Electric cars in winter: tips for maximizing range

Snowy landscape as seen from a car window
Do low temperatures affect the range of electric cars? Yes, but don’t worry, it's the same with endothermic-powered cars and it's nothing that will actually limit your freedom to travel electric even in winter, especially if you follow our tips.

Let’s take a look at the factors that impact the range of an electric car during winter and discuss the measures to ensure optimal electric travel anywhere, even in the colder months.


Batteries and cold weather


Electric car batteries do not like cold weather because it increases the internal resistance of the electrolyte, making ion exchange more difficult and thus decreasing the amount of energy available. Don’t worry, however, this is normal behavior that has no long-term consequences: once on the road, the battery will reach and maintain its optimal operating temperature.

What can be done to optimize consumption?

The colder your electric car is when you set out, the longer it will take for the car to reach optimal operating temperature. This is why it may be helpful not to park it outdoors (if you have the option) or to use a cover. That way you will reduce the time it takes the car to reach the ideal operating temperature.


Charging times in winter


Charging times in winter can also be affected by cold temperatures. The colder it gets, the longer it may take to charge the batteries. That’s why some electric cars are equipped with a preheater, which “prepares” the batteries for the ideal temperature to ensure the fastest possible charging and maximum capacity. This is primarily an issue when the car is cold. However, if your charging stop occurs during your journey, perhaps on the highway, the battery will already be warm.


Cabin heating and energy consumption


The electric car’s engine is extremely efficient, converting almost all the electrical energy from the battery into mechanical energy for propulsion. Unlike internal combustion engine vehicles, it doesn’t “lose” energy as heat, and therefore, during the winter months, it can’t utilize part of that heat to warm the cabin.

In electric vehicles, all the energy for heating the cabin comes from the battery itself. However, there’s excellent news: newer electric vehicles come equipped with a heat pump, which, due to its high efficiency, can effectively warm the cabin while consuming very little energy. Another convenient feature is that, unlike internal combustion engine vehicles, electric cars don’t need to be running to initiate cabin heating. This allows for pre-heating the cabin before starting the journey, ensuring a warm interior at the time of departure. Additionally, if cabin pre-heating is done while the vehicle is still connected to the charging station, it won’t impact the vehicle’s range.


Low temperatures of lubrication fluids

All cars, whether electric or endothermic, have lubricants, which need to operate within an ideal temperature range to perform their best. Some electric cars have lubrication fluid in the transmission, which naturally thickens in winter and therefore needs to warm up before it can function at its best again. This is a problem that mostly occurs in very cold temperatures, below freezing, and in urban cycles because when traveling on highways the high speed quickly heats up all the car’s components.


Winter tires


Winter tires have a more grooved tread to better grip icy or snowy surfaces. This affects the performance of the car, both electric and internal combustion engine. But it is a more than logical compromise: much better to travel safe if in return there is only a few miles of range to give up. Even more so on electric cars, which, thanks to their low center of gravity, on average provide better road holding than conventional vehicles.


Cold air is an additional obstacle, not only for electric cars


Another factor that affects the range of electric cars in winter is air density. Perhaps you’ve never thought about it, but cold air is denser than warm air and is therefore more “strenuous” to drive through. Your electric car is forced to expend more energy to make its way in winter.

There is little you can do, in some cases you cannot go against nature.


The most important tip: low speed


So if you need to have an eye on keeping an electric car at peak efficiency in the winter, the best and all-weather expedient you can put into practice right away is to reduce speed.

In fact, air resistance increases exponentially with speed. Even 10 km/h less can save you an extra stop for charging.

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