Yes! They do!
The short answer is: yes, of course they do, otherwise manufacturers would be producing automobiles that could only be sold in warm climate countries. And that would be a huge loss of revenue. So, yes. EV’s absolutely work in cold weather.
Now for the long answer….
The #1 question I get asked by people when they find out I drive an electric car, is “Does it run in winter?” (yes it does) Followed by “How far can you get with it” and “How much was it”, and lastly: “How much money have you saved”. Don’t worry, blog posts are coming to answer all those questions too!
I’ve owned my used EV (2016 Chevy Spark) for years now, and it has absolutely no problem in the extreme cold of Northern Canada. It functions great in 0° to -20° celcius weather, and it was fine all the way down to the coldest my area got so far: -37° C, when even my Internal Combustion Engine (aka “ICE”) vehicle struggled to start. The great thing about a battery operated vehicle is that it does not really require warming up the same way as a ICE vehicle (source). You turn it on, and that’s it!
Cold weather is actually good for the long-term lifespan of a lithium battery (source). Over time, you’ll find that your battery may last longer than those of EV drivers in warmer climates, as warmth can damage the batteries (source).
EV range in the cold.
However, it’s important to note that EV’s lose range in cold weather (source). When I was researching them, prior to purchasing our used one, I read repeatedly that you could expect 17 – 41% loss of battery power (source).
We found that our estimated range in the spring/summer is approximately 115 – 125 kms. That’s three trips into town and back, as we live in the country.
However, in the winter, at the height of the coldest parts (-15° to -35° C) it can drop as low as 65 kms range, and because we’re using up more energy for the seat warmers and the heater, we can only get into town and back once on a “full charge” of 65(ish) kms.
That’s a drop in range of 54%! That’s way more than the estimated % we were expecting. However, it’s well within the “normal” range that has been reported and is becoming more widely known as we continue to study EV’s (source).
Does that change our stance on EVs? Definitely not. Remember, we live in the country. So someone living in town probably won’t have to worry about charging for quite a few days. If it’s not a problem for rural folks, then it would be even less of a problem for city dwellers.
We have to charge every night during a cold snap though. This doesn’t bother us at all, especially when we consider all the ICE vehicles that are running 5 – 25 minutes prior to being driven in the winter, just to warm up. Millions of vehicles spewing out gasoline and diesel every single day, multiple times a day, just to get that cabin temp nice and toasty for a ten minute drive to work.
We’d much prefer our little EV that warms up right away, and doesn’t burn emissions to keep us comfortable in the winter.
Some ways to help your EV in the winter:
- Try to ensure your battery is charged to between 20% – 80% only. This is the optimal charging for an electric vehicle, as over charging it or depleting the battery too much can cause undo stress on the battery
- Ensure you have the right tires for your EV, this will increase efficiency overall, not just in the winter (source).
- The seat warmer takes up less energy than the heater (source) so consider just bundling up and wearing a pair of gloves to avoid using the heater. Using any climate control will effect the range because it all uses electricity (source).
- Drive with energy efficiency in mind (source). Studies have shown that the way you drive is more important than where you drive.
- Invest in a quality charger for your home. Ensure it is weather-resistant, and good for cold climates. We chose the Grizzl-E charger and have been very happy with it.
- Park your EV in a climate controlled environment (if you can). A garage or other space is ideal for this.
- Avoid excessive speeding. Driving fast will deplete your range quickly.
Because the drop in range during the winter is only temporary, you’ll find your EV quickly gains it range back once the weather warms up. If you plan your trips accordingly, take good care of your vehicle, and optimize the battery life then you’ll have no problem tackling even the coldest of Canadian winters with your Electric Vehicle.
If you haven’t already made the switch to electric because you live in a cold area, then hopefully this article is helpful in reassuring you that it’s a good option to consider.
-Em Van Moore (EV enthusiast)