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Connected Driving 2 min read

How does cold weather affect electric vehicles?

A snarl of traffic during a heavy snowstorm.

Cold weather presents several challenges for electric car owners, affecting their range, battery performance and charging speed. Why does it happen and what can you do about it?

When temperatures plummet, drivers of electric vehicles have to think about more than just deicing their windscreens. Winter weather can be a challenge for the batteries but knowing why and how to prepare is key to keeping your vehicle running smoothly.

One of the most significant impacts of cold temperatures on electric batteries is reduced efficiency. When it gets too cold, the chemical reactions that generate electricity can slow down, reducing the battery's output.

On average, HERE estimates that vehicle range drops 20% when temperatures start hitting the 32 degrees Fahrenheit mark. If it drops another 10 degrees Fahrenheit that number slumps to 40%.

Increased energy consumption is also a major issue when driving an electric car in colder temperatures. The vehicle's heating system needs to draw power from the battery, which reduces the effective driving range.

An electric car speeds across a hot desert in the blazing sun.

Preheating your vehicle while it's still plugged in can save EV battery capacity because the energy for heating comes from the grid, not the battery. Additionally, check that all lights, brakes and wipers are working properly as these components require more energy from the battery in colder temperatures.

Lower efficiencies and increased internal resistance in cold weather also impact charging times – often slowing them down. Charging times can be longer because when batteries are cold, they can't accept the same rate of charge as when it's warm. To help speed things up, you can use heated air to warm up the battery while charging.

Consistent exposure to extremely cold temperatures can potentially damage the EV battery prematurely. The increased strain, combined with the potential for lithium plating (a phenomenon where lithium forms metallic deposits on the anode of the battery during charging), can shorten the overall lifespan of the battery. But many electric vehicles have thermal management systems that help mitigate these effects by heating the battery in cold weather.

Caroline Christie

Caroline Christie


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