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EV Range in Cold Weather

EV Range in Cold Weather

Electric vehicles (EVs) have become increasingly popular as a cleaner alternative to gasoline-powered cars. Fitted with powerful lithium-ion battery packs, EV drivers have the luxury of replenishing at home overnight or at nearby charging stations. However, this type of battery, similar to those used in smartphones, are notorious for being sensitive to extreme temperatures.

While warm weather can lead to EV batteries overheating, cold temperatures can cause them to operate sluggishly. In freezing conditions, EV batteries have reduced power capacity and tend to drain energy faster. This results in a shorter driving range during cold weather, as more electricity is required to maintain the battery's temperature, provide heat, and warm the car seats.

Additionally, snow, sleet, and other harsh weather conditions can make driving more difficult, and even strong winds can reduce an EV's driving range.

Why The Cold Affects Electric Vehicle Range

Cold weather can cut electric vehicle range due to several factors, primarily chemical and mechanical. In cold temperatures, chemical and physical reactions within the battery slow down. This inhibition of chemical reactions and increased resistance to physical processes reduce the available power of the EV. According to studies, EVs can lose up to 30% of their range in cold weather when temperatures range between –7 C and –1. The exact amount varies depending on the model, battery size, and thermal management features.

The primary reason for reduced battery range in winter is the need for cabin heating to keep the driver and passengers warm. Unlike conventional cars, which utilize the "waste heat" from the internal combustion engine to heat the cabin, electric vehicles have efficient motors that generate minimal heat. Therefore, EVs must draw energy from the high-voltage battery to power the heaters, reducing the battery capacity available for driving.

While studies, including those by the American Automobile Association (AAA), have investigated the impact of cold weather on EV range, many of these tests are conducted in laboratory settings or with limited vehicle samples. This ongoing research project uses a much larger data set and real-world driving conditions to better understand the effects of cold weather on EV range.

Factors Affecting EV Range in Cold Weather

Cold weather can reduce vehicle range and make charging challenging due to several reasons:

  1. Battery Chemistry: Chemical reactions in lithium-ion batteries slow down in cold temperatures, reducing their efficiency and capacity to store energy.

  2. Increased Energy Demand: Heating the cabin and battery requires additional energy, which draws from the battery, reducing the range.

  3. Regenerative Braking: In cold conditions, regenerative braking is less effective, as cold batteries cannot accept charge as quickly.

  4. Increased Rolling Resistance: Cold air is denser, and road friction can increase with snow or ice, requiring more energy to maintain speed.

Impact of Cold Weather on EV Range

Cold weather can significantly impact the range of electric vehicles (EVs) and make charging more challenging. Here are the key reasons why:

  1. Reduced Battery Efficiency:

    • Slower Chemical Reactions: In cold temperatures, the chemical reactions within the battery slow down, which means the battery holds less power and discharges more quickly.

    • Increased Internal Resistance: Cold temperatures increase the battery's internal resistance, further limiting its ability to deliver power effectively.

  2. Increased Energy Consumption:

    • Cabin Heating: Unlike traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles that use waste heat from the engine to maintain cabin heat, EVs rely on their battery to power electric heaters. This added demand for heat reduces the available range.

    • Battery Heating: To maintain optimal operating temperature, the battery itself often needs to be heated, which also consumes additional energy.

  3. Challenging Driving Conditions:

    • Snow and Sleet: Driving on snow or ice-covered roads increases friction and resistance, requiring more power to maintain speed and traction, thus reducing range.

    • Strong Winds: Winter storms often bring strong winds, creating additional aerodynamic drag and further decreasing the vehicle's range.

  4. Charging Difficulties:

    • Slower Charging: Charging an electric vehicle (EV) parked in cold weather conditions can be challenging because the battery needs to be warmed up before it can accept a charge efficiently. Many EVs have preconditioning systems to warm the battery, but this process uses additional energy and time.

    • Extended Charging Sessions: The need for preconditioning can extend the duration of charging sessions and reduce overall charging efficiency.

Tips to Avoid Range Loss During Winter

While range loss in colder climates is temporary and causes no long-term damage to the vehicle, there are steps an EV driver can take to lessen its effect on his daily driving:


Warming up your car while it’s still charging—known as preconditioning—can conserve battery energy. This can be done using a mobile app or setting a departure time in the vehicle's system. Preconditioning ensures the cabin and battery are at optimal temperatures before driving.

Using Efficient Heating Options

Using seat warmers and heated steering wheels instead of cabin heaters can save energy. These features use less power and provide targeted warmth, preserving battery capacity for driving.

Battery Management

Keeping the EV plugged into its charging station during cold weather allows the thermal management system to draw power from the grid to maintain battery temperature. Setting a maximum charge limit of 70-80% can help manage battery health and range.

Adjusting Driving Habits

Driving at moderate speeds, minimizing rapid acceleration, and avoiding frequent short trips can help maximize EV range in cold weather. Lowering regenerative braking settings on icy roads can also improve handling and efficiency.

