Photo credit: Jonah Sutton, Taos Ski Valley.
The cold reality is that driving in the winter is more challenging for everyone. Both internal combustion engine vehicles and electric vehicles (EVs) suffer from efficiency losses when it is freezing outside. However, drivers should know what their EV can take on the cold better than they may think, and there are ways to manage range and efficiency in the winter months.
Considering that most EVs can drive 200 miles or more on a full charge on an ideal day, there’s still more than enough energy (and charging time) available to power a typical commute, even in frigid conditions. Just as in hot weather, getting through the winter usually comes down to adopting some new habits for driving and EV charging in cold weather. Here are a few tips to ensure maximum EV performance this winter.
1. Park indoors whenever possible
In cold weather, EV performance comes down to two primary issues: the amount of energy you use to maintain cabin warmth and the temperature of your battery. Cold batteries can’t charge as quickly or hold their charge as long, and blowing hot air to heat your cabin uses a substantial amount of electricity.
You can get a jump on both problems by parking in a garage whenever possible. Keeping your car shielded from the elements and harsh winds of winter will keep your battery and car warmer, allowing you to charge more quickly and drain your battery more slowly once you get going.
2. Precondition for better EV charging
Most modern EVs have a preconditioning feature that allows you to preheat the battery and passenger cabin at a preset time. By bringing the battery to optimal charging temperature, you’ll maximize charging efficiency and use less energy. Plus, heating the cabin while you’re still plugged in will save valuable battery power for your car’s main job of getting you to your destination. Make sure your car is plugged in while you precondition, because you want to draw energy from the grid to do this, not drain your battery.
Preconditioning allows you to depart comfortably with a fully charged and heated battery and cabin. Note, however, that some EVs won’t precondition when plugged into a Level 1, 120-volt portable charger. This is another reason why it’s advisable to use a Level 2, 240-volt charging station, like the JuiceBox smart home charger.
You can program your JuiceBox charger to start charging at a specific time, so the charging process is just finishing up when you need to depart. This feature also allows owners with time-of-use (TOU) electricity plans to save money on their electricity bills.
3. Plan for cold weather EV charging on the go
What about longer roadtrips that require more driving range than your typical daily commute? With smart planning, you can tackle these winter adventures in your EV with no problem.
First off, it’s important to note that more EV charging stations are popping up by the day. Even at remote winter destinations like the Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico, you can find Enel X Way smart charging stations like the JuicePedestal so you can recharge without returning to civilization in the middle of your winter getaway.
While you’re on the go, apps like the Enel X Way App allow you to search for charging stations along your route and plan your stops accordingly. This will keep range anxiety at bay and ensure you always have plenty of juice, no matter the weather.
4. Consider a longer-range EV
If you’re truly concerned about the logistics of EV charging in cold weather, you might consider opting for a higher performance battery to ensure you have maximum range. Some of today’s top EVs come equipped with batteries that last more than 400 miles in ideal conditions, leaving you plenty of range even when frigid temperatures hit.
These high-end models may cost more than a typical EV. However, for year-round range reliability, it may well be worth it to you.
5. Conserve your EV battery when driving in cold weather
While the above solutions will help you boost your EV battery charge in cold weather, they’re not the only ways to maximize efficiency. Here are a few things you can do to extend your battery life while out on the road.
Use cabin heat judiciously
Unlike internal combustion vehicles, EVs, don’t use engine heat to warm the cabin. They have to generate heat from the battery, and that can consume a lot of energy. Using the cabin heater sparingly will help you extend your battery range. If your car is equipped with a heated steering wheel and seats, use these more efficient heating features, at least until your battery is fully warmed up. Plus, parking indoors will help you stay one step ahead of the cold temperatures.
Use eco mode for cold weather driving
Most electric vehicles have an “eco mode” setting to help extend the range of the car. Eco mode usually reduces electric motor power and may cut some power to ancillary devices such as the cabin heater and electronics. This setting can be especially useful in colder driving conditions when you need to squeeze out as much range as possible.
You should also consider using eco mode whenever driving on ice or snow-covered roads. Since it reduces the power to the drive motor, you’re less likely to experience wheel spin and lose control on slippery driving surfaces.
EV battery efficiency drops as you increase speed, so you can conserve power by taking a little pressure off the pedal. During the winter months, driving a little slower will help offset the range you lose to the cold temperatures.
It’s also a good idea to accelerate slowly from standstills. Although those jackrabbit launches are a lot of fun with that instant EV torque, putting the pedal to the floor consumes significantly more energy and can be dangerous on icy roads.
Top off your tires
Under-inflated tires are much less efficient (not to mention more dangerous) than properly inflated ones. For every 10-degree temperature drop, you’ll lose roughly 1–2 pounds of tire pressure, robbing your electric car of miles of range. When temperatures start to decline, be sure to check your pressure and top them up to your manufacturer’s recommended level for optimal performance, robbing your electric car of many of its precious miles of range. When temperatures start to decline, be sure to check your pressure and top them up to your manufacturer’s recommended level for optimal performance.
Boost your EV power this winter
Winter range anxiety is still a real concern for EV drivers, but it’s becoming less so with each passing year. As battery technology improves, battery range continues to grow, and cold weather’s impact on performance is less noticeable than ever.
Plus, there are many ways to practice smart driving and EV charging in cold weather so you can get through winter with ease. With a little extra planning, you can tackle everything from your daily commute to your big winter roadtrip without worrying about your battery range.