As we talked about many times the range of an electric vehicle isn’t static like it is on a gasoline vehicle. Look, if you have a gasoline vehicle and it has a 20-gallon gas tank and you get 20 miles per gallon, you have a 400-mile range that doesn’t change from day to day. Yeah, if you do highway driving or city or up and down you might maybe get 18 miles per gallon or 22 miles per gallon on different days. But largely your range is going to be the same.  

On electric vehicles, that’s not true. It can vary dramatically from day to day based on a few different factors, the temperature is one of them. One major automotive publication did some testing on popular EVs from Ford, Hyundai, Tesla, and Volkswagen, and they found that weather takes a toll on the range of electric vehicles because the car must manage both battery and cabin temperatures. What does that mean? Well, an EV battery has to be maintained at a certain temperature and the cabin does too. You want to heat your car when you’re driving if it’s cold outside. The heating of a gasoline vehicle real simple. Your engine already gives off heat from burning the gas and the combustion process. It goes out through the tailpipe and they just divert some of that to heat up the car and heat up the cabin. An electric vehicle does not have an intrinsic source of heat, there’s nothing burning. So you have to use the electricity to run a heater. 

Well, if you’ve ever run an electric heater in your house you know what kind of power that takes. Think of the highest capacity electrical appliances in your house: your hot water heater, your dryer, and your stove. Those are three devices in your house that all run usually on 220-volt power. Every other device like lights and radios and TVs runs on 110-volts and very low wattage and very low amperage. But your oven is 220 and has got the big plug in the back. Your dryer, imagine your dryer plug. You can probably see that one, that’s a big huge plug. Your hot water heater is probably hardwired, but it’s also probably high voltage. 

What do all three of those things have in common? They all heat something up. Your dryer heats up clothes, your oven heats up the food, and your hot water heater heats up hot water. Heating items with electricity is a very inefficient process. Basically, you’re just using resistance to waste electricity to turn it into heat. Well if you need to do that in an electric vehicle, you’re using all that electrical capacity to heat something instead of to drive something. So heating a vehicle is going to use up a lot of power.

What about warm weather? That might affect the two because warm-weather batteries aren’t as efficient. What are the actual real-world results? Well, this was done I believe by consumer reports. And they took each car was tested in the same manner by the same drivers, they drove in a caravan. So they’re all going the same speed and they drove it on different days a frigid one, a mild one, and a warm one. What they found is cold weather zaps about 20-25% of the range compared to mild weather. According to the magazine, the test proves that the EV range is not an absolute metric. Whether hills, speed, cargo, or passengers can have an impact, the bottom line is the test underscores the importance of taking range claims as general guides and being mindful of the moving target nature of EV range. 

So as you’re looking at an electric vehicle used for your transportation, make sure that you’re not using the range as an absolute for your needs. For example, if you have to commute 200 miles back and forth to work each day and the range on your car is 200 miles, you might not always get 200 miles on cold days or maybe if you have cargo in the trunk, it might actually be a little bit less. So you might have to recharge at work or recharge somewhere along the way. So be mindful of electric vehicle range. Let us know what you think in the comments and also whether or not this cold weather effect will change the long-term usability of the battery meaning that it kinda wears out faster than if you use it in normal conditions.