Some of the chilliest, snowiest countries on earth have the highest rates of driving electric vehicles (EVs). Yet one of the most common questions from people who are considering getting an EV is, “What about winter driving?”
Norway outpaces all other countries in the number of (EVs) per person – 81 EVs per 1,000 residents. Next in line: Iceland and Sweden, with 37 per 1,000 and 21 per 1,000, respectively, compared with 5 per 1,000 people in the United States in 2020. Those numbers are rising.
Still, it’s a legitimate question that consumers need to consider in deciding which EV is right for them. As with choosing any kind of car, the key is fitting the right car to your particular needs. No one EV is perfect for everybody. Do you drive on rough terrain requiring four-wheel-drive and a high clearance from the ground to the undercarriage, or live in a city with snowplowed streets? Does your typical daily driving average 40 miles or 200 miles? Different EV models and different sizes of battery packs can meet those needs.
Usually when people say, “What about EVs in winter?” they want to know about reduced battery performance in colder temperatures. All cars are less efficient in cold weather, and that truth is more pronounced in EVs. Gasoline vehicles lose up to 20%-33% in fuel efficiency in 20-degree weather. At freezing temperatures, EVs can lose up to 35% of their range.
But here’s an important consideration -- each model performs differently. The EV research company Recurrent studied 7,000 EVs to compare driving in warm and cold climates. The luxury Jaguar I-Pace EV showed only a 3% difference in range in different temperatures, while the Chevy Bolt’s range shrank by 32% in winter months. See the chart below. The Jaguar drove around 220-225 miles and the Bolt varied from around 230 miles in summer to approximately 160 in winter. The changes are temporary; batteries return to peak performance with warmer weather.
Of course, how far you can drive is but one consideration. Drive Electric Vermont offers handy tips on driving EVs in winter. Because the heavy battery pack is located under the car, the weight improves traction, especially with winter tires. Many modern EVs come with heat pumps, electric seat warmers, and heated steering wheels for greater efficiency. Preheating an EV while it is plugged in can melt snow and ice, defrost the charge port, and warm the interior using electricity from the grid instead of tapping the batteries.
As one Norwegian who is accustomed to driving his EV in temperatures below zero said in a social media post, “preheating is your best friend.” But New Hampshire drivers already know that. And with an EV, the preheating can be done with cleaner, cheaper, domestic electricity instead of gasoline.
By Sherry Boschert, Chair, Lebanon EV Subcommittee