Heater can reduce electric vehicle’s range

Posted at 3:15 p.m. on February 8, 2019

The Brillion News

MADISON – As freezing temperatures plague Wisconsin, electric vehicle owners may experience a decrease in driving range, and it can be compounded by the use of the vehicle’s interior climate control.

New research from AAA reveals that when the mercury dips to 20°F and the HVAC system is used to heat the inside of the vehicle, the average driving range is decreased by 41 percent. This means for every 100 miles of combined urban/highway driving, the range at 20°F would be reduced to 59 miles.

When colder temperatures hit, AAA urges electric vehicle owners to be aware of a reduction in range and the need to charge more often to minimize the chance of being stranded by a dead battery.

“The appeal of electric vehicles continues to grow since a greater variety of designs and options with increased range have come onto the market,” said Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for AAA. “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.”

An electric vehicle with a compromised driving range will require charging more often, which increases the cost to operate the vehicle. For instance, AAA’s study found that the use of heat when it’s 20°F outside adds almost $25 more for every 1,000 miles when compared to the cost of combined urban and highway driving at 75°F.

“The research clearly shows that electric vehicles thrive in more moderate climates, except the reality is most Americans live in an area where temperature fluctuates,” said Megan McKernan, manager of Automotive Research Center. “Automakers are continually making advances to improve range, but with this information, drivers will be more aware of the impacts varying weather conditions can have on their electric vehicles.”

There are some precautions electric vehicle owners can take during colder and hotter times of year to help offset potential reductions in driving range. AAA recommends drivers:

  1. Plan ahead. When drivers are aware of the weather conditions before heading out, they can plan for more frequent stops for charging as well as identify the location of charging stations.

  2. Make time to “pre-heat” the inside of the vehicle while still connected to the charger.

  3. If possible, park the vehicle in a garage to help stabilize cabin temperature.

Electric vehicle range performs best in areas with warm weather year-round such as Florida, Hawaii and California. Operating in areas with extreme cold is possible, but drivers need to know the limitations frigid weather imposes on electric vehicles.

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