Extreme Temperatures Can Effect Your Electric Vehicle Range

In a study done by AAA, they found that extreme temperatures can effect electric vehicle range, sometimes as much as 50%.  As temperatures rise or drop, electric vehicle owners my experience a decrease in driving range, compounded by the use of the vehicles climate control system.

AAA tested five vehicles, the Chevy Bolt, BMW i3s, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S 75D and the Volkswagon E Gulf. All five vehicles have a minimum EPA estimated driving range of 100 miles. AAA simulated real world driving conditions on a dynamometer (think treadmill for cars) in a climate controlled environment.
To determine the effects on driving range, vehicles were tested in both hot and cold weather scenarios using the vehicles HVAC systems turned on and turned off.  They then compared those results to the results of driving in simulated 75 degree weather. 

The research by AAA found that when temperatures drop to 20 degrees and the vehicles heating system is used to heat the inside of the vehicle, the average driving range is cut by 41%. That means that an electric vehicle that normally gets 100 miles to the charge would only get 59 miles. AAA advises that drivers be aware of the reduction in range and the need to charge more often.  Furthermore, the study found that the use of heat when the outside temperature is 20 degrees adds  almost $25 for every 1,000 miles when compared to the cost of of combined urban and highway driving at an outside temperature of 75 degrees. 

 AAA also found that excessive heat can affect range as well. AAA's research showed that when the outside temperature is 95 degrees or more and air conditioning is used, driving range decreases by 17%.

Said AAA,

"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"

To help offset potential reductions in driving range during colder and hotter times AAA recommends that drivers:

  • 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. Drivers can access these locations through AAA’s Mobile app or TripTik Planner.
  • Make time to “pre-heat” or cool down the inside of the vehicle while still connected to the charger. This will reduce the demand on the vehicle’s battery to regulate cabin temperature at the onset of driving.
  • If possible, park the vehicle in a garage to help stabilize cabin temperature.