This is bad news for EV drivers in cold climates.
Electric cars are still far from reaching mass adoption due to their higher cost and range limitations. As EV technology continues to evolve, these issues will start to dissipate - but owners have noticed a new problem with their electric cars. There have been reports of decreased range during the winter, with some Tesla owners reaching out to CEO Elon Musk to solve the issue. Since the batteries are manufactured by Panasonic, not Tesla, there is very little Musk can do. Tesla vehicles aren't the only ones suffering from the cold, other EVs are also affected. In fact, a new study by AAA shows that freezing temperatures may cut EV range by nearly half.
The research shows that the cold temperatures, in conjunction with the climate controls used to heat the inside of the car, can severely reduce the driving range of EVs. If the temperate reaches below 20 degrees Fahrenheit and the HVAC system is used to heat the car, the range can be decreased by up to 41%. In practical terms, this would reduce a 100-mile driving range to just 59 miles in these conditions. AAA advises EV owners to make sure they have enough range before driving their EV in the cold and to factor in these reductions in their daily commute.
"The appeal of electric vehicles continues to grow since a greater variety of designs and options with increased range have come onto the market,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. "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.”
It isn't just cold weather that hurts EV range. When temperatures reach over 95 degrees Fahrenheit and drivers use air conditioning to cool the car, range decreases by around 17%. AAA tested the BMW i3s, Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, and Volkswagen e-Golf as part of the study.
"The research clearly shows that electric vehicles thrive in more moderate climates, except the reality is most Americans live in an area where temperature fluctuates,” said Megan McKernan, manager of Automotive Research Center. "Automakers are continually making advances to improve range, but with this information, drivers will be more aware of the impacts varying weather conditions can have on their electric vehicles.”