EVs Don’t Like The Cold, but Neither Do Gas-Powered Cars

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Have you noticed some changes in how your electric vehicle is performing in cold weather this winter? Perhaps you’ve noted that a fully-charged battery doesn’t take you as far as it did in July. Or maybe it takes a bit longer to charge that cold battery.

Both of these observations are true and well known to those in the industry. But before you get disgruntled, here’s some perspective: Gasoline-powered cars and trucks also suffer performance issues during the winter season. The gasoline pumped during the winter months helps to start a vehicle in cold weather, but the performance is lower due to less energy density. Also, engine oil is thicker in winter, which reduces mileage.

The website FuelEconomy.gov, run by the U.S. Department of Energy, reports: “Fuel economy tests show that, in short-trip city driving, a conventional gasoline car’s gas mileage is about 12% lower at 20°F than it would be at 77°F. It can drop as much as 22% for very short trips (3 to 4 miles). The effect on hybrids is worse. Their fuel economy can drop about 31% to 34% under these conditions.”

“We all have a harder time in cold weather,” says Rick Wallace, who specializes in transportation at the Oregon Department of Energy. “I don’t go as far in this weather either, and I’m just walking!”

Wallace says the biggest challenge EV owners face is reduced range: “The average gasoline-powered car range is 420 miles. If I lose 20 percent of that, I can live with that. But if I have an older EV that can only go 80 miles, and I lose 20 percent of that, that might require a little more planning and awareness.”

Several State of Oregon agencies partnered to develop the Go Electric Oregon website to help people learn more about EVs, including how and where to charge electric cars.

Wallace added that the first Nissan LEAF in 2010 got about 84 miles per charge. The 2019 LEAF gets 151 miles a charge, on average.

Sales of EVs in 2018 were off the charts, in Oregon and across the nation, said Wallace. As EVs and their lithium-ion batteries continue to improve, and as Oregon’s network of charging stations continues to grow, he thinks range anxiety will begin to disappear.

The good news is, there are some things you can do to improve your mileage in winter, whether you drive gas, hybrid, or electric. The webpage below explains all of the factors that affect cold weather mileage and steps you can take to get more bang for the buck! https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/coldweather.shtml

Related, you can find more tips and resources for hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and EVs here: