One of the most frequent questions, particularly this time year is
“How well does your electric car get on in winter?”
The basic answer is “pretty well actually, not as well as in summer, a bit like fossil fuel cars”
There are some specific issue though, which i’ll try to explain, these are just personal thoughts about my Leaf, other EVs may vary.
1) Battery Capacity. This goes down in the winter, it seems less able to store anergy at low temperatures, especially under 5c. I think this affects ‘range’ by 5-10%. Charging also seems to take slightly longer.The leaf has occasionally needed to start charging earlier than 11pm in order to have a full charge by 7am, but this won’t be an issue with charging at 16A or above.
There is some discussion if it is better to charge as soon as getting home to charge while the battery is warm, or try to charge so that charging stops just before leaving, and that the battery is then warm. I’ve only tried this a couple of times, and didn’t notice a massive empirical difference, so i suspect any effect is small. I still just leave it to do it’s normal off peak charge from 11pm.
2) Heater use. As this energy is all coming from the battery, using the heater will use battery charge. Again, this can result in as much as 10% drop in range. Heated seats help reduce the need for the car heater and I’ve even got a 12V heated blanket, which works really well. However, the leaf has a pre-heat function, so it can be warm when you get in, you just use the in car timer, or remote smart phone app to activate the heating. If you do this while plugged in, it will use mains electricity rather than the battery.My children have yet to experience getting into a frozen car first thing in the morning without this…
Some of the plug in hybrids e.g. Toyota prius, do not have this, which may limit “EV only” use in the winter. The leaf heater takes a long time to heat up without a pre-heat, unlike a fossil fuel car which has heat as a ‘free’ by product of it’s inefficiency, the EV needs to generate heat from scratch. It’s mildly annoying for short journeys where it doesn’t get time to heat up, and you don’t want to use the battery with a pre-heat.
3) Weather. Rain, wind, cold tyres, colder, denser air – all reduce car efficiency. This is true of fossil fuel cars too, which is presumably why land speed records are set in hot dry salt lakes! The winter weather also increases traffic congestion, so journeys take longer, use more energy.
4) Driving in snow and ICE (the frozen water variety, not internal combustion engine). This is better than I expected. The leaf is heavy, but with pretty even weight districbution over all 4 wheels. The lack of clutch means that wheel spin is a lot less frequent than in a fossil fuel car. It seems easier to get the car moving gently. Last year I put winter tyres on, this year i’m going to try without. I was worried we wouldn’t be able to get up our icy hill to get home and charge, but it seemed better than i thought it would be, and easier to get up the hill than our FWD fossil fuel saab!
Overall i’m happy with the Leaf’s winter performance, we need to top up the battery during the day a bit more than in the summer, and plug in more so that we can use the pre-heat even if we don’t need to charge, but the pre-heat warmth helps offset many of the downsides!
Here’s a link to some more articles about EVs in winter.