Some people have been asking, do electric cars work in cold weather? Absolutely they do! But winter driving doesn’t always mean a winter wonderland, sometimes it just means preparing for the cold. People have been driving electric cars in cold weather for years with little or no trouble other than potentially shorter battery range. Here’s a few tips about driving an electric car in winter.
Preheat Before You Leave
One advantage to plug-in electric cars in the winter is they can use grid power before you drive. It makes far more sense to prepare for your drive while connected to grid power than use up battery range. If your electric car has the option to preheat the cabin while connected to the charger take advantage of that feature. Vehicles like the Tesla Model S and Nissan LEAF can be toasty warm for your departure. Use seat heaters if so equipped as they are more efficient at warming the occupants directly. Once you are on the way it will take far less power to maintain a comfortable cabin than if you had started cold leaving you parking spot.
Use The Right Tires
If you live in an area where winter tires are recommended, by all means use them. Snow tires are able to stay pliable in low temperatures and typically feature a special tread design that helps grip the wintery roads.
While it is common for electric vehicles to use special low rolling resistance tires, during the winter months you want all the grip you can get. Luckily with the growing popularity of electric vehicles there are now specific winter tires made for EVs. These EV winter tires are designed specifically to address the needs of an electric car by balancing low rolling resistance while still offering winter weather traction. Just make sure to change into winter tires before the weather shifts.
If your warm driving style is already easy going to maximize battery range, driving an electric car in cold weather will be an easy transition. The roads will likely be slippery so easing into acceleration and braking will help keep things under control.
Keep in mind that most electric vehicles are fairly heavy, so there is a lot of momentum built up even under normal driving. Loads of low-end torque make for spirited driving in warmer months, but you will need to dial back the accelerator pedal in slippery conditions. If your vehicle has “ECO” mode, use it. You may have a winter/snow driving mode as well so check your owner’s manual.
Turn Off Regenerative Braking
As amazing as regenerative braking is at recouping energy and extending driving range, it can also cause problems on slippery roads. Normally when the driver lifts their foot off the accelerator pedal the regenerative braking system kicks in to help slow the vehicle. This is great in dry weather, but the braking action that recovers electricity can cause the wheel to lose grip on slick roads making for erratic handling. People driving electric cars in winter conditions need to pay attention to the road surface. If the road conditions are slippery, it is best to turn off your regenerative braking system and go back to using your trusty brake pedal.
Your Range May Vary
Depending on your vehicle, electric car battery life in cold weather will vary. If you have an older electric vehicle with less than 100 miles of range you will need to be as sparing with power as you can. Things like headlights, wipers, radio, seat heaters, battery heaters, fans, even power steering all take previous battery power. On the flip side, if your vehicle’s range is in the hundreds of miles and your trips around town are short, there’s no reason to skimp on the power. Of course this assumes you will recharge once you are done driving for the day.
Plan For An Emergency
This tip applies to everyone on the road, but in an electric vehicle your winter emergency kit should include a portable 110v charger if you have one. Sure it is the slowest way to recharge, but it beats no charge at all if you are stuck at a friend’s house.
Check out all the EV-related products available on NAPAonline, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA Auto Care locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on taking care of an electric car battery in cold weather and learning more about electric cars in winter driving, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.
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