Using Navigation to Precondition Battery

Many modern EVs can precondition the battery for optimal charging when using in-car navigation to head to a charger. This reduces charging time and helps maintain range.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are more efficient than traditional electric heaters in cold weather. They can extract heat from the outside air, even at low temperatures, and use it to produce cabin heat, significantly reducing the energy required for heating.

Comparison with Gasoline Cars

Gasoline cars are less affected by cold weather compared to EVs. ICE vehicles generate significant waste heat during operation, which can be used to warm the cabin without additional fuel consumption. However, cold weather can still affect gasoline cars by increasing fuel consumption due to higher engine resistance and increased use of auxiliary systems like defrosters and seat heaters.

Cold Weather Performance

  • EVs: Experience significant range loss primarily due to battery efficiency and the energy required for cabin heating.

  • Gasoline Cars: Have less range impact as they utilize waste heat from the engine, but fuel consumption increases slightly.

Maintenance and Reliability

  • EVs: Generally have fewer moving parts and lower maintenance needs, but cold weather can impact battery performance and longevity.

  • Gasoline Cars: Require regular maintenance (oil changes, coolant, etc.) and can experience starting issues in extreme cold.

Which EVs Do Well in Cold Weather

Some electric vehicles are designed with advanced features that help them perform better when temperatures plunge. These features include sophisticated thermal management systems, heat pumps, and efficient battery designs. Here are a few examples of EVs that excel in winter conditions:

Audi e-tron

Image courtesy of Audi

  • Winter Range: 80% of Original EPA Range at 32°F

  • Heat Pump: Yes

  • Notes: The Audi e-tron has a heat pump that recaptures waste heat, enhancing efficiency in cold weather. This design helps maintain a significant portion of its range even in lower temperatures.

BMW i3

  • Winter Range: 85% (94% with Range Extender) of Original EPA Range at 32°F

  • Heat Pump: Available on some models

  • Notes: The BMW i3 performs well in winter, especially models equipped with a heat pump and the optional range extender. Despite its small size and rear-wheel drive, it maintains a substantial portion of its range in cold conditions.

Chevy Bolt

  • Winter Range: 68% of Original EPA Range at 32°F

  • Heat Pump: No

  • Notes: The Chevy Bolt is highly efficient and offers good handling in snowy conditions. However, it lacks a heat pump, which leads to a more significant reduction in range during winter.

Hyundai Ioniq 5

  • Winter Range: 97% of Original EPA Range at 32°F

  • Heat Pump: On AWD models

  • Notes: The Hyundai Ioniq 5 demonstrates excellent winter performance, particularly in all-wheel-drive (AWD) models. It comes with a standard battery warmer and preconditioning features, which help maintain nearly the full EPA range in cold weather.

Tesla Model 3

Image courtesy of Tesla

  • Winter Range: 50% of Original EPA Range at 32°F

  • Heat Pump: 2021 models onwards

  • Notes: Tesla Model 3 models from 2021 onwards include a patented heat pump system that significantly reduces range loss in cold weather. Its robust thermal management system ensures better efficiency during winter.

Tesla Model Y

  • Winter Range: 48% of Original EPA Range at 32°F

  • Heat Pump: Yes

  • Notes: The Tesla Model Y features an advanced thermal management system known as the "octovalve," which ensures efficient heating and reduces range loss in cold weather. This system helps maintain performance and range during winter conditions.

Charging EVs in Cold Weather: Level 1 vs. Level 2 Chargers

In cold weather, Level 1 chargers may not effectively counteract the rapid discharge rates of cold EV batteries, often resulting in extended charging times. Level 2 chargers, offering faster charging rates, are more suitable for cold climates as they minimize exposure to low temperatures and enhance battery efficiency. Preconditioning the battery before charging—warming it to the optimal temperature—allows the battery to accept the charge more efficiently and maintain better performance. This strategy is crucial for ensuring efficient charging during colder months.


Cold weather poses significant challenges for EVs, primarily due to reduced battery efficiency and increased energy demands for heating. However, with advancements in thermal management, preconditioning, and heat pump technology, many EVs are becoming more capable of handling winter conditions. By adopting the EV battery charging and driving best practices, EV owners can lessen the impact of cold weather on their vehicle's range, ensuring reliable performance throughout the year.


  • How much EV range is lost in cold weather?

    EVs can lose 30% of their range in cold weather. The exact amount varies depending on the model, battery size, and thermal management features. Cabin heating and battery efficiency decline in cold temperatures contribute significantly to this range loss.

  • How cold is too cold for EVs?

    EVs start to experience significant range loss and performance issues below 20°F (-7°C). Extreme cold, particularly below -10°F (-23°C), can further degrade battery efficiency and range, making it challenging to maintain optimal performance.

  • How do you maximize EV range in cold weather?

    To maximize EV range in cold weather, precondition the vehicle while charging, use seat and steering wheel heaters instead of cabin heaters, drive moderately, reduce regenerative braking on icy roads, and keep the battery warm by storing the car plugged in.

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