Driving an electric car in winter: think about range and gloves

E-car drivers usually no longer have to worry about the range of their vehicle. Usually. However, precautions must be taken in the cold. 

Driving in winter conditions is a challenge for many drivers. Snow and ice make conditions difficult. E-car drivers also have to cope with other difficulties. This includes cold as a range hog. Low temperatures mean stress for the batteries of electric cars. Drivers should take this into account when planning their route.

A little theory

The most important reason for the loss of range is physics. In general, chemical reactions take place more slowly at low temperatures than at high temperatures. In the case of e-car batteries, this mainly applies to ion transport. The electrically charged particles have to pass a liquid on their way between the positive and negative pole, the so-called electrolyte. This becomes thicker at low temperatures and can then only transport a small amount of cargo. This lowers the voltage in the battery. In order to be able to deliver the power required by the motor despite the lower voltage, the battery must increase the strength of the current delivered. Because power is the product of voltage and current - if one of the factors becomes smaller, the other must become larger in order to obtain the same product. However, increasing the amperage leads to a faster discharge of the battery. Depending on the battery and the existing energy management, the losses are higher or lower. In unfavorable conditions, between 30 and 50 percent less range is possible than in mild temperatures. E-car drivers therefore have to recharge more often.

But that's not all, there are other factors that have a negative impact on the range. In a conventionally powered vehicle, the waste heat from the combustion engine helps to heat the passenger compartment. Since the electric car lacks this heat source, the battery not only has to provide propulsion in winter, but also ensure a pleasant temperature in the interior. This also comes at the expense of range.

What to do about it?

Ideally, an e-car should be left in a garage at a temperature at least overnight in winter so that the battery does not get too cold in the first place. If the vehicle can still be charged at the home wallbox, all the better. You can also let the car preheat while charging. The energy required for this does not go out of range. This preheating function can be activated and individually set either via the vehicle menu or via the vehicle app. Of course, preheating also works at a public charging station.

If the vehicle has to be parked outside at night or during the day, it helps to carefully clear iced windows using an ice scraper in order to reduce the use of rear and, if available, front window heating. These helpers are practical, but they increase power consumption. The best thing to do is to avoid cozy interior temperatures generated by the heating and to use seat and steering wheel heating - if available - for a pleasant, comfortable climate for your very best and your hands. However, doing without heating power and traveling with fogged or icing windows is not an option. Security comes before reach.

Speaking of heating: modern e-cars are now often equipped with a heat pump as standard or at least at an additional cost. This helps to reduce electricity consumption when heating.

Adjust driving style

It is nothing new that the individual driving style influences consumption. This truism also applies to battery electric cars. So if you rely on sportiness in cold temperatures, you put additional strain on the range. On the other hand, cautious use of the service saves power consumption. If the car has an “eco mode”, it should be activated. It limits the force when starting and accelerating, which benefits consumption and thus the range.

What to do when it runs out

Before the range tends to zero, you should look for a charging option in good time. Navigation systems or smartphone apps show available charging stations nearby. Anyone who has previously only charged at home or at work should find out in advance how charging at a public charging station works. Which payment methods are there? How is a charging station activated? What does the loading cost? Do you have to have a cable with you? Nothing more stupid than to stand in front of the mountain or in front of the charging station like the much-cited ox in freezing temperatures.

Is there anything else?

E-cars also need suitable tires in winter conditions. Winter tires or all-season tires that are marked as winter tires with a snowflake symbol should be fitted. In addition, as with any other vehicle, the windscreen washer fluid must be provided with antifreeze. Of course, the lighting system should be perfect. There are also some practical things you should take with you in your car. This includes an ice scraper, a warm blanket and gloves. You can tell how important the latter are when you handle the charging cable and unprotected fingers in freezing cold.

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