Electric cars are already the preferred energy-efficient option for many users over petrol and diesel vehicles. But what does a driver of an EV need to consider during the winter season? The working mechanism of Electric vehicles (EVs) somewhat changes as the weather becomes cold, and this article will briefly elaborate on those changes.
What happens to electric cars in cold weather
Electric vehicles (EVs) are powered by Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries that are negatively impacted by cold weather. Their charge-retaining capability decreases as the temperature drops, consequently reducing in overall driving range.
Moreover, EVs are required to work harder to heat themselves than those with internal combustion engines (ICEs). Much of the excess heat produced by ICEs is wasted in the summer but may be used to warm the cabin in the winter. On the other hand, EV’s motor being more energy efficient dissipates less heat, hence its battery consumes more power to warm itself and the cabin.
Factors affecting EV performance in cold weather
The ambient air temperature affects the energy efficiency of an electric vehicle in many ways.
Firstly and most obviously, battery efficiency is affected by temperature. EV batteries are intended to operate at an “optimal temperature” of around 20 °C. The colder or warmer the temperature, the less efficient a battery will be.
Secondly, while driving electric cars in cold weather, their driving range is significantly impacted because more power is required to keep the battery temperature constant and perform other energy-draining functions such as delivering heat to the cabin, driving defrosters, and warming the car seats.
Factors affecting EV efficiency in cold weather
Electric vehicles get efficiency issues with the decrease in temperature. The cold weather may reduce the effectiveness of EV tires, which increases drag and slows it down.
There are also issues over the effects of charging an electric car in severe temperatures since the temperature affects the chemical reaction and electron flow inside the battery. That doesn’t mean that one should not use an electric car in cold weather. EV owners should be aware of how much power they’re consuming on average and when they should charge, just as conventional car owners must pay more attention to the gas gauge in frigid weather.
How to increase EV battery life in cold weather
Lithium-ion batteries which are used in most electric vehicles might get some operational issues in cold weather. Since lower temperature impacts a battery’s ability to store and release energy, therefore in winter EV batteries get less efficient and take longer time to recharge. To mitigate the negative effects on EV battery life in cold weather and increase overall performance, you can take the steps given below:
1. Switch to Eco-Driving mode
The eco-driving mode in electric cars allows the use of battery power efficiently. Eco-driving mode enables energy-optimizing functions within an EV so that the battery consumes as little energy as possible while doing primary operations.
One of the primary features of eco-driving is regulated acceleration and deceleration. Eco-driving modes boost regenerative braking that helps to recharge the battery while driving and increase EV’s range.
Additionally, the eco-driving mode also includes the smart control of heating and air conditioning functions. For a smooth drive during winter, enable “ECO” mode as the vehicle runs on the road to increase driving performance.
2. Preconditioning the cabin
To maintain the battery temperature for efficient working, start the vehicle in the garage while it is still plugged in. Preheating the cabin through the grid’s power may increase its range and also save the battery. You can start your journey straight on the road in a warmed vehicle with a fully charged battery.
3. Protect the electric car from the cold
Garages and closed parking lots help to combat cold weather and its damaging effects on the battery. Whenever possible, park an electric car in the garage and keep it plugged in while parking. In cold temperatures to keep the battery in warm condition, the vehicle needs more power which can only be possible while the charger is connected.
Charging an EV in cold weather
Charging an electric vehicle in cold weather is another crucial task faced by EV owners.
Cold weather can affect the charging rate and the mileage range of an EV. But there are some important considerations for charging EVs in cold weather that help keep your vehicle running smoothly:
Plan ahead for the trips
Prepare in advance and prevent the battery’s charge level from becoming too low while traveling. About 15% to 20% of an EV’s charge capacity is reserved to heat the battery, so be sure you’re comfortably over this level before going on the road. When traveling a long distance, fast charging the battery when it falls below 80% state of charge will increase the available energy for the next part of the journey.
Level 2 charging at home
For home charging during winter, install a Level 2 charger which is faster than the standard Level 1 charger. Level 2 charger not only charges an EV at a faster rate but also helps to maintain battery temperature and keep it warm without putting extra stress. Research shows that the maximum state of charge can decrease when charging constantly in cold weather. Charging in a garage at home or at the workplace reduces the exposure or the vehicle to extreme weather conditions.
NEMA-4 rated charging for outside
To charge the EV outside ensure that it complies with NEMA-4 standards that are designed to operate normally from -22°F to 122°F. The functioning of EV chargers will be compromised if exposed to temperatures outside of this range.
Battery Management System (BMS)
Electric cars come with BMS installed that smartly monitors and regulates the charging speed. When the outside temperature is cold, BMS may limit your charging speeds to safeguard the battery. So, be patient when plugged into an electric vehicle for charging.
There is no way to control the outside weather, but there are certain strategies that can be implemented to lessen the negative impact of cold weather on electric vehicle (EV) functioning and increase performance. So, enjoy the outside weather and drive your favorite EV with all safety precautions and necessary conditions.