Motor Mouth: The inconvenient truth about EVs in cold weather


petros
+3
#1  Top Rated Post
Atoadaso

So a Tesla drove across the United States. That such a feat is no longer big news is testament to how far EVs have come and an indication electric vehicles are no longer limited to urban use.

What is newsworthy, however, is that Alex Roy, The Drive’s editor-at-large (and expert Cannonballer), along with the Model 3’s owner, Daniel Zorrilla, took but 50 hours, 16 minutes and 32 seconds to drive from Los Angeles to New York City, the quickest any car has ever traveled from U.S. coast to U.S. coast using electricity as its sole source of power.

This is not an accomplishment to be diminished. Ten years ago, such an expedition would have been measured in weeks, not hours. Even five years ago when Elon Musk began rolling out Superchargers across the land, criss-crossing the continent would have been all but unthinkable.

Those who seek to diminish Roy and Zorrilla’s accomplishments by noting that the current Cannonball Run record is something less than 30 hours miss the point. Google calculates the 4,288 kilometre drive takes just a tad over 40 hours, which means Roy and Zorrilla spent only about 10 hours charging the Model 3 — not so long ago the time it would have taken for a single overnight charge of its (optional) 75 kilowatt-hour battery. It’s an impressive feat and proof of the progress in both EV technology and Tesla’s infrastructure development.

But does it mean — as is the subtext of virtually every story written about Roy’s trek — that EVs are ripe to supplant gasoline-fueled cars in the immediate future.

Uhm, not quite. You see, buried deep in Roy’s 4,345 word treatise on his adventure is the following little tidbit: “It’s too bad we kept the heat off for most of the drive.” Yes, in order to ensure they made it between Supercharger stations, Roy and Zorrilla drove through the worst weather much of the United States has seen in decades without the comfort of cabin heat. Indeed, both wore multiple layers of clothing, Zorrilla, according to Roy’s account, donning three layers of pants to stave off the frigid temperatures, while Roy himself had to buy a wool blanket halfway through the trip. That’s right, no heat in a US$55,000+ car that purports to play in the luxury segment.

Now Cannonballers past have made manifold sacrifices — ingesting massive amounts of caffeine, peeing in bottles and, even more gross, unless, of course, you’re the President of the United States, eating a steady diet of McDonald’s — in their pursuit of speed, but those compromises have always been to overcome human limitations, not compensate for the failing of the automobile. That Roy spends less than 50 words discussing the lack of cabin heat— with nothing remotely resembling a technical analysis of the energy used/saved and range extended by their plight — while devoting no less than 1,670 words to the Autopilot user interface (Roy actually spends more time stressing about the Model’s 3’s steering stalk than he does on the fact that he froze his ‘nads off for 50 straight hours) speaks to someone deliberately not wanting to talk about an elephant in a room.

Here’s the discussion I think he was trying to avoid.

Fleetcarma.com – a website devoted to the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles and optimizing EV fleet deployment since 2007 – recently released a sneak peak of its Truth About Electric Vehicles (EVs) in Cold Weather study based on its real world usage of a number of electric cars in cold climes.

The numbers are not pretty. According to Erik Mallia, the company’s strategic development manager, the EVs in Fleetcarma’s fleet — Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Ford Transit Connect EV — started displaying greatly reduced range when the outside temperature dropped below about 3 degrees Celsius. By the time the mercury hit -10C, all three vehicles’ had dropped below half of their advertised/EPA-designated maximum range. In their worst performance, for instance, Nissan’s Leaf ran out of electrons in just 51 kilometres and the Transit Connect in 40. And that’s at -10, not the 20 or 25 below that has been common across eastern Canada since Christmas, Fleetcarma’s information suggesting that EV range prohibitively “drops of a cliff” somewhere around the -5C mark.

More interesting is that, according to Matt Stevens, CEO of Fleetcarma’s parent company and a PHD in powertrain design, while both gasoline and electric powertrains face similar degradation in performance in cold weather, the reason for the EV’s substantially worse cold weather comportment – cue images of Roy shivering in the Model 3 – is down to heating the cabin. Stevens says this is one area where the internal combustion engine’s inherent inefficiency is beneficial. “The silver lining of the very inefficient gas engine,” he adds, “is that, since it gives off a whole lot of waste heat, you effectively get cabin heat for free.”

In fact, Fleetcarma’s data seems to suggest that a Mitsubishi i-MiEV heater on full blow — such as when crossing the U.S. in a cold snap — can use between 1.5 and 4.5 kilowatts, about two to six horsepower. Typically, small cars require less than 15 horsepower to cruise at 100 kilometres an hour on a flat road: If Fleetcarma’s numbers are correct, it suggests that an EV’s heater on full blast – as Roy may have done had he not been worried about range– uses anywhere from 20 to 40 per cent as much power as propelling the automobile.

