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12 Tips for Driving Your Electric Car In The Winter and Cold Weather


Temperatures sink.

Ice is on the ground.

And the wind is unforgiving.

Getting around in the winter time when snow and ice are on the ground is different no matter what type of car you’re driving.

With an electric car, you’ll have to take a few extra precautions, especially if it’s your first winter in an EV.

The helpful tips below will show you how to drive and maintain your electric car and its battery in the winter and cold weather conditions. Take notes and stay safe out there!

1. Watch The Range

Think about it for a minute–you don’t want to stay out in the cold for too long, and quite frankly neither does your electric vehicle.

When it’s cold, your EV battery has to expend more energy to go where you need to go.

So when the temperature drops, so does the driving range on your car. It’s unfortunate but true.

Even a car like the Chevy Volt with a huge range will feel its effects and won’t make it to their max.

Your lithium-ion car batteries are kinda like you–they prefer temperate climates. When it gets cold, they don’t want to run or work as hard. But as the battery warms up, it will generate heat and this will also keep your battery warm. It’s working even harder to do so.

If your battery isn’t fully insulated or have this special conditioning, your driving range will be a lot shorter. That, of course, means you won’t be able to go as far you’d like to go or are used to going.

What can you do? Look for a car with liquid battery conditioning Some cars come with liquid battery conditioning that will improve their performance. Which brings us to the next point…

2. Warm Up Your Battery or Precondition Your Car

What if you could automatically warm up your battery and your car before it was time to leave? Wouldn’t that be amazing? Yes, and you’re in luck because lots of electric cars, like the BMW i3, can do this.

You can set a timer for your car that will warm up your battery before it’s time to leave. You can start it with your key or with an app on your phone. Because your car is still plugged in at your garage or charging station, your car will have access to the power it needs to precondition before you hit the road. Use up this power source before you hit the road in the cold weather because you’ll definitely be using more energy in those freezing temps. Take advantage of the comforts of home while you’re there. Warming the car before you get on the road will save some of the electrical energy needed in the heating unit.

Remember, warm batteries are way more efficient than cold ones. Warming up and preconditioning your battery will extend the range of your driving and its battery life.

3. Turn on Eco Mode or Energy Saving Settings When Driving

What’s the eco mode? It’s a setting that will lower how much energy your car is using. Does using an eco mode really help? Yes. It’ll take longer to rev up and get to full speed–but that’s okay. You should be more cautious in hazardous conditions anyway. An eco setting will save energy for your drive, and that’s the ultimate goal here. Plus you’ll stay safer.

4. Keep Your Car In A Garage If Possible

If you’re like most electric car owners, your car charges at night while you’re in your house. And because a garage is more insulated and warmer than a car sitting outside gathering ice on snow, it’ll stay warmer. That means the battery will also be warmer in the morning when you’re ready to leave (see #2).

5. Find Other Ways To Stay Warm While Driving

Powering your car to move isn’t the only thing burning up energy. So is your cabin heat. When you fire up the heat in your car, you’re putting more strain on your battery. That means you may need to think of some other methods to stay warm while driving.

If you’re trying to warm yourself in the cabin, you’ll also be reducing the power of the car and the range you’ll be driving. Newer energy-efficient heat pumps rather than resistive heating systems also help. Packing on that extra layer will keep you warm and keep your electric car running longer.

Another option is to find a great EV  like the Chevy Bolt that is equipped with heated seats and steering wheels. This will keep you warm without burning as much energy! Nice!

Or if that’s too difficult…

6. Lower Your Cabin Temperature

But in reality, we all want to use the heat in our car. That’s one of the essential perks of driving. If staying bundled up the whole time isn’t feasible–stay halfway bundled up and turn your heat on a lower level. Keep it at 65 if you can and leave on an extra layer.

Lower heat means that your car won’t expend as much energy and not strain the battery. It’ll have extra power for getting you where you need to go.

7. Plan More Stops & Plug-In

Since it’s cold and your car won’t have the range that it usually does, you may need to plan your trips a bit differently. Plan an extra stop at the charging stations for your car to get refreshed, especially if it’s on a DC fast charger. That may mean taking an alternative route or parking at a different location than normal. These quick top-offs even for a few minutes will help your car power through the ice and slush.

8. Stay under 65 mph

The faster your car goes, the more energy it takes to break through the wind. And because your battery is working harder in cold weather, it has to work doubly hard to make it. The cold air is also rushing by, which affects the temperature of your battery, which affects how far you can go. It’s a vicious cycle.

What can you do? Stay at a lower speed, especially if you’re going a longer distance in the cold weather. Or you can avoid the interstate or highway altogether. Go on the secondary roads and don’t worry about the temptation to speed.

9. Drive More Cautiously

You should be cautious while driving in ice, snow and sleet no matter what–but there’s an added bonus for you EV drivers: you’ll also be saving your battery and your range.

Cold weather isn’t the time to drive aggressively, and even more so in an electric car. You may need to alter your habits and:

  • Don’t pass as much.
  • Stay in your lane.
  • Take an extra pause before making quick turns and exits

For you aggressive drivers out there, this may be hard for you to take. But you’re trying to get somewhere right? Being less aggressive may frustrate you for a few extra minutes, but it’ll save you from being stranded once your battery runs out!

10. Park In The Sun

This sounds like a hoax, but it’s legitimate. Parking in direct sunlight even during the winter will melt the ice and snow off your car, but it will also keep your battery at a higher temperature so it won’t be as cold when you’re starting it up. Find that bright spot and let the light shine in.

11. Use Your Windshield Defrost Carefully

You need a clear windshield to keep driving, no doubt about that. At the same time, you don’t have to run your front and rear defrost all the time or simultaneously during your trip. In fact, this could be a bigger drain on your battery than the standard cabin heat. Monitor your defrost power and usage to save energy. When your window is clear, turn it off.

12. Don’t Drive?

No matter what type of car you’re in, whether a traditional gas powered car or electric car, some rough days may force you to forget the commute. Don’t do anything irrational or dangerous.

And if your power goes out, you won’t be able to charge up your electric vehicle. And you don’t want to be stranded without getting a full charge somewhere. If it looks like there will be widespread power outages, you’ll need to keep your electric car at home and you’ll need to grab a nice seat by the fireplace.

Conclusion

What’s the main takeaway for driving an electric car in the winter and cold weather? Plan ahead and be smart.

Driving an electric car in the winter and cold isn’t hazardous or dangerous–it’s just different. It can be done, it will take a little extra forethought on your part to successfully make it. Carefully strategize, do you research about the best options and prepare your car before setting out on the road.