AAA: Electric Car Owners Need To Charge More Frequently In Freezing Temperatures

Lloyd Doyle
February 9, 2019

It is no secret that battery efficiency is dependent on the temperature. "If you want to go somewhere far in the cold, you're going to be using more power".

AAA's director of automotive engineering, Greg Brannon, said in a statement, "As long as drivers understand that there are limitations when operating electric vehicles in more extreme climates, they are less likely to be caught off guard by an unexpected drop in driving range".

A 41 percent decrease in performance in a vehicle such as the Chevrolet Bolt would bring the cars mile range down to just 140 miles per charge - but the Volt has a backup gas engine.

At 20°F, the cars lost an average of 12% of their range, relative to the baseline temperature of 75°F, whereas they lost only 4% in the warmer 95°F scenario.

The automobile club tested the cars at 20°F (-6°C) and 95°F (35°C) comparing the range to when they were tested at 75°F (25°C), according to the report.

HVAC use results in significant reductions of driving range and equivalent fuel economy. When the cabin heater was flipped on, the tests showed that range dropped an astounding 41 percent. 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.


The test examined five different electric vehicles: the 2018 BMW i3s, 2018 Chevrolet Bolt, 2018 Nissan Leaf, 2017 Tesla Model S 75D and 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf.

Test vehicles were selected using a pre-determined set of criteria such as availability for sale throughout the US with a minimum EPA-estimated driving range of 100 miles. The company said the range dropped by roughly 1 percent at 95 degrees, but it would not release a percentage for cold weather. Extreme temperatures certainly play a role in diminishing driving range, but the use of HVAC in these conditions - particularly the heat - has by far the greatest effect. One can infer that even the number that Tesla would provide would be an unflattering one, so kept it to themselves.

When colder temperatures hit, AAA urges electric vehicle owners to be aware of a reduction in range and the need to charge more often to minimize the chance of being stranded by a dead battery.

A new study by AAA has confirmed what Tesla, BMW and Nissan electric auto owners have long suspected - cold weather can dramatically sap their range. According to the Department of Energy, a gasoline vehicle can drop its gas mileage by 12-22% is sub-20°F weather. It says electric cars can still be used in extreme climates with a little extra planning.

But for those that are still learning about electric cars and deciding on whether or not they should buy one, it is important for them to realize some of these short-comings so that they don't come in with misinformed expectations regarding electric vehicle ranges. With lower-than-average ownership costs, increased driving ranges and the latest advanced safety features, AAA believes there is a strong future for electric vehicles.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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