Winter is here and it is high time to look at how to drive your electric vehicle during the colder months. Unlike internal combustion vehicles, EVs start up immediately – even when temperatures slide below zero. However, things are a little trickier when it comes to range and charging capacity. So here are 5 tips on how to take care of your electric vehicle and what you should do to cruise effortlessly through the winter months.
1. Pre-heat the battery of your electric vehicle
An EV battery works best at temperatures between 20 and 25°C. As we move towards freezing point and below, battery performance and range progressively decrease. Indeed, we see the same phenomenon in smartphone batteries.
The first reason is simple. Cold temperatures lead to a fall in conductivity, meaning the chemical reactions in the cell slow down. Consequently, the battery is less efficient and range diminishes. Tests conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) have found that at -6°C compared to 23°C, an EV loses 12% of its range on average (not including equipment).
Of course, not all vehicles react in the same way. Some battery packs, like those found on the Tesla models, have an efficient temperature regulation system, thereby minimising the negative impact of winter on the car’s performance.
It should also be noted that air density increases in cold weather. This means an electric vehicle will drain more energy in winter as it cuts through the air, especially at high speeds.
To conserve the battery, park your vehicle in an enclosed space whenever this is possible. It is also advisable to start driving as soon as you disconnect the vehicle from the power supply. You should charge the vehicle overnight or programme charging to match the time scheduled for your departure. Why? Because the electrical and chemical activity pre-heats the battery. Then, it will be less likely to lose range – especially over the first few kilometres.
2. Use heating intelligently
We mentioned that 12% of battery range is lost in cold weather. But that’s without taking into account the impact of HVAC systems (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning). When this is taken into account, the American survey calculates loss of range at about 41%.
Once again, the figures differ according to the EV model. If the vehicle features a heating system equipped with a heat pump as opposed to resistive heating, the resulting consumption will be totally different. Heat pumps are increasingly fitted more or less systematically on recent vehicles. For example, we find such equipment on board the new Tesla Model 3, the Nissan Leaf Acenta and the Hyundai Kona Creative. On average, a heat pump consumes between 500 and 750 watts whereas a conventional heating system eats up between 2,000 and 4,000 watts. However, it should be noted that heat pumps are less efficient at very low temperatures (< -5°C).
To hit the road under the best conditions, put the heating on in your EV 30 minutes before leaving while keeping your vehicle plugged in. This way, the heating system feeds off the power supply rather than your EV battery. As a result, you can drive off without your teeth chattering and with a far more efficient, pre-primed battery.
During the journey, think about using the heated steering wheel and heated seats if your EV is equipped with these features. They eat up a little less energy.
Finally, don’t cut back on the use of safety equipment, such as headlights and windscreen wipers, which only clock up minimal energy consumption. It’s not a brilliant idea to take risks for the sake of a few kWh.
3. Plan for a longer charging time
The charging time of an electric vehicle in winter is considerably longer. In some cases, it may take twice or three times as long as usual. Why?
External temperatures impact the charging rate of your EV. In fact, the Battery Management System (BMS) interacts with the charging station and changes the vehicle’s charging capacity taking several factors into account, including the temperature of the battery packs.
The further we stray away from the ideal battery temperature (20-25°C), the greater the difference between the actual charging rate and the maximum rate of the vehicle’s on-board charger.
N.B.: Regardless of the battery and BMS, charging stations themselves are also sensitive to cold weather and so can also impact the actual charging rate.
4. Check your tyres
Equipping your EV with winter tyres automatically implies higher energy consumption. This is due to increased grip because the tyres are made with special compounds that maintain elasticity and flexibility in more severe winter weather conditions.
The compounds used for all-season tyres make them less soft than winter tyres, but suppler than summer tyres. They therefore represent a practical, all-purpose alternative, although they cannot be used in some extreme conditions.
It is very difficult to give precise figures as to energy consumption for each type of tyre. It depends on the vehicle and the make of tyre. Just bear in mind that all-season tyres lead to a slight increase in energy consumption, and winter tyres push that figure up a little more.
5. Opt for a smooth driving style
We could hardly sign off without mentioning eco-driving. Always a key issue, adopting eco-driving behind the wheel of your electric vehicle is all the more essential during the winter months.
A few good practice tips:
- Take your foot off the accelerator.
For safety reasons, you should adopt a smoother, more controlled style of driving when you have to cope with hazards such as ice, snow and rain.
- Opt for routes that are less energy-hungry.
Adding a few minutes to the journey time is nothing compared to the precious kWh saved.
- Use regenerative braking as often as you can.
When the battery is too cold, an alert message may state that this function is not available. That’s why it’s important to hit the road just after charging so that the battery is pre-heated. If this message is displayed, you’ll need to wait until the battery warms up properly. Depending on the initial temperature of the battery, you need to drive between 30 and 40 km before recovering the regenerative capability of your EV.
A few years ago, going on long-distance journeys in your electric vehicle was problematic for virtually everyone – especially in winter. Thanks to the latest technological developments, EVs now offer excellent performance levels and manage resources more efficiently. Depending on your EV model, it’s nonetheless essential to think ahead to prepare for the winter months the best you can and avoid unpleasant surprises in the freezing grip of winter.
We hope you have found these tips helpful. If you have other useful pointers you’d like to share, don’t hesitate to post them up in the comments.
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