For most of the year, EV drivers can expect to exceed their car’s real-world range, but as it gets cold you can expect fewer miles from your car between charges. As temperatures start to fall, EV drivers will notice that after a full charge the top range on their dashboard starts to drop.
The efficiency of a petrol car also drops by as much as 22% over very short trips in cold weather. Yet, lower efficiency and lower range becomes much more obvious to an electric car driver.
What happens to EV range in winter?
Range drops in winter because an EV battery is more efficient when warm – you can expect a 12% reduction in range just because it’s cold. You can’t do much about that. But a bigger drain on the car’s battery by far comes from heating the car for passenger comfort. There are quite a few things you can do to improve your range and comfort through the coldest months.
How much does range drop when it’s cold?
How much range you lose in the cold depends on: the car you drive, how you drive it, how you heat it, how cold it is outside, where you park when you’re out, and many other factors. As ranges increase, any observed winter range loss becomes much less critical for the daily journeys you make.
Top tips for driving an EV in winter
If this is your first winter in an EV, there are many actions that you can take to maximize your comfort and range when the temperatures dip. Here are our top tips:
1. Prewarm your EV
Prewarming allows you to heat the battery and cabin while you are still plugged in at home. Prewarming means you can jump into a warm car without doing any early morning windscreen scraping or having an unpleasant first mile. Winter isn’t all bad for an EV driver! As well as comfort for you, the preheat function means more energy in the battery can be used for its main purpose: to move the vehicle. Leaving the house without spending 5 minutes scraping off ice from your windscreen is just the bonus.
You can set the preconditioning to begin at a set time every day so that your electric car is ready when you leave in the morning. Make sure the car is plugged in while you precondition, because you want to draw energy from the grid to do this, not drain down your battery.
2. Time your charge to warm your battery
For maximum efficiency, try to time your overnight charge to finish close to the time as you leave in the morning as possible. A battery warms as it charges, giving you more available range for your day than a battery that has filled and then got cold.
A warm battery also means that your regenerative braking will also work better from the start, which is top tip number three.
3. Make use of regenerative braking in the cold
If the roads are icy first thing, regenerative braking modes will help you avoid skids and slides. Regenerative braking is said to be better than even ABS braking at this.
Using the regenerative braking system on your EV at any time maximizes range, and makes life easy when you are driving in cities or rural roads. Although at steady motorway speeds, the cruise mode has the edge in terms of miles per kWh efficiency.
As we mentioned, when the battery is very cold, the regenerative braking system will be less effective. Cold batteries can’t accept as much surplus energy as warm batteries can. You won’t get much regenerative brake power from a completely full battery, either. For more general top tips like this one for efficient driving, check out our money-saving tips with an EV.
4. Switch to Eco mode on icy roads
Most EVs have an option called “eco mode” or something very similar. An eco mode reduces the amount of power supplied to the drive motor. It also limits energy-consuming features like the heating system, so you might be more comfortable switching modes after you leave the untreated roads.
The benefit of using the eco mode in the winter is that by reducing the power to the motor, the car accelerates less, and helps to reduce the possibility of wheel spin. That’s why it’s a good idea to switch to eco mode whenever driving when there’s ice or snow on the roads.
Eco mode reduces the car’s acceleration, and helps to reduce the possibility of wheel spin on icy roads
EVs get better traction on icy roads anyway, thanks to the placement of batteries which lower the centre of gravity and add extra stability.
5. Take steps to reduce air heating
A huge amount of waste heat is produced by a conventional combustion engine. In an EV every bit of heat you need has to come from your onboard heating systems. It takes a lot of energy to heat the air in a car, so heating is one of the biggest energy drains on an EV battery. If you are on a long journey and need to squeeze every mile out of your battery range, you’ll want to do limit the use of the cabin heater as much as possible.
Using heated seats, or even a heated steering wheel, will definitely help you cut down on the cabin heater and save energy while keeping you comfortable. If you haven’t got inbuilt heated seats, you can buy a set that plug into the cigarette lighter for as little as £20 – that’ll be well worth the investment.
Dressing a little warmer, and using heated seats and steering wheel will have a very positive effect on your range and on your kWh consumption per mile.
Run a ‘Dad’s taxi’? With an EV you can keep warm while you wait around without turning on an fossil engine.
Running a mum or dad’s taxi? With an EV, you’ll no longer have to choose between waiting around in a cold car or feeling antisocial by turning on your old petrol or diesel engine to keep warm. With an EV, you can stay warm without filling the car park with toxic fumes.
6. Change your tyres (or at least check them)
The UK has one of the slowest uptakes for winter or all-weather tyres in Europe. As soon as temperatures drop below 7 Celsius, winter tyres are proven will reduce stopping distances and make your car easier to control.
If you don’t change tyre, check the pressure. Air pressure might be the most overlooked way to increase your EV’s range in both summer and in the winter. When the temperature falls, you can expect tyre pressure to drop by around 10%. A flatter tyre reduces your vehicle’s efficiency. Always make sure to check the recommended and maximum pressure for your tyres. It’s often written on a plate on the frame around the driver’s door.
7. Check your energy tariff
Our homes and cars start to use more energy as the nights turn long and temperatures dip low. November is the peak time for people to look for new deals on their home energy. If you don’t switch tariff, you might add around £30/month to your electricity bill if you drive an average number of miles per year.
The good news is that there are lots of EV tariffs on the market that offer much cheaper overnight rates for EV drivers. Love my EV has a free EV tariff comparison so you can check out which energy tariff works best for your car and home.
Find an energy tariff that fits
Winter in an EV can be a breeze
By taking some simple steps, winter with your EV can be a piece of cake, enjoyable even. Remember that your speed increases drag, and drag reduces mileage, so if ever there was a time to kill your to speed, it’s through the winter.