An electric car charges in B.C. (Black Press Media files)

Cold weather can cut electric car range over 40 per cent: study

The automobile club tested the cars at -6.7 C and 35 C

Cold temperatures can sap electric car batteries, temporarily reducing their range by more than 40 per cent when interior heaters are used, a new study found.

The study of five electric vehicles by AAA also found that high temperatures can cut into battery range, but not nearly as much as the cold. The range returns to normal in more comfortable temperatures.

Many owners discovered the range limitations last week when much of the country was in the grips of a polar vortex. Owners of vehicles made by manufacturers including Tesla, the top-selling electric vehicle company in the U.S., complained on social media about reduced range and frozen door handles during the cold snap.

“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,” Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering, said in a statement.

AAA tested the BMW i3s, Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf from the 2018 model year, and the 2017 Tesla Model S 75D and Volkswagen e-Golf. All have a range of at least 100 miles per charge. They were tested on a dynamometer, which is like a treadmill, in a climate-controlled cell.

The automobile club tested the cars at -6.7 C and 35 C, comparing the range to when they were tested at 24 C, according to a report on the study.

At -6.7 C, the average driving range fell by 12 per cent when the car’s cabin heater was not used. When the heater was turned on, the range dropped by 41 per cent, AAA said.

At 35 C, range dropped 4 per cent without use of air conditioning, and fell by 17 per cent when the cabin was cooled, the study found.

For example, AAA’s testers determined that the Tesla’s range when fully charged at 24 C was 239 miles, but it fell 91 miles, or 38 per cent, at -6.7 C.

In a statement, Tesla disputed the AAA results. The company said that based on data collected from its cars on the road, “the average Model S customer doesn’t experience anywhere near that decrease in range.” The company said the range dropped by roughly 1 per cent at 35 C, but it would not release a percentage for cold weather.

AAA said it followed test procedures drawn up by SAE, an auto engineering trade group.

When the temperature tumbled to 20 degrees last week in Hickory, North Carolina, near Charlotte, Jason Hughes noticed the range fall when he drove his Tesla Model 3 on the commute from home to work.

“It would easily use double the amount of power for that 15-mile trip,” said Hughes, who owns four Teslas and runs a business that refurbishes and sells salvaged Tesla parts.

The cars use energy to heat the battery coolant in cold weather, as well as for heating the cabin, Hughes said. Range would take a hit mainly for short trips, and the decrease wouldn’t be as large on longer trips once the battery and cabin are heated, Hughes said.

“It’s definitely an issue,” he said. “If you want to go somewhere far in the cold, you’re going to be using more power.”

Range would be reduced further by extreme cold in northern states, he said.

AAA recommends that drivers heat or cool their cars while still plugged in to a charging station. It says electric cars can still be used in extreme climates with a little extra planning.

Tom Krisher, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Barlow Creek 4-H gives back

As part of Club to Club Exchange, 4-H members repaired and refinished bleachers at Alex Fraser Park

Quesnel River Archers win eight medals in Vanderhoof

Dan Yalowega won the meet’s hunter round

Forestry Ink: Recent government reports should help logging contractors and truck drivers

Columnist Jim Hilton looks at recommendations from a logging contractor sustainability review

Prince George RCMP seize firearms in Highway 97 arrest

The suspects were in a vehicle that was reported stolen to the Quesnel RCMP on July 11

Quesnel is getting a new junior school

Education Minister Rob Fleming announced a new school will be built on the Maple Drive site

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

How much do you know about the moon?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, see how well you know space

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Most Read