While none of this probably affects urban use, it does put a dent in the argument that EV range will soon become so prodigious that charging stations won’t be required on our highways. Even if future Tesla, Porsche and BMW EVs boast ranges of 600 kilometres and more, a Canadian — or, this year, an American — January could easily halve that. That means the inter-city infrastructure charging problem Motor Mouth’s Inconvenient Truth series (see here and here) has been proposing still needs to be reconciled. By not addressing this issue (yet, again, finding more than 1,600 words to address a simple interface issue) Roy did a disservice to the very cause he seeks to champion, namely that electric cars are ready for prime time.
 
gerryh
+2
#2
How is this a surprise to anyone?
 
petros
+1
#3
Ill informed. The EcoGospel proclaims all econauts go to heaven and Satan drives a 460 with a 4 barrel carb.
 
Curious Cdn
#4
Quote: Originally Posted by petros View Post

Ill informed. The EcoGospel proclaims all econauts go to heaven and Satan drives a 460 with a 4 barrel carb.

I guess you're right.

We should all give up on this dead-end technology.
 
captain morgan
+3
#5
Really good article in the OP.

One of the issues I found interesting relates to the supercharge stations used by the 2 guys in the Tesla. I can't help but wonder how much longer these trips will take when there is a large number of EVs on the road, all relying on access to charging stations.

That said, I was shocked to read that temps at -5C resulted in a 50% reduction in range... -5 happens a lot more often than folks may think
Last edited by captain morgan; Jan 28th, 2018 at 12:33 PM..
 
Curious Cdn
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by avro24 View Post

Oh my, new tech needs to figure things out.

Where's my horse....?

Two for one burger sale at Mickey Dee's ...
 
captain morgan
+2
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by avro24 View Post

Oh my, new tech needs to figure things out.

Where's my horse....?

Seeing how you have your panties all in a bunch over those simple observations, you should figure it out then champ.
 
taxslave
+2
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by petros View Post

Ill informed. The EcoGospel proclaims all econauts go to heaven and Satan drives a 460 with a 4 barrel carb.

You really think Satan likes walking that much?
 
petros
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by avro24 View Post

Oh my, new tech needs to figure things out.

Where's my horse....?

Same range.
 
taxslave
+1
#10
Rio Tinto has a bunch of electric vehicles for the Kamano generating station. Couple of Rangers and one built in Errington. Aside from lots of downtime in winter they sometimes don't make it from the shop all the way up the tunnel. A distance of less than 1 km. Granted they are older models but the range is still a problem. I expect the same problem arises running AC in summer.
 
10larry
#11
Simple solution, borrow the [gasp]gas heaters vw used to heat the cabin in their vehicles powered by air cooled power plants.
 
Curious Cdn
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by 10larry View Post

Simple solution, borrow the [gasp]gas heaters vw used to heat the cabin in their vehicles powered by air cooled power plants.

You've never jumped so much as to have one of those VW gas heaters backfire on you as you're "roaring" down the highway in the middle major traffic.
Last edited by Curious Cdn; Jan 28th, 2018 at 01:07 PM..
 
captain morgan
#13
Sorry to have made some observations avro, but on the bright side, I've figured-out the heat-in-winter problem for ya. It's as simple as installing a Franklin wood burning stove in the back seat.

There ya go... Now we can exchange every gas car for an EV with no more problemos
 
10larry
#14
Quote: Originally Posted by Curious Cdn View Post

You've never jumped so much as to have one of those VW gas heaters backfire on you as you're "roaring" down the highway in the middle major traffic.

Yea I had one but that was 60's technology with todays hi tech advances ev enthusiasts should be able to cruise in warmth for short distances. Vws were real gaz misers but back then HP was king, same today folks with $$$ cruise in v8 heated comfort whilst common folk ev freeze to save a dime.
The pope set a gold standard example shunning a huge suv in favour of a lil fiat to trip around the u.s., imagine a politician leading by example.
 
Jinentonix
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by avro24 View Post

Oh my, new tech needs to figure things out.

Where's my horse....?

New tech? The electric car has been around since 1837. The first year there was a production model of electric car was 1884.
Last edited by Jinentonix; Jan 28th, 2018 at 01:32 PM..
 
Hoid
+1
#16
Cold weather has always been an issue with batteries and with automobiles in general.

All these same problems will be solved just as they were with all other engines.

DO you think gas engines perform as well in cold weather? There are dozens of things done to ensure they still function properly in extreme weather - which they do - to a point.

Altitude was a much more difficult problem.
 
Curious Cdn
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by Hoid View Post

Cold weather has always been an issue with batteries and with automobiles in general.

All these same problems will be solved just as they were with all other engines.

DO you think gas engines perform as well in cold weather? There are dozens of things done to ensure they still function properly in extreme weather - which they do - to a point.

Altitude was a much more difficult problem.

At least, we won't have to worry much about killer robots in the Canadian winter.

That's a big relief, eh?
 
Hoid
#18
g force was also a big and difficult issue. Early gas engines were very difficult to get proper fuel flows for constantly changing conditions.

people just don't appreciate how much engineering has gone into today's gas engines.

