How Weather Impacts Your Electric VehicleOct 4th, 2022
We love our Electric Vehicles. Ease of driving, no dealing with finicky gas pumps, and a future bright with less emissions. One thing we may not love however, is taking care of our cars. Should new EV drivers be concerned of new maintenance and costs? New electric cars require maintenance as all vehicles do, so proper upkeep is a must. When caring for your EV, not only do you have to worry about traditional issues, you also have a battery and electrical system to take care of! Many owners will find out that the first year of ownership brings different problems as the weather starts to change, especially with range and battery consumption. So, how does weather impact the range of your electric vehicle?
First, let’s break down range degradation (RD). In a technical sense, RD can be defined as the overall percentage of the vehicle’s battery storage lost over time. RD can be impacted in multiple ways: the way you drive, the temperature of your surroundings, charging habits, and more. All have an impact on the overall charging capacity of your EV. Therefore, maintaining and keeping up with your cars needs are critical.
So how does climate effect range? When the environment gets cold enough, the fluid in your vehicle’s power supply becomes more viscous, which slows down the reactions responsible for charging. There are graphite layers at the anode side of a battery cell, between which lithium ions rest. When discharged, those ions cross the liquid electrolyte layer over to the cathode side to meet up with the electrons that have travelled through the EV motor. The liquid electrolyte gets more viscous (solid) with cold and eventually freezes. This state change increases resistance between lithium ions, thus decreasing battery performance. This not only impacts the range an EV can get on a charge, but also how quickly it can recharge.
Anna Stefanopoulou, director of the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute says in an article for Wired, that “batteries are like humans,” meaning they don’t operate well outside of a certain range of temperatures. For electric vehicles, that range is between 40 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit (4-46 degrees Celsius). Anything above or below that will cause issues. With that, even in cold climates an EV can hold its own in traffic due to the car’s kinetic braking system. This system turns braking energy into power for the vehicle. They also turn their engines off to conserve power when idling, but can still run the thermostat and other features. To be clear, electric car range loss in cold weather is not permanent. Once it warms up outside, the car’s battery reactions will speed up, and the capacity will return to normal.
The cold can reduce range by about 20 percent, according to testing done by the Norwegian Automobile Federation, and recharging takes longer than in warmer climates. However, if impacted by scorching hot environments (over 104° F), the supply can permanently degrade, which means reduced range for the entire life of the vehicle regardless of temperature.
The reason heat is so costly is that it causes chemical reactions that produce gasses and byproducts that can worsen the vehicles ability to charge. That gas can then leak and possibly breach a cell in the power supply. Therefore, you’ll sometimes see “spicy pillows”, or bloated batteries about to fail in some cell phones and other electronics. Worst case scenario, this could lead to explosions but most battery management systems are advanced enough to give warnings well before things get to that point.
So, despite needing a fairly comfortable climate range to operate your electric vehicle, range has improved considerably from earlier technology. Even with cuts in range, you should still be fine for day-to-day driving with an EV during the Winter. If range anxiety holding you back taking the plunge into the electric world, consider some of these tips to help with range degradation due to temperature:
How can you help range Degradation?
- Be mindful of the thermostat
The greatest loss of power is running the heater and the air conditioner. EVs with the newest technology can pre-cool/heat the cabin, and even feature cooling/heating seats! For those without these features, keep the air conditioning on low, open the window, and consider adding a hand-sized personal fan to your dash for the summer. In the winter consider frost protection shields to reduce defrost time and wear a sweater to avoid running the heater too high.
- Take it easy on your car
Sudden starts and stops are bad for any car, and particularly for EVs. Wear and tear on the vehicle increase when we drive too fast and then slam on the brakes, or make hard turns, screech tires, or accelerate too quickly. Whether you must skip a second cup of coffee, set your alarm five minutes earlier, or skip a route with road rage, avoiding the speed/brake cycle adds years to your cars life.
- Charge your EV in a controlled area
One of the best steps you can take, is acquiring a home charger. Home chargers are best in the garage, keeping your car out of the elements. Charging in the hot sun or the cold winter elements not only means you won’t get the best out of your battery, it’s also a drain on the power grid.
- Leave it plugged in
When it’s plugged in, EVs benefit from thermal management systems that regulate battery temperature. The power supply will be kept cool as long as it’s plugged in. But remember, if you’re using public charging stations, good charging etiquette is to unplug so that others can charge. Need help locating a public charger? Find one near you here (Insert EV Charger near me page for individual store)
- Be conscious of where you park
Sometimes we’re happy to get any spot we can park in, but try to find one in the shade, under a tree, or the shadow of a building. Your car will be scalding hot if it sits in the sun all day, and you will want to run the air conditioning on high to combat it. Sun-blocking windshield covers can also help. Same goes for the cold, if you park in the open and it snows, you will use significant energy to heat up and defrost your vehicle. Your vehicle’s battery will also be hindered by the cold weather as well.
We hope this guide and tips help you better understand how temperatures can affect your EV’s battery life. For more information on electric vehicles, please visit our all about electric page!