8 Tips to Extend Your Electric Vehicle’s Range in Winter
You may run out of charge a lot faster in cold weather, but here’s what you can do
Tom Moloughney has driven his electric vehicle (EV) for more than five winters in northern New Jersey. An EV advocate and board member of Plug-In America, part of the Electric Auto Association, he writes in his blog that “I’ve driven in temperatures as low as 5 degrees below zero, in light snow dustings and all-out blizzards, and I’ve never been stranded or failed to make my destination because I ran out of charge."
Not everyone can say that, of course, and Moloughney acknowledges you have to take extra precautions in cold weather to avoid trouble.
EVs just don’t get as much range in frigid weather as they do on a sunny day in LA. As MIT Technology Review has pointed out, when temperatures drop below freezing, EV drivers used to traveling 250 miles on a single charge may find that range shrinking to 180 miles (and less than that in more extreme weather.)
A survey by the AAA found extreme weather could shrink an EV’s range up to 57 percent.
So how can we get our electric vehicles to go further when it’s cold outside? Here are six tips, courtesy of the Department of Energy, Allstate and Plug-In America.
Preheat your vehicle while it’s plugged in. Also known as preconditioning, this will keep your vehicle warm without eating into its battery power. Moloughney calls this “the single biggest friend of driving electric in the winter.” Since you can set a weekly schedule for preconditioning on most EVs, he says, setting it to precondition about 30 minutes before you leave for work will leave you toasty and comfortable.
Use your seat warmers instead of your cabin heater, since they use much less energy. In online forums, some EV drivers say they use a snowmobile suit or battery-powered heated vest to stay warm.
Park in a heated garage or a place in the sun if possible. This will keep the battery (and cabin) warmer for your trip home.
Drive 10 to 15 miles under the speed limit on the highway. This will net you 5 to 10 more miles on your battery range.
Use the fuel economy mode, which helps the battery charge last longer.
Avoid hard braking. If you anticipate braking and do it gradually, the vehicle will recover energy from the vehicle’s forward motion and store it as electricity. This is known as regenerative braking.
Check for an available 120 volt charger at work and other places on your regular route. Offer to pay for the electricity you use to charge your EV at work or if you have to charge somewhere else in an emergency, Moloughney says.