Technology

We finally know the autonomy of electric vehicles in winter

Battery-powered devices generally do not like the cold as it reduces their autonomy. This also applies to electric cars, even if their relation to winter is like a Facebook status: it is complicated.

Lithium batteries generally do not like cold. In the case of smaller rechargeable batteries, too long exposure to freezing temperatures can damage their components and permanently reduce their maximum autonomy.

Under the hood (or somewhere under the body) of an electric vehicle, the batteries are fortunately a little better protected from extreme temperatures. Builders add insulating materials and make sure that its temperature does not vary too much, in summer or winter.

That being said, even if the batteries are unlikely to be damaged by winter temperatures, their range suffers greatly. Not only does the cold limit its efficiency, but the need to heat the interior, the seats or even the steering wheel drains a little more energy once on the road. The autonomy of the vehicle is further reduced.

Keep in mind that the cold also negatively affects the range of gasoline vehicles. Natural Resources Canada estimates that at -7 ° C, a gasoline engine loses 12-23% of its efficiency. Since an internal combustion engine (also called a “heat” engine, as in “heat”) produces heat when started, this is less noticeable. Just go to refuel a little earlier to avoid breakdown.

>> Read also: Everything you need to know to drive an electric car in winter

Variable autonomy

The effect of cold on electric vehicles currently on the market varies from one model to another. This is what the first large comparative study on the subject reveals. It was held in the winter of 2020 by the Norwegian Automobile Federation (NAF).

The NAF tested 20 models of electric vehicles on the road. They traveled both through the city and on the highway, at speeds generally varying between 60 and 110 km / h. Once their batteries were depleted, recharging was done when it was -2 ° C. All vehicles were on the road for at least two hours to ensure their batteries reached a suitable temperature to be at their best recharging time.

Result: the loss of autonomy caused by the cold averaged 18.5%.

However, some models seem to suffer more from the cold than others. Thus, according to the NAF, the Chevrolet Bolt battery would lose 29.8% of its autonomy in cold weather, and the 423 km announced by the manufacturer is actually 297 km.

One of the best performing vehicles was the Hyundai Kona Electric. Its battery saw its autonomy shortened by just 9.9% during the test. The autonomy of this vehicle, according to European standards, is 449 km (the strictest American standard indicates 415 km). During the test, it was limited to 405 km.

Bear in mind that the loss of autonomy increases as the temperature decreases. In its own winter tests dating back to 2019, the American Automobile Association (AAA) had set the range reduction for electric vehicles from -40% to below -7 ° C (20 ° F).

The AAA, however, qualified its own results by stating that heating the living room had a major impact on its results. Heating the cabin of a Tesla Model S could reduce its range by 41%. When turning off the heating, this reduction was only 12%.

ModelAutonomyTest ResultDifferenceAudio e-tron 398 km341 km-14% Chevrolet Bolt 423 km 297 km -30% Kia Soul EV452 km352 km-22% Hyundai Kona EV 449 km 405 km-10% Nissan LEAF 270 km209 km-22% Nissan LEAF Plus385 km299 km -22% Tesla Model 3560 km 404 km -28% Tesla Model S 610 km 470 km -23% Tesla Model X 507 km 420 km -17%

(Norwegian Automobile Federation)

Loading is not always fast

Interesting detail: NAF also tested the winter charging speed of the 20 electric vehicle models at its disposal. These vehicles usually offer a fast charging mode between 10 and 80% charge. For vehicles with a load capacity greater than 50 kilowatts, the Audi e-tron quattro was the fastest to show 80% range, at 35 minutes.

Most of the other models took about an hour to reach the same threshold. This is notably better than the results of the models without fast charging, which took an hour or more to reach a charge level of 80%.

>> Read also: How to reduce the consumption of an electric car and Are you ready for the electric car?

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