Cold weather can cut electric car range over 40 per cent: study

The automobile club tested the cars at -6.7 C and 35 C

An electric car charges in B.C. (Black Press Media files)

Cold temperatures can sap electric car batteries, temporarily reducing their range by more than 40 per cent 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. 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 -6.7 C and 35 C, comparing the range to when they were tested at 24 C, according to a report on the study.

At -6.7 C, the average driving range fell by 12 per cent when the car’s cabin heater was not used. When the heater was turned on, the range dropped by 41 per cent, AAA said.

At 35 C, range dropped 4 per cent without use of air conditioning, and fell by 17 per cent when the cabin was cooled, the study found.

For example, AAA’s testers determined that the Tesla’s range when fully charged at 24 C was 239 miles, but it fell 91 miles, or 38 per cent, at -6.7 C.

In a statement, Tesla disputed the AAA results. The company said that based on data collected from its cars on the road, “the average Model S customer doesn’t experience anywhere near that decrease in range.” The company said the range dropped by roughly 1 per cent at 35 C, but it would not release a percentage for cold weather.

AAA said it followed test procedures drawn up by SAE, an auto engineering trade group.

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.

The cars use energy to heat the battery coolant in cold weather, as well as for heating the cabin, Hughes said. Range would take a hit mainly for short trips, and the decrease wouldn’t be as large on longer trips once the battery and cabin are heated, Hughes said.

“It’s definitely an issue,” he said. “If you want to go somewhere far in the cold, you’re going to be using more power.”

Range would be reduced further by extreme cold in northern states, he said.

AAA recommends that drivers heat or cool their cars while still plugged in to a charging station. It says electric cars can still be used in extreme climates with a little extra planning.

Tom Krisher, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Port Alberni’s bylaw department shifts from reactive to proactive

8.5 times more files being completed by bylaw officers

Port Alberni’s West Coast Rangers hold rendezvous

Three-day event featured historical re-enactment

Port Alberni Port Authority talks logistics for cruise ship visit

Some restrictions for pedestrians, boaters will be in place

Port Alberni’s ‘Army of Problem Solvers’ to the rescue

Facebook group gathers people who just want to help their neighbours

Hurricane Katrina inspires Alberni author’s new novel

Jacqueline Swann brings message of climate change to life with story of fictional journalist

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve investigating after sea lion found shot in the head

Animal is believed to have been killed somewhere between Ucluelet and Tofino

B.C. port workers set to strike on Monday in Vancouver

A strike at two container terminals would affect Canadian trade to Asia

Cyclists can choose round trip from Comox to Nanaimo, or Alberni-Nanaimo-Comox

The Boomer’s Legacy British Columbia Bike Ride is back. In a couple… Continue reading

Volunteers already rescuing fry from drying creekbeds around Cowichan Lake

It’s early but already salmon fry are being left high and dry

Prepare yourself for tick season, says Island Health official

2017 saw three reported cases of Lyme disease

So, they found ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’

Dave Tryon, now 72 and living in North Delta, will reunite with long-ago travelling friends in Monterrey, Calif.

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

Most Read