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Electric Car Range Decreases in Cold Temps

Researchers say the driving range of an electric vehicle can drop by 41 percent in 20-degree weather

The range an electric vehicle will travel can drop an average of 41 percent if the outside temperature is 20°F or lower and the car’s heater is on, according to researchers at AAA.

And although engineers found electric cars and their lithium-ion batteries are well-suited for temperatures around 75°F, even high temps have an impact on travel range but to a lesser degree than what is seen in cold weather.

As an example, AAA says electric car driving range drops by 17 percent when the air conditioner is used in 95°F weather.

Researchers with AAA teamed up with the Automotive Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center at a testing site with controlled temperatures and a state-of-the-art dynamometer, equipment similar to a treadmill.

Included in the test were five electric models from five manufacturers, all with a minimum EPA estimated driving range of 100 miles:

  • 2018 BMW i3
  • 2018 Chevrolet Bolt
  • 2018 Nissan Leaf
  • 2017 Tesla Model S 75D
  • 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

The decreased travel range equates to more charging of an electric car and additional expense to keep the car moving, especially in cold temps where driving range is reduced to 59 miles from the estimated 100-mile minimum set by the EPA.

Researchers advise electric vehicle owners in cold climates should always be aware of weather conditions before starting their trips. In addition, engineers say a driver should “pre-heat” the interior of the electric vehicle while its still connected to the charger.

AAA advises this will help reduce the strain on the battery to regulate cabin temperatures at the beginning of a trip.

Additionally, researchers say that no matter which electric car you drive in cold weather, it’s always preferable to park the vehicle in a heated garage.

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