How does temperature affect EV range?
From headwinds to heatwaves, the weather can have a very significant impact on an electric vehicle’s range.
The weather. It’s easy to take for granted, but when you jump into your electric vehicle (EV) on a very cold or hot day, it can have a serious impact on its range. According to the AAA, cold weather can sap as much as 12% of its range (when tested at 20 degrees Fahrenheit), compared with the same conditions in milder weather.
Crank up the heating and that range evaporates even more, losing as much as 40%. The problem is that, unlike a conventionally powered car, an EV has to draw energy from the battery to generate heat.
Conversely, the same is true in hot temperatures. The AAA found that at 95°F, EV range dropped by 4% without using air conditioning, and by 17% when the cabin was cooled. Warming or cooling the cabin while the car is charging can help mitigate a loss in range. EV thermal management units, which are used to cool batteries during extreme heat, also erode range.
Winds are another factor that can affect EV range. When driving into a headwind, the vehicle has to work harder to overcome the increased air resistance. This requires more energy from the battery, leading to a reduction in range — in some cases by as much as 15%.
But it depends on the vehicle’s aerodynamic design. Commercial vehicles are more sensitive to this. On the other hand, when driving with a tailwind, the effective air resistance is reduced, which can actually improve the vehicle's range by as much as 10%.
Icy road conditions are another environmental factor that can impact the range of EVs. On slippery surfaces, the traction control system must work harder to maintain grip and prevent wheel spin.
This increased use of power can lead to a reduction in range. Icy roads often have a layer of snow or slush, which can increase rolling resistance, so the vehicle needs more energy to move forward. This contributes to a decrease in range.
Driving at slower speeds on icy roads is necessary for safety reasons, but driving at consistently low speeds can also be less energy-efficient, leading to a reduced range.
For all these reasons, technology that helps drivers understand how much charge they have left and where their nearest available charge point can be found is crucial.
This is where routing tools — such as HERE EV Routing — come in. Being able to plan your trip based on road topology, traffic conditions, and vehicle-specific consumption and charging model is critical.
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