Electric Cars and Winter Driving: What You Should Know

A Girls Guide To Cars | Electric Cars And Winter Driving: What You Should Know - Feature
These All-Electric Mustang Mach-E'S Cruised Through Icy Streets For A Winter Meetup! Photo: Liv Leigh
These All-Electric Mustang Mach-E’s cruised through icy streets for a Winter meetup! Photo: Liv Leigh

Here are some details about what to actually expect from electric cars in the winter.

For some it may feel like it has been an eternity already, but we’ve just made it past the halfway point of Winter and there are a lot more frosty temps to go! We bundle up, we put our wool socks, winter coats, gloves, and scarves, but what about our electric vehicles? How are they doing in these chilly conditions? For that matter, what is it actually like to drive an electric vehicle in the winter? There are some challenges but there are also some myths, so today we’re going to bust some of them!

Not Having Access To Level 2 Charging At Home Could Make Things More Challenging. Photo: Pexels

Not having access to level 2 charging at home could make things more challenging. Photo: Pexels

Cold weather will affect the range of your Electric Car

It’s true, it will. Per fueleconomy.gov if we consider the effects of 20 degrees fahrenheit on an electric vehicle then it could experience roughly a 39% to 41% decrease in fuel economy vs when driving at 77°F. This seems pretty high but consider the fact that traditional ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles have been shown to experience a 15% to 24% reduction in gas mileage in the same temperatures. We don’t really seem to notice this as much in gas vehicles and that’s probably for multiple reasons.

For one, we typically don’t come close to using the range of our vehicles on a daily basis. Per the Department of Energy in 2021, the median range for gas vehicles is 403 miles which means that, even with a 24% reduction, you still have more than 300 miles of range. For another, there are also gas stations all over, so we’re typically not worried about not being able to gas up. Charging stations are still catching up but you will likely find that the majority of your charging is done at home.

Related: Take on Snow and Ice with These Tips for Driving in Winter Weather

Unlike Charging Stations, Gas Stations Are All Over But You'Ll Likely Find That Most Of Your Charging Is Done At Home. Photo: Pexels
Unlike charging stations, gas stations are all over but you’ll likely find that most of your charging is done at home. Photo: Pexels

EV Range is Improving and so is Charging Station Availability

Conversely, in 2021 EV’s averaged 234 miles of range, so if you reduce that by 39% to 40% then that gets you between 138 and 143 miles of range. That is definitely a significant reduction but it may not be as bad as you think. The average daily commute in the US is just over 55 miles so cold weather will definitely affect you but, if your commute is similar to the majority, then you will likely not actually be impacted by the effects. As long as you have the ability to Level 2 charge at home, you will be able to charge up fully overnight.

If you’re not sure about charging levels, you can check out our article here but, basically, Level 2 charging will make sure you’re fully charged overnight. Level 1 charging combined with the reduced winter range will make this more challenging. You might want to use the faster DCFC public chargers more often, and those things don’t love the cold either.

Related: Be Safe, Smart and Prepared On the Road: Winter Driving Tips

Drive by Frosty Gas Stations to Plug your EV in at Home Each Night

So, here’s where we get to some of the extra special benefits of driving an electric car in the cold. If you have Level 2 charging at home, you never have to worry about getting gas out in the cold and snow. You will plug your car in at night, it will be charged in the morning, and that’s that. Once I switched to driving an EV, this was probably one of the most exciting benefits. You might even find yourself driving past gas stations and cackling. Or maybe that’s just me.

Another huge plus is that you can precondition your vehicle remotely, while it’s still plugged in, and gain all the lovely, toasty benefits of a warmed up cabin without using any of the car’s power, since you’re sucking up juice from the charger instead. If you have a garage, you also get to enjoy preconditioning your vehicle without worrying about opening the garage door! To top it off, preconditioning your cabin has been shown to increase range efficiency.

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 Has A Ton Of Torque For Playful Driving In The Snow. Photo: Pexels
The Hyundai Ioniq 5 has a ton of torque for playful driving in the snow. Photo: Pexels

Most EV’s have one-pedal driving, which allows you to brake the vehicle simply by removing your foot from the accelerator. This style of braking can take some getting used to on slippery roads and you may even want to turn it off at those times. Fortunately, in opposition to gas vehicles being inefficient at slow speeds, going slowly and carefully is great for your battery range and you never have to worry about burning through gas while idling either since EVs use little energy when stationary. Additionally, with their chunky batteries located on the floor of the vehicle, the even weight distribution can help with performance on dodgy roads.

So, let’s summarize.

  • Electric cars lose a ton of range in cold weather but, depending on your vehicle, you will likely have more than enough range for your daily commute.
  • Preconditioning your battery will make sure you have a lovely, toasty vehicle to get in AND will help you get better range.
  • If you don’t have Level 2 charging at home, you’ll want to be extra aware of your range and charging options. Road trips will be more challenging and it would be best if you anticipate the effects of the cold weather.
  • You will smirk every time you drive past a gas station.
  • The weight distribution of your EV will help with handling.
  • The smooth output of power and instant torque will help too.
  • You may want to turn off one pedal drive in favor of the more human touch of manual braking.

All in all, as long as you anticipate the range reduction, you will likely find driving an EV in the Winter to be a super enjoyable experience.

An enthusiastic supporter of everything she’s passionate about, Liv got her first Electric Car and immediately made a YouTube... More about Liv Leigh