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EVs and winter – what you need to know, by Nat Barnes

Let’s be British and talk about the weather.

More specifically, let’s talk about the weather and the effect it can have on your EV. When it comes to traditional petrol and diesel cars, the chances are that most drivers haven’t really thought about the weather when it comes to their motoring.

That’s not the case with an EV however, where the colder temperatures of winter can have an effect on the range of your EV. So why does that happen and what can you do about it?

All batteries, including those in your car, like a steady ambient temperature and an ideal operating temperature (usually around 20-40 degrees). That means that if it gets too cold, then the cells inside the batteries themselves can’t work as efficiently and they effectively have to work harder to produce the same amount of power on a cold winter morning compared to a mild summer day.

The batteries need to use energy to heat the battery up to that ideal operating temperature. The same goes for when you’re charging too. Some of the power from charging goes to heating the batteries instead of charging them, so charging up your EV will take longer too – especially if your range is particularly low.

What can you do about that?

Well for starters, many EVs have a pre-conditioning function either in their built-in systems or their respective apps. That means, if you leave for work at the same time each morning for example, that you can set the interior temperature of the car to your preferred level before you get into it. That has two benefits, the first is one of comfort, but more importantly, the energy that is used in warming both the car and the batteries in winter comes from the mains when you’re plugged in rather than the energy from the battery maximising your range before you set off.

Some EVs also have heat pumps, either fitted as standard or as an option. As their name suggests, heat pumps help to warm up the battery pack faster to its optimum working temperature and again make it more efficient. The good news is that it can usually achieve some extra range especially in the colder months, but the bad news is that it might mean you have to pay extra if it’s an option. If you’re regularly doing longer journeys throughout the winter months and need every mile of range you can get, it’s probably worth it.

Also worth remembering is that if you’re driving alone, it’s more efficient to only keep your body warm rather than the whole interior of the car. In the same way that you might switch radiators off in unused rooms in your home, you’ll use less energy to heat just yourself than all of the car’s interior.

So, if you have them, seat heaters tend to use up less power and therefore less range than the full heater. It may not be entirely comfortable, but if you need every one of those extra miles on your range, then they’re certainly worth considering.

Likewise, the same goes if you car has heating elements in its front windscreen too. If your front windscreen is misted up, then use the heating elements rather than the blower as it will not only clear it faster but also use far less power.

Compared to an ICE car, driving an EV in the colder months might require a little planning and forethought, but certainly isn’t the challenge that some critics might present it as. And if we can’t talk about the weather, well what else is there?

Interested in finding out more?