had to be kept warm, I forget the required temperature now, because when the film company had first started filming outside there the batteries that normally powered the cameras for several hours only managed a half hour.

    As well as supplying the batteries they required we also got the job of winterising the cameras themselves using very low temperature lubricants as necessary.

    I suspect if the AAA had done a real world test, leaving the cars stationary for 12 hours or more at the low temperature and then taken them for a simulated drive the results would have been even worse with a much lower range.

  4. oldbrew says:

    if the AAA had done a real world test, leaving the cars stationary for 12 hours or more at the low temperature

    If it was a Tesla they might struggle to get the doors to open.

  5. Bloke down the pub says: provide a technologically sound way to keep an EV warm without drawing a lot of charge from the batteries.

  6. spetzer86 says:

    Don’t they historically test batteries in the US at International Falls, Minnesota? Seems like a good cold January day with a few Teslas in the parking lot would adequately demonstrate how well the EVs stack up. (It’s supposed to be -25F on Saturday!)

  7. Bob Greene says:

    The only surprise is this report was treated as a surprise.

  8. cognog2 says:

    I would NOT like to be caught in a blizzard in an EV. Definitly life threatening.

  9. oldbrew says:

    If it’s really cold you might not be able to charge up, so not going anywhere.

    Why Does the Power Go Out When It’s Cold?
    EV cold weather gear to avoid using the heater and draining the battery…

  10. stpaulchuck says:

    I can’t wait to hear the tales of woe from the virtue signaling types that bought the Toyota Pious at $10,000 OVER sticker so they could be ‘holier than thou’ in front of their neighbors, when they buy ecars up here in Minnesnowta when it hits -20 or so.

    Imagine the electric bills, ha ha. The battery compartment will have to have the equivalent of an engine block heater for overnight or they’ll face a dead car in the morning and maybe batteries literally frozen.

    Then there’s the desert Southwest where summer temps regularly hit 100+. Turn on the aircon and get 17 miles down the road before needing a recharge.

  11. Reblogged this on Climate- Science and commented:

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