Powered by a lithium-ion battery, your electric car will be impacted by cold and warm weather. Like people, these batteries prefer a stable temperature range. So, when thermometers get much higher or lower than 16°C to 28°C, batteries don’t perform at their peak. The good news is that there’s plenty you can do to get the best from your electric car in the snow, rain and cold by adopting these best practice tactics for winter.
How does winter impact Electric Vehicle batteries?
Low temperatures make the electrolyte fluid in lithium-ion battery cells more sluggish. This results in:
- Reduced electric car range in cold weather, typically a 20% reduction of your battery’s usual mileage
- Limited regenerative braking so batteries recharge less
- Slower and more limited charging (not a complete recharge) to protect the battery
Thanks to clever battery thermal technology, EVs are manufactured to counteract cold weather by warming or cooling a battery to help it operate optimally. To increase the battery’s temperature, the car diverts any heat it generates.
However, as EVs create far less friction than combustion engine cars, there’s less warmth to go around. Which means you’ll need to take action to help your vehicle deliver its best performance.
Don’t panic - there are plenty of steps you can take to optimise your EV this winter. Simply follow the six recommendations we’ve set out below.
Tip #1 - Use the precondition setting
Driving or charging a cold battery is a bit like running on muscles that haven’t been warmed up. And EVs don’t like it. Virtually all electric cars come with a precondition setting that allows you to heat the cabin and battery as needed.
Preconditioning can be set to warm your interior and battery before you get in each morning keeping your toes toasty and helping you get the best range from your vehicle. Ideally, your car’s warm up should be carried out while connected to a charging source so you’re not depleting the battery’s charge.
One of the best aspects of driving an EV is that you won’t struggle with starting your car in the cold. EVs are renowned for starting far better in cold weather than their fossil-fuelled cousins.
Tip #2 - Park inside or in the sun
When it comes to keeping your battery warm every degree helps. Leaving your car outside in cold weather might sound counterintuitive, but if you can find a sunny spot the cabin and battery will stay warmer for longer. Parking in a covered garage or car park will also protect your car from the coldest temperatures. And, with a warmer cabin and battery, you’ll spend less energy reconditioning your car.
Tip #3 - Warm your cabin using less electricity
Combustion engine vehicles produce plenty of heat from the engine which can be used to warm the cabin via the heating system. With less engine friction you might be wondering, what do electric cars use for heat?
The answer is the battery. Which means switching on your heating will use more of your car’s energy. The good news is there’s an alternative which uses far less electricity. If your EV has heated accessories - like a heated steering wheel or heated seats - use these to warm the cabin and save your battery.
Tip #4 - Make the most of the charge you’ve got
Adjusting the way you drive by driving slightly slower, accelerating and braking more gently will conserve energy and boost your electric car’s range in cold weather. If you want a helping hand, switch on the eco mode and your car will do this for you by reducing the power to the motor.
Tip #5 - Keep your tyres inflated and your battery charged
As the cold sets in, the air in your tyres becomes compressed reducing tyre pressure. This creates more road friction reducing the vehicle’s efficiency. By checking your tyre pressure regularly throughout the winter months, you’ll have optimal pressure to squeeze a little more juice from your battery.
While you’re checking your tyre pressure, keep an eye on your battery. Ensure it’s at least 20% full as batteries don’t like being low in the cold.
Tip #6 - Lighten the load
The heavier your vehicle, the more energy it will use so remove any unnecessary items from inside your vehicle. And, if you’ve parked your electric car in the snow, remember to sweep snow or ice off the entire car to reduce its weight and improve its aerodynamic drag.
Keep calm and carry on
There’s no need to worry about leaving your car outside in cold weather. Electric vehicles are completely capable of handling British winters. It just takes a slight adjustment to the way you heat and charge your car plus a little tweak to your driving style to ensure you get the best range from your electric car in cold weather from your battery. And, if the maximum range on your EV is more than enough to cover your usual daily mileage, you’ll hardly notice the difference.