Published: Sat, February 09, 2019
Economy | By

AAA study confirms cold weather can sap electric vehicle ranges

AAA study confirms cold weather can sap electric vehicle ranges

On average, these vehicles can drive for between 200 to 300 miles on a single charge, depending on the vehicle; but as winter storms picked up around the country many electric vehicle owners found their cars suddenly not performing up to standard.

In results that are unlikely to shock the many frustrated EV owners who vented on social media during the polar vortex, Stefanopoulou's claim is backed up by the results of a new AAA study, which says that electric vehicle batteries lose as much as 41% of their potential driving range when the outside temperature is 20°F (and when the heater is turned on).

The study coincidences with many electric vehicle owners' complaints on social media about reduced range and frozen door handles when much of the country was in the grips of a polar vortex last week.

The study of five electric vehicles by AAA also found that high temperatures can cut into battery range, but not almost as much as the cold.

Cold weather, however, is not the only factor that can influence driving range.

This is how the five electric cars ranges compared to one another. For instance, AAA's study found the use of heat when it's 20°F outside adds nearly $25 more for every 1,000 miles when compared to the cost of combined urban and highway driving at 75°F. The findings showed extreme cold can have a significant impact on the battery's range.


Firing up the heater or air conditioner took things to a whole new level: in the cold, with their heaters on, cars lost 41% of their range and in the heat, with the air conditioning on, they lost 17%. Real-world driving conditions were simulated using a dynamometer, essentially a treadmill for cars, in a closed testing cell where ambient temperature could be closely controlled.

Also, the lithium ion batteries in EVs prefer temperatures of about 70 degrees, as their chemistry doesn't perform efficiently in extreme cold.

Previous AAA research has found that interest in electric vehicles continues to gain momentum with 20 percent of drivers saying they would likely go green when considering their next vehicle purchase. To help "green" auto shoppers make an informed choice, AAA conducts independent, rigorous test-track evaluations of plug-in hybrids, hybrid and fuel-efficient, gas-powered vehicles and releases the results every spring in its annual Green auto Guide. However range anxiety is still a big problem for non-electric vehicle owners so every mile counts.

Electric vehicles and cold weather don't mix. Drivers can access these locations through AAA's mobile app or TripTik Planner. Owning an electric vehicle in these regions just requires some additional planning.

Each vehicle would be placed on a dynamometer (typically used to chart vehicle power output) in a climate controlled environment.

The impacts on range are less dramatic when the climate control system is turned off. You can see that the Nissan Leaf had the least change in range in both cold and hot climate. Since its founding in 1902, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.

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