An electric car charges in B.C. (Black Press Media files)

Cold weather can cut electric car range over 40 per cent: study

The automobile club tested the cars at -6.7 C and 35 C

Cold temperatures can sap electric car batteries, temporarily reducing their range by more than 40 per cent when interior heaters are used, a new study found.

The study of five electric vehicles by AAA also found that high temperatures can cut into battery range, but not nearly as much as the cold. The range returns to normal in more comfortable temperatures.

Many owners discovered the range limitations last week when much of the country was in the grips of a polar vortex. Owners of vehicles made by manufacturers including Tesla, the top-selling electric vehicle company in the U.S., complained on social media about reduced range and frozen door handles during the cold snap.

“As long as drivers understand that there are limitations when operating electric vehicles in more extreme climates, they are less likely to be caught off guard by an unexpected drop in driving range,” Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering, said in a statement.

AAA tested the BMW i3s, Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf from the 2018 model year, and the 2017 Tesla Model S 75D and Volkswagen e-Golf. All have a range of at least 100 miles per charge. They were tested on a dynamometer, which is like a treadmill, in a climate-controlled cell.

The automobile club tested the cars at -6.7 C and 35 C, comparing the range to when they were tested at 24 C, according to a report on the study.

At -6.7 C, the average driving range fell by 12 per cent when the car’s cabin heater was not used. When the heater was turned on, the range dropped by 41 per cent, AAA said.

At 35 C, range dropped 4 per cent without use of air conditioning, and fell by 17 per cent when the cabin was cooled, the study found.

For example, AAA’s testers determined that the Tesla’s range when fully charged at 24 C was 239 miles, but it fell 91 miles, or 38 per cent, at -6.7 C.

In a statement, Tesla disputed the AAA results. The company said that based on data collected from its cars on the road, “the average Model S customer doesn’t experience anywhere near that decrease in range.” The company said the range dropped by roughly 1 per cent at 35 C, but it would not release a percentage for cold weather.

AAA said it followed test procedures drawn up by SAE, an auto engineering trade group.

When the temperature tumbled to 20 degrees last week in Hickory, North Carolina, near Charlotte, Jason Hughes noticed the range fall when he drove his Tesla Model 3 on the commute from home to work.

“It would easily use double the amount of power for that 15-mile trip,” said Hughes, who owns four Teslas and runs a business that refurbishes and sells salvaged Tesla parts.

The cars use energy to heat the battery coolant in cold weather, as well as for heating the cabin, Hughes said. Range would take a hit mainly for short trips, and the decrease wouldn’t be as large on longer trips once the battery and cabin are heated, Hughes said.

“It’s definitely an issue,” he said. “If you want to go somewhere far in the cold, you’re going to be using more power.”

Range would be reduced further by extreme cold in northern states, he said.

AAA recommends that drivers heat or cool their cars while still plugged in to a charging station. It says electric cars can still be used in extreme climates with a little extra planning.

Tom Krisher, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Missing Slocan City man found dead

Douglas Morrison went missing in mid-January

LETTER: Weaver unreliable

From reader Charles Jeanes

Nelson Tennis Club asks school district for $69K

The funding will cover paving costs for its facility at L.V. Rogers

Nelson’s Dryden Hunt, Noah Quinn earn hockey accolades

Hunt and Quinn were awarded for their recent play

Fashion Fridays: The 8 best quality online stores! Shop the ultimate sales

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Petition seeks to remove local police department from Lindsay Buziak murder case

American woman starts online petition in hopes of helping Buziak family

Health officials confirm sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

B.C. lawyer, professor look to piloting a mental-health court

In November, Nova Scotia’s mental-health court program marked 10 years of existence

COLUMN: Not an expert on First Nations government structures? Then maybe you should calm down

Consider your knowledge about First Nations governance structures before getting really, really mad

Meet the Wet’suwet’en who want the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Supporters of the pipeline are upset only one side is being heard nationwide

One dead in multi-vehicle collision involving logging truck on northern B.C. highway

DriveBC says highway expected to remain closed until 8 p.m.

Most Read