Study Shows Electric Cars Become Practically Useless In Cold Weather

Posted: December 4, 2019 by oldbrew in Analysis, Critique, Temperature, Travel, weather
Tags: ,

Teslas in Norway [image credit: Norsk Elbilforening (Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association)]

EVs are looking like yet another ‘save the planet’ fiasco in the making. Some of the points made here were already known, but these studies reinforce them. As many EVs on the road are still relatively new, the full extent of any problems may not yet be clear. With the help of large subsidies and other incentives they sell well in Norway despite the cold winters there.

According to recent studies, cold temperatures significantly reduce the performance of electric cars, especially when it comes to battery life.

One study by AAA suggested that cold temperatures can reduce the range of the batteries in most electric cars by over 40 percent, reports Anonymous News.

It was also noted that the performance can be even worse when the interior heaters are used.

However, even electric car owners who live in hot regions are not safe, because high temperatures can also reduce battery range, although to a far lesser degree.

Luckily, this damage is not permanent, and the battery range returns to normal when average temperatures return, but even if that is the case, this would make electric cars unfeasible for a large portion of the population who live in areas where the temperature is not ideal.

Electric car owners have been discovering this fact over the years as they have attempted to drive their vehicles in extreme temperatures. They are finding that their new vehicles are much more sensitive to temperature than the ones they owned before.

Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering, said that it is important for drivers of electric cars to understand that these vehicles have limitations in extreme climates, this way they are less likely to get caught off guard and stuck out in the cold when their car unexpectedly runs out of battery life.

Full report here.
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  1. oldbrew says:

    To mitigate the reduction in range caused by severe temperatures, AAA suggests that electric car owners warm their vehicles up while they are still plugged in.

    Should work for the first few minutes on the road, but then…?

  2. Curious George says:

    @oldbrew: Insufficient data. Maybe you simply can’t fully charge a really cold battery?

  3. spetzer86 says:

    Just a note, but if the study had been performed by “D” instead of “AAA” there may have been a different outcome.

    [reply] 😊

  4. Another illicit, money making SCAM!
    Wake up people, you’re not helping the environment at all.
    In fact you’re helping greatly contaminate our environment!
    From the mining of precious metals, including the unhealthy working conditions, the slave labor used; to the manufacturing of the car’s batteries, etc.
    I read somewhere that the manufacturing alone of EACH electric car’s batteries causes more pollution that 8 years of fuel driven cars!
    You really want to help the environment?
    Buy a good gasoline powered car! And truly save this world and the the health of people forced into slavery because of your misplaced desire to do a phony good.

  5. oldbrew says:

    Why Batteries Discharge Quicker in Cold Weather
    By: Battery Systems

    People who live in colder climates have a higher probability of keeping jumper cables in their vehicle than other people. Why? Their batteries discharge faster. The electric current generated by a battery is produced with the contact made between the negative and positive terminals. The connection of both terminals creates a chemical reaction that generates electrons to supply the current of the battery. So, when temperatures are low, the process of this chemical reaction is slowed down thus producing less current. And as the batteries reach a point where their deliverance is much lower than normal, the current being delivered cannot keep up with the demand until it is warmed up again and is able to operate normally.

    More here:

    Also: ‘Keep in mind – a general rule of thumb suggested by US Battery is that for every 15-20 degrees below 80°F, the battery loses 10% of its capacity.’ [bold added]
    – – –
    So in the UK for example, the battery will spend most of its life a long way below the ideal temp:
    Across the UK, annual temperatures average a daily high of 14 degrees Celsius (56 degrees Fahrenheit) and a low of 6 °C (43 °F).

    NB they are talking about lead-acid batteries above, so lithium variants will differ e.g. no electrolyte, but…

    ALL batteries will perform poorly in cold weather, regardless of whether they are lithium or lead-acid.

  6. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    My Hybrid Toyota Yarris does 60mpg average in the summer and 52mpg average in the winter. Once in very hot weather It managed 70mpg between refills.

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    Regular Lithium batteries can not be charged below freezing. 32 F or 0 C.

    Instead of intercalcating, the lithium plates out as metal, making dendrites. This reduces capacity AND eventually shorts out the cell killing it or bursting into flame.

    Tesla chargers prevent charging if too cold. So you are supposed to recharge it while still warm from driving, or turn on your electric heater for a couple of hours to warm it up first…

    Don’t expect to recharge a Tesla parked outside in freezing weather.

  8. oldbrew says:

    Scots motorists could be in for a surprise in future winters as they discover EVs have limitations…

    Scotland to ‘phase out’ new petrol and diesel cars by 2032

    Maybe they think global warming will save the day 😂

  9. ivan says:

    The cold has always been the killer of battery power. Many years ago I was asked to provide a solution for a film crew that wanted to film something in the Antarctic – they couldn’t run their cameras for long enough to do any filming outside. I ended up designing a battery pack with a large amount of insulation and low and high voltage heating elements built in – the high voltage heaters were for use inside to warm things up before going out to film and the low voltage one were for use outside from a secondary battery pack. It worked and they got what they wanted but I can’t see something like that being applied to electric car batteries without it adding bulk unless they use a small petrol generator to supply power to the heaters, both battery and cabin.

