Anyhoo I doubt the author has experienced the 5 or 6 annual Polar Vortices a real Canadian experiences.
Talk about a rough winter. Here we are approaching the end of March and Jack Frost’s icy grip still has a stranglehold on many parts of the country. And while the extreme elements already tend to exact a toll on the average car, many electric-vehicle owners may be feeling the worst of it.
That’s because an EV’s operating range on a charge can be diminished by an average of 57 percent based solely on the ambient temperature, according to the results of a study conducted by the AAA Automotive Research Center in Southern California. That could leave, for example, the owner of a Nissan Leaf with an EPA-certified range of 84 miles with a depleted battery after driving a mere 36 miles in cold weather.
Fortunately that’s still within the daily range of most drivers – according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data 68 percent of U.S. commuters travel 30 miles or less to and from work. What’s more, reasonably temperate Los Angeles and San Francisco feature the highest concentration of plug-in vehicle buyers in the nation according to Polk registration data. Still, the “low battery” warning can come up quickly – and with harsh consequences – for unprepared EV motorists traversing longer routes on chilly days.
Electric motors provide smooth operation, strong acceleration, require less maintenance than internal combustion engines, and for many motorists offer a cost effective option,” says John Nielsen, managing director, AAA Automotive Engineering and Repair. “However, EV drivers need to carefully monitor driving range in hot and cold weather.”
The AAA tested three different EVs under controlled circumstances to gauge their performance in stop-and-go-traffic according to cold, moderate and hot climactic conditions. While the test found the three models averaged a range of 105 miles at an ambient temperature of 75 degrees, this plummeted to just 43 miles when the thermometer dipped to 20 degrees. Scorching temperatures likewise adversely affected the tested vehicles, though a bit more moderately, limiting the average range to 69 miles on a charge at 95 degrees.
This probably isn’t breaking news to EV owners living north of the Mason-Dixon line, but it does help quantify what’s been a well-publicized bugaboo, namely that cold temperatures negatively affect a battery’s performance and can even hamper its ability to accept a charge under extreme conditions. Frigid temperatures also limit so-called regenerative braking, which recovers energy that would otherwise be lost during decelerating or stopping and sends it back to the battery.
And this is despite the fact that all EVs include provisions to help heat (and/or cool) the battery; usually this is via liquid or forced-air heating and/or cooling, though the Nissan Leaf uses an electric heater to keep the battery warm when the car is tethered to the power grid.
But the biggest draw on an EV battery in cold weather, again no surprise here, is the cabin heater. While gasoline engines tend to generate large amounts of heat that can be harvested to warm a car’s interior, an EV must rely on an electric-powered heater to keep a driver’s toes toasty. One solution would be to wear a heavier coat and gloves while driving and keep the climate control switched off, though that’s a sacrifice we’re willing to guess few EV drivers would be willing to make.
According to the MIT Technology Review, thermal storage materials are being developed that can be heated while an electric car is plugged in, then deliver heat to the battery for the duration of a drive, though that solution is likely years away for being ready for widespread use. In the meantime, automakers may turn to improved insulation and specific coatings on the windows to trap heat within the cabin and help minimize reliance on the heater.
And guess what? EV owners aren’t the only ones who take a hit whenever the mercury plummets. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, gasoline-powered vehicles likewise suffer diminished range (in terms of reduced fuel economy) in the cold. A conventional auto’s gas mileage in city driving is typically 12 percent lower at 20 degrees than it would be at a balmier 77 degrees, with gas/electric hybrid vehicles suffering an even greater drop of around 31 to 34 percent under the same conditions.
While none of us can do anything about the elements, the EPA says all drivers can help minimize the adverse effects of cold weather on their vehicles’ mileage by following a few simple tips:
Park the vehicle in a garage to raise the temperature of the car’s engine or battery and cabin.
Combine trips whenever possible to minimize driving with a cold engine or battery.
Avoid lead-footed acceleration, heavy braking and high-speed driving.
Don’t let the car sit at idle to warm the cabin before driving – preheat an EV’s cabin only while its plugged into a charger.
Limit use of seat warmers or defrosters (though it’s recommended EV owners use the seat warmers instead of the cabin heater to help maximize range).
Check the tire pressure regularly and maintain the optimal psi as determined by the automaker (under-inflated tires can reduce gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires).
With conventional or hybrid autos, use the type of oil recommended by the manufacturer for cold weather driving.
Remove accessories that adversely affect a vehicle’s aerodynamics, like roof racks, when not in use. As it is, more than half of an engine’s efforts goes to cutting through wind resistance at highway speeds, but colder air is denser, and it takes more effort to overcome drag.
36 mile range in a Nissan Leaf in sub 0C?
It would take me over 9 days to drive to Winnipeg from Regina