We’re all accustomed to seeing the fuel economy numbers in large-format print on the window stickers of new vehicles. These numbers give consumers shopping for new vehicles a rough idea of how many miles a vehicle can travel on each tank of gas. These numbers are easy to understand, repeatable and don’t change much with the weather.
Things are little different with electric vehicles. The same window sticker does display big numbers like efficiency and estimated annual fuel savings, but consumers are generally most concerned with the range number an EV is granted. For most new EVs, that number will range somewhere in the 200-300 mile range. However, what many new EV owners and shoppers alike may not realize is that as the cool-weather months approach, the stated range number may not reflect real-world outcomes.
For example, the stated range on the 2023 Chevrolet Bolt is a respectable 259 miles per charge—a number that driver could expect to see driving the car from 100 percent down to zero and in optimal conditions. The real-world range may be halved in subfreezing temperatures due to a number of factors, leaving not much more than 100 miles of driving capability. Factors like speed will reduce range in any temperature, but things like heated seats, heater, and wipers all pull energy from the battery and reduce range. Some EVs use battery power to keep the battery pack warm for improved performance also, which is a drain on power. Lastly, batteries of all types are simply less efficient at colder temperatures.
EV drivers will start to notice less efficient driving as soon as they turn on the heater, but noticeable differences will begin around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Another factor to consider is that EV batteries also take longer to charge in the cold weather. Charging times can fall significantly, even doubling fast charging times at frigid temperatures.
It’s not all doom and gloom though as there are a handful of tips to maximize cold-weather range and minimize inconvenience.
Tips to maximize EV range in cold weather
- Start your trip with a warm cabin: If possible, start trips with a pre-warmed car using wall power rather than the car’s battery.
- Warm yourself rather than the entire car: Use heated seats and heated steering wheel first, then the vehicle heater as needed.
- Drive slow: Driving slower is more efficient and will help conserve energy.
- Stay charged: Maintain a topped-up battery when possible to always provide as much range as possible.
Positives to owning an EV in colder climates
- In areas where long periods of idling are not permitted, EV drivers can sit for hours on end in a warm, comfortable car.
- If you can start your day charged up and aren’t traveling long distances, you’ll never need to get out and pump gas in the freezing cold ever again.