Electric engines are so much superior to begin with. All the problems will be dealt with.

A gas engine needs a battery too. How do they get that to work in cold weather?
 
pgs
#19
Quote: Originally Posted by Hoid View Post

g force was also a big and difficult issue. Early gas engines were very difficult to get proper fuel flows for constantly changing conditions.

people just don't appreciate how much engineering has gone into today's gas engines.

Electric engines are so much superior to begin with. All the problems will be dealt with.

A gas engine needs a battery too. How do they get that to work in cold weather?

Plug .
 
Hoid
#20
glow plug.

yes that that part of the solution for diesels in cold weather,.
 
Curious Cdn
+1
#21
Quote: Originally Posted by Hoid View Post

glow plug.

yes that that part of the solution for diesels in cold weather,.

You need to treat diesel fuel with all sorts of toxic alchemy to prevent it from turning into wax in the really cold.
 
Hoid
#22
its called arctic diesel.
 
Curious Cdn
#23
Quote: Originally Posted by Hoid View Post

its called arctic diesel.

Oh well. THAT sounds cleaner ... all fluffy and white like a hare.
 
Hoid
+2
#24
I Worked in a camp in northern alberta that didn't use it and it got exceptionally cold in January and the fuel turns to tapioca.

Here is what happens:

The diesel generator dies and takes like a day to get back working. IN that time the heat lamps under the propane tanks go out and the propane no longer works and you lose your heat.

Once you lose your heat all your plumbing freezes and now you are in trouble.
 
petros
+1
#25
Quote: Originally Posted by avro24 View Post

You guys are funny.

Electric bad.....gas good.

Others.

Electric good....gas bad.

All in their own corners based on......?

Politics.....ugh.

Hybrid makes the most sense in Canada.
 
10larry
#26
How was it heated?

Quote: Originally Posted by Hoid View Post

Cold weather has always been an issue with batteries and with automobiles in general.

All these same problems will be solved just as they were with all other engines.

DO you think gas engines perform as well in cold weather? There are dozens of things done to ensure they still function properly in extreme weather - which they do - to a point.

Altitude was a much more difficult problem.

Actually they perform better as cold air is more dense, more oomph.
 
Curious Cdn
#27
Quote: Originally Posted by petros View Post

Hybrid makes the most sense in Canada.

This place is way too big for any other arrangement. I would never, ever consider buying an all electric vehicle. I drive 45,000 kms per year and that doesn't vary, much. I would, however, give due consideration to a plug-in hybrid, although the advantage of "cheap" household current will be going fast when everyone else is plugging in, too.
 
petros
#28
Quote: Originally Posted by Hoid View Post

Cold weather has always been an issue with batteries and with automobiles in general.

All these same problems will be solved just as they were with all other engines.

DO you think gas engines perform as well in cold weather? There are dozens of things done to ensure they still function properly in extreme weather - which they do - to a point.

Altitude was a much more difficult problem.

EF! and digital variable spark timing are awesome and standard equipment on all engines. Todays EFI automatically adjusts for ambient air temp MAP MAF and O2 sensors fora perfect mix every time.
-45C and my truck start flawlessly without the block heater.
Last edited by petros; Jan 28th, 2018 at 04:26 PM..
 
Jinentonix
+1
#29
Quote: Originally Posted by avro24 View Post

Oh yeah, it was so viable then.

Things are the same as 1884.

How did homes get electricity in 1884?

We're not talking about power generation on a commercial scale. And you're right, things aren't the same as they were in 1884. Gasoline powered cars are much more reliable and fuel efficient than the first ones were. Electric cars are still pretty much as efficient as they were 140 years ago. Yes I know, they are somewhat better now but compared to how far the ICE powered vehicle has come, it's not even close.

And don't bother with that "Big Oil blah blah blah" excuse. There were plenty of industrialized nations who had no reason to be beholden to the oil companies. If the electric car was a truly viable idea, any number of countries could have developed their own electric vehicle industry and told Big Oil to go pound salt long before WW2 even started.

EVs will also continue to have a significant power to weight ratio disadvantage simply because the more power you want to have available for the vehicle, the heavier the vehicle gets.
Outside of a/c, there's no other non-motive system in an ICE powered vehicle that affects gas consumption. The heat is free, all your lights are free, your stereo is free, window defrosters are free etc. In an EV, all of those draw on your "fuel" consumption. Probably not going to be an issue for city driving but if you want to go anywhere else it seems your only two options are cut back on cabin comforts or buy a heavier vehicle. Which brings up the issue of; how much more available power will you actually have once you factor in the extra total vehicle weight it has to drag around?

And of course don't forget that just like ICE powered vehicles, fuel consumption ratings for EVs are based on the optimal driving conditions, which rarely have anything to do with real world conditions.
 
Hoid
#30
Quote: Originally Posted by 10larry View Post

How was it heated?



Actually they perform better as cold air is more dense, more oomph.

yes I have had many experiences of batteries performing even better in cold weather.
 

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