Not so long ago, tackling the winter months with an EV was tantamount to accepting a hero’s quest. Fortunately, technological advances in the field of batteries over the past few years have proved to be a game-changer. What do you need to know to drive your EV carefree in cold weather? We have pieced together the essential pointers for you.
What impact does the cold have on your electric vehicle?
You may have noticed that your smartphone battery tends to run down faster when you spend a day outside in the middle of winter. The same phenomenon can be observed with an EV’s range in cold weather.
The explanation is purely chemical. To put it simply, the lower the temperature is, the more the chemical reactions inside the battery are slowed down. This means the battery loses power, is less efficient and drains more rapidly.
Lower charging performance
During really cold spells, your electric vehicle may also limit the amount of power taken in, meaning it will take longer to charge. This is all the more noticeable with rapid charging. What’s more, charging stations are also affected by a drop in the power delivered. This phenomenon is exacerbated by the lack of roofing or protection on most public charging points.
Depending on the battery technology on-board your EV, range and charging performance are more or less impacted during cold snaps. Fortunately, most EVs currently marketed are designed to maintain good performance levels in winter.
Among the progress achieved on EV batteries, one notable improvement is the introduction of efficient thermal management systems. They ensure the battery remains within the proper temperature bracket and minimise the negative impact of cold weather.
Is it alright to switch the EV heating on in winter?
The heating system is an EV’s top energy guzzler. Having said that, it probably consumes less than you think.
Firstly, we need to distinguish between heat pump and electric resistive heating systems. Resistive heating consumes around 2 to 4 kW as opposed to 0.5 to 1 kW for a heat pump. Electric resistive heating therefore eats up around 2 to 6 times more power than a heat pump.
The good news is that heat pumps are becoming more widespread on board new EV models arriving on the market. It might be a good idea to check out this point before purchasing an EV – especially if you’re opting for an older model.
What about the energy consumption of minor equipment such as headlights and windscreen wipers?
For the other on-board equipment (radio, windscreen wipers and headlights), energy consumption is negligible. For instance, the headlights consume 120 watts on average and windscreen wipers and the radio less than 100 watts. They therefore don’t make much of a difference and can be used in cold weather regardless.
What about winter tyres for electric cars?
Do electric cars need special winter tyres? Is there a difference between winter tyres for EVs and internal combustion cars? Which tyres should I choose for my electric car? Let’s take a closer look!
Is it compulsory to fit winter tyres on your EV?
Although there are differences between electric and internal combustion vehicles, the need for winter tyres is identical and should be considered when the temperature falls below 7°C.
In France for instance, the Mountain Law requires winter tyres or 4-season tyres (or snow chains/socks) to be fitted in 48 departments during the winter period, i.e. from 1 November to 31 March.
What are the differences between tyres for EVs and internal combustion cars?
An electric car does not have the same tyre requirements as an internal combustion vehicle. An EV is heavier than an internal combustion car due to its battery, which exerts more pressure on the tyres. For an electric car, it is therefore advisable to choose tyres that can bear the extra weight.
As for the engine, it delivers maximum torque from the very first metres. Weight transfers are therefore more pronounced and intense than with an internal combustion car, leading to unavoidable tyre wear.
Finally, noise should also be taken into account when designing tyres for EVs. As an electric car is not powered by an internal combustion engine, the sound of tyres on the road is much more perceptible. Therefore, tyre manufacturers need to bear this in mind when designing quieter tyres, in order to reduce the perceived interior noise.
Should you use winter or 4-season tyres for your EV?
If you live in an urban area, you should opt for “4-season” tyres. In so doing, you’ll be able to travel all year round, safely and in all kinds of weather.
The latest generations of all-season tyres, from all brands, have already been approved for the vast majority of electric vehicles, regardless of their weight. Among the different ranges, certain winter and 4-season tyres will be more adapted to your electric car.
How can the impact of cold weather on your EV be minimised?
Preconditioning the EV cabin
If your EV is equipped with resistive heating or you are going on a long journey, the best move is to put the heating on before setting off. Ideally, you should switch on or pre-set the heating to come on about 30 minutes before you leave while the vehicle is still hooked up. This means, you are using the power supply from the grid rather than your battery. And that means you set off in the best possible conditions and reduce energy consumption while you’re driving as you only need to maintain cabin temperature and not heat up from scratch.
And if you set off just after charging, you will economise some precious kWh since your battery has been “preheated” before your journey.
Heated seats and steering wheels
Heating the steering wheel and seats consumes less energy than a conventional cabin heating system. If you precondition your EV as mentioned above, heating the seats and the steering wheel will be sufficient to remain comfortably warm for a short or medium-length journey.
Take your foot off the accelerator
Finally, if you apply the last two tips, you can go for the winning trio by adopting a smoother driving style. You can reach the next level in tackling winter weather in your EV by driving in eco mode and using regenerative braking intelligently.
Bonus tip: adjust your speed settings in the Chargemap app
If you are preparing to go on a long trip by EV, the Chargemap route planner calculates maximum driving speed to help you save energy. Along the same lines, you can activate the “Agree to reduce speed” option. Depending on your itinerary, the Chargemap route planner may advise you to drive more slowly over certain stretches to avoid an extra charging stop.
For further information, you can consult our article on the latest improvements to the Chargemap route planner in 2022.
We hope this article will help you brave the cold in your electric vehicle. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments. Do you have any other tips to share with new EV drivers? ❄️