Is Cold Weather Bad For Electric Cars?


If you’ve thought about getting an electric car and you live in a cold environment, you’ve likely wondered about how it will do in the cold. Especially with electric cars being a relatively new technology, there are a lot of questions for new electric car buyers.

Is cold weather bad for electric cars? While having your electric car in the cold won’t damage it, it will reduce your range significantly. Every electric car model loses charge differently in the cold, but some cars can lose up to 40% in cold temperatures. Battery efficiency in cold weather plagues both electrical and conventional vehicles alike.

Range anxiety is a huge concern. Nothing deters people from buying electric cars more than that. People are afraid of running out of charge in the middle of nowhere. People are afraid of having to wait long periods of time while their car charges during road trips. Especially in the winter, people are afraid of running out of range and being stranded in their car in bad weather. Are there good chances that that could happen to you? How do electric cars do in the winter? Let’s dive a little further into this and answer some of those questions and more.

Why Extreme Cold Weather Is Bad For Electric Cars

So, why exactly is cold weather bad for electric cars? The main impact of an electric car is directly on your car’s range. There are several reasons for this. The first and most obvious reason is that your car is using a good amount of battery power to keep things warm. Heating the interior of the car takes more power as well as maintaining the temperature of the battery. In addition, very cold weather has a direct impact on the chemistry of your EV battery as well, which leads to your battery losing more charge than normal while parked.

So, you will be using a lot more power just to keep yourself and the battery of your car warm. In addition to that, you will also notice that your electric car will take longer to charge fully than normal in cold weather. Further, your regenerative braking system will be less effective than normal. That means that you won’t recover as much range while driving around as before.

As you can see, the largest impact on your electric car in the cold weather is on the electrical system. Not only will your range be reduced, but you will take longer to recharge and recover less while driving. There are also other physical and mechanical things that can be affected by cold weather although these are not any different than a normal car. Roads that get salted regularly can damage the body of cars. The salt can eat away at materials and remove the paint. The moisture from snow and ice leads to rust, and plastics are more likely to crack or break apart from the impact of the extreme cold and salt combined. Any extreme temperature (hot or cold) is hard on any car.

What Cold Temperatures Are Considered Extreme And When You Should Do Something To Protect Your EV

So, what exactly is considered an extremely cold temperature? In general, anything colder than 70-80 degrees is suboptimal. Those mild temperatures are the absolute best for cars. In those temperatures, everything works the best it can, and you get the best possible life out of your electric car. You don’t have to worry about causing extra stress on your car’s electrical system.

Anything colder than that will have an impact on your car. The impact is small if it is slightly colder than 70 degrees. Where you really start to see a major effect on your electric car is when you get below 20 degrees. From there, the effects of the cold continue more and more drastically. You will see further and further decreases in your electric car’s range. That is largely due to the battery’s chemistry being affected by the cold and also by the car having to work harder to maintain the battery at temperature and to keep the interior of the car warm.

It is at these cold temperatures of 20 degrees or below where you can see up to a 40% decrease in the range of your car. That is why, when buying an electric car, it’s always important to buy a car that has twice the daily mileage that you think you would ever need or more. That way in the cold winter months, even if your range is reduced, you will still have plenty for daily driving. Now, a lot of electric cars are getting 200-300 miles of range, so this is becoming less and less of a concern.

Tips For Protecting Your Electric Car In Extreme Cold

So, what exactly can you do to help protect your electric car in the cold? The first thing and the easiest thing that you can do is to park your car in a garage. Obviously, this isn’t an option for everyone as not everyone has a garage. If you do happen to have a garage though, you want to make sure that your electric car is parked in one whenever you have a chance. 

The garage itself is heated by the house. It usually won’t be the same temperature as the inside of the house, but it will be quite a bit warmer than outside. As such, your car isn’t exposed to extreme cold. This helps keep the battery and the interior of the car warmer and this will prevent you from losing a significant amount of charge while parked. It will also help protect your car from the snow and ice that might be outside so the exterior stays at a decent temperature as long as possible.

Another thing that you can do to protect your car during the winter is to leave the car plugged in when it isn’t being used. First off, this will make it so your car isn’t losing charge while just sitting parked. That way you have a full charge whenever you hop in to drive. Secondly, it helps keep the battery warm. That will help you save mileage and prevent drastic drain. Additionally, some electric cars can even keep the interior warm for you. This means your interior can be warm when you hop in and no charge will have been wasted.

How Extreme Cold Affects Electric Cars And Regular Cars Differently

What exactly are the different effects cold temperatures can have on electric cars compared to regular cars? It’s important to note that extremely cold temperatures are hard on any car. As we mentioned, the moisture from snow and ice as well as the salt put on the roads can destroy the body of your car as well as various components underneath the car. Are there other differences?

We’ve talked a lot about the effect that the cold has on an electric car battery. Obviously, a regular internal combustion engine doesn’t have a high voltage powerful battery like that. Regular cars have a small 12V battery. The cold is also hard on those 12V batteries. Replacing a 12V battery will cost you between $100 and $300 on average. Replacing an electric car battery could cost you over $20,000.

In addition, a regular car is affected by the cold in a very different way. When temperatures get very cold, gasoline has a very hard time atomizing. As it turns out, only gasoline in its gas form will ignite. Any liquid gasoline in the cylinder is just wasted. When it’s cold, gasoline transitions into a gas much more slowly. As such, your car has to inject a lot more gasoline into the engine to ensure that at least so much of it turns into gas so that the car can run.

You will get terrible gas mileage until your engine is warm. Additionally, the extra fuel can actually start to mix with your oil over time which can cause problems. It also can start to clean the oil off of the cylinder walls which can cause extra damage to your engine. Though cold temperatures do have an impact on electric vehicles, they don’t react as harshly to the cold as regular internal combustion cars do.

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