Consumer Reports: Electric Vehicle Range in the Winter Weather

Those unfamiliar with EVs might not know too much about the range of such vehicles. Consumer Reports investigated how much the cold weather impacts an electric vehicle’s range and if buyers should be concerned with it. There might be a better option for some people in colder climates.

Consumer Reports on electric vehicle range in the winter

Consumer Reports on electric vehicle range in the winter weather
Consumer Reports on electric vehicle range in the winter weather | Andrew Chin/Getty Images

If you have ever looked into purchasing an electric vehicle, you know that the range is a significant selling or breaking point. Like miles per gallon, having a long range is imperative for those who do a lot of driving. One of the major drawbacks of electric vehicles happens to be the impact of weather on the range.

Consumer Reports says that one of the main culprits of cold weather on electric vehicles is the battery. While the battery sits in cold weather, it takes longer to maintain the battery temperature and keep the cabin warm. According to the Norwegian Automobile Federation, the cold can reduce the range of an electric vehicle by 20% or so. In addition to that, charging time is extended in the cold.

Inside the vehicle, running the cabin heater can drain a battery quickly. Seat heaters, window defrosters, and other warming devices also aid in draining the battery faster.

When do electric vehicles see a steep decline in battery life?

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During Consumer Reports testing, the experts found that temperatures below 20°F have a significant impact on electric vehicles. CR suggested that buyers consider the daily commute and how consistently the weather gets cold in the area. If you have a long commute and are considering a vehicle with a low range, it might be better to look into a longer range vehicle. The good news is that most electric cars have a longer range these days.

If you only have one car and live in the cold weather, an electric vehicle might not be the right choice—especially an older one with reduced battery life. In addition to this, the weather can be unpredictable. You don’t want to be caught in a winter storm with an electric vehicle that doesn’t offer a long enough range.

A plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) might be a better option for some buyers

Consumer Reports suggests that to get the most out of your EV during the winter, try to keep it in the garage. The experts also recommend keeping it on the charger when not in use. “It takes less energy to maintain a temperature than to raise it, so this can make a significant difference in range,” Sam Abuelsamid of Navigant says. Navigant is a research firm that specializes in automotives.

If you live in a climate with extreme temperatures that might be too much for an electric vehicle, perhaps a plug-in hybrid would be a better choice. A plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) has the advantage of plugging in when needed and a gasoline engine for longer trips. This can also be used when the temperatures might not be conducive to using the electric motor. Until technology improves a bit more, those in extremely cold climates might want to steer away from the traditional electric vehicle.

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