Electric cars during winter

Batteries are bit a like people. Even to the point where batteries in an electric car perform best when at human body temperature – around 100F. However, during the winter, when temperatures fall below zero, both the amount of charge a battery can hold and the rate at which it can supply that charge to a car’s electric motor falls. Here are some tips to keep you e-mobile during winter.

Treat your electric car as you would yourself

The biggest favour you can do for your electric car is to keep it warm. Although most electric cars now have thermally-managed batteries to stop them from getting too cold to function and also to aid regenerative charging whilst on the move, keeping the car plugged in – even when it is fully charged – will keep the battery warm and help maximize range.

The second biggest favour you can do is to wrap-up warm yourself, as using the car’s heating system can radically decrease range. Range is a precious commodity at the best of times but electric cars can take twice (twice!) as long to charge in cold conditions.

Not everyone has a heated garage but keeping the car in some sort of shelter will help, as leaving it out all day in sub-zero temperatures can also halve range.

Tip: Seat heaters use less energy than the fans.

Too much power, too little grip

Electric motors develop nearly maximum torque the instant to put your foot down, and whilst this is great in dry, warm weather, it means that electric cars like to spin their wheels when less grip is available, particularly on snow or ice.

Many electric cars are also rear-wheel drive (Citroen C-Zero, Renault Twizy), meaning you can easily end up facing the wrong direction. Putting your car into its power-saving mode (which will limit torque) and pulling away gently will help you stay pointing straight ahead.

Like all cars a set of winter tyres will significantly increase grip, and Continental will soon release a custom winter tyre for electric cars.

1st tip: Lower temperatures mean lower tyre pressures. Keep them properly inflated for low rolling resistance and improved range.

2nd tip: If your tyre pressure is too high you’ll run out of grip sooner. You have been warned.

You don’t have to go down with a sinking ship…

We’ve all been in a situation where we thought we were going to run out of fuel. It’s not fun, but running out of charge whilst driving an electric car in freezing conditions is a far worse proposition.

Towing an electric vehicle is normally a bad idea unless you disengage the motor, so you’ll have to wait for a flatbed truck to pick you up, which could take hours. It’s impossible to accurately plan for every journey, and heavy traffic, roadworks and detours often catch us out, so if there’s any doubt just leave the car at home.

Tip: Driving an electric car is both fun and rewarding. Being stuck in snow on the side of the road isn’t – be realistic and use public transport if necessary.

With the right planning and organisation there’s no reason to forgo driving electric cars during the winter, but until advances in technology are made there are compromises to be managed.