  10. BoyfromTottenham says:

    The Scottish ‘ban petrol and diesel cars’ fiat reminds me of events here in Queensland several years ago when the government decided to save energy by reducing the temperature setting of storage hot water services by an arbitrary amount, including in hospitals. A couple of years later there were many outbreaks of Legionnaires Disease in our public hospitals, the cause of which was eventually traced to – the temperature of these HWS being too low to prevent the growth of Legionnaires Disease (and other) nasty bacteria. The green ‘energy saving’ bureaucrats failed to check that the Australian Standard for storage HWS specified a minimum temperature setting of 65C exactly to prevent the growth of such bacteria.The result was disruption in several hospitals , closing of wards, delays to treatment, etc. while all hospital hot water systems were flushed with bacteriocide, tested and refilled.No doubt the cost of this was far greater than the savings expected from reducing the water temperature!

  11. oldbrew says:

    Battery warmer…

    = = =
    ‘Bet they wish they had gas!’ Chaos in California as Tesla drivers are stranded for hours in a half-a-mile-long line to charge their cars on Black Friday

    To make matters worse, simultaneous re-charging slows down the speed of charging for everyone – encumbering a process that can already take up to as long as 75 minutes.

    It’s unclear how long the Tesla drivers were forced to wait, however, one disgruntled commuter tweeted that he’d been waiting in the line for 40 minutes but only appeared to be ‘half way there’.

  12. p.g.sharrow says:

    Just add a small IC engine to maintain charge and cabin comfort. Improve the vehicle’s MPG by getting rid of the weight of the then unneeded batteries. Add a small fuel tank to increase the vehicle’s range. Maybe even get rid of all that, expensive, heavy and polluting EV crap in favor of direct mechanical drive from the small engine.
    Why all of that could stave off collapse of our already worked Electrical grid and be far a cheaper solution to this pending transportation problem facing the general population. It appears to me that Liquid fueled Internal Combustion Engine cars could be the wave of the future…pg

  13. oldbrew says:

    pg – you might end up with a mild hybrid

  14. stpaulchuck says:

    well DUH Captain Obvious. Anyone who lives in Minnesota or Canada could have told them that (and probably did). Even with a good battery, when it hits -10F or -20F you may not get your vehicle started if you didn’t put in a battery and/or block heater.

    I love watching libs and other idiots act the buffoon in the face of known facts like this. I’m sure they’ll come up with some Rube Goldberg device to ‘fix’ the problem, at great cost of course.

  15. Eric Johnson says:

    To be honest, I’m very disappointed in the hospital operations departments. They knew, or at least at some point in time, knew, why HWT were set to a minimum of 65C (~149F).

    Yet, to ‘protect’ residents from hot water burns in “skilled care” facilities up here in Washington State, HWT temp limited to ~49C (120F). Nursing homes (except kitchen/laundry) that’s accessible to residents/staff, 21C-27C (71F-81F).

    Winery operations, minimum of 85C (185F) water temp (Yes, steam is better, for the most part) to ensure death for most uninvited bacteria/yeasts. Ozone and chlorine for clean clean. Except no Cl around corks for wine bottles. Limits it to outside use, but of course on nothing porous.

  16. Russ Wood says:

    My wife’s one-time employers decided to “save energy” by reducing the temperature of the water in the washrooms. Later, management wondered why so many people were taking days off sick….

  17. Mike Ellwood says:

    Although less of an AGW sceptic in those days, when EVs first became a realistic “thing”, I always wondered how they would cope in winter, if only from the point of view of keeping their occupants warm, plus the essential task of keeping the windscreen and windows free of ice and snow.

    We all know that the internal combustion is “inefficient” in its use of energy, but we make use of part of that “wasted” energy, to provide heating, and this partly depends on having a good liquid engine cooling system (which, as I understand it, EVs don’t need and therefore don’t have).

    Back when I was young I used to run a Fiat 126 with a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine, no doubt designed with warm Italian summers in mind. And even in your average poor British summer, it was quite fun to drive. Come winter though, it was another story. Even at the not-too-northerly latitude of around 51.75 degrees N, my winter commuting life had been one long round of windscreen and window ice-scraping (the car(s) being permanently parked outside).

    With the air-cooled 126 however, even with the “heater” running full-blast, if you’d scraped all the ice off at the start of the journey, chances were that before too long it would have iced over again, especially if you had used “de-icing” liquid spray, which I never found very effective. Just seemed to smear and re-freeze. Part of the problem with the 126 might have been the distance from the rear engine to the windscreen. Also the small engine was probably not generating all that much excess heat in the first place. But I used to reckon the problem was that lack of a liquid-filled radiator didn’t provide sufficient heat “buffer” to supply heat to the heating system. (I could be wrong about that).

    So given that EVs motors/batteries don’t produce much excess heat, they need a separate electric heater, which even if very well designed, is going to drain that battery. And they will lack the “buffer”
    of a liquid-filled radiator, assuming that’s the problem that I suspect it is.

    Anyway, found this article which speaks to the subject; a few years old now: