The latest figures from the SMMT confirm that electric vehicle uptake is accelerating, with 21,726 vehicles sold in November, equating to 18.8% of the market*. However, motorists embracing electrification for the first time need to consider the impact of harsh weather conditions on battery performance, says Venson Automotive Solutions.
Whilst the UK’s climate doesn’t typically fall below freezing temperatures, some experts predict that sub-zero conditions are on the cards this winter. That’s bad news for owners of some popular electric vehicles whose batteries are reported to reduce in range by as much as 52% at -5 degrees.
Alison Bell, Marketing Director at Venson Automotive Solutions comments, “With weather forecasters predicting freezing conditions this winter, EV drivers face a different set of challenges to keep their vehicles in tip-top condition. For example, the batteries that power EVs are very temperature sensitive, so bad weather can significantly reduce a car’s range and increase the length of time needed to recharge the battery.”
However, there are steps that drivers can take to maximise range if a big freeze sets in. This includes using the vehicle’s preheating function, also known as preconditioning, to heat or cool the vehicle’s battery and cabin as required. Make sure the vehicle is plugged-in whilst preheating so the battery isn’t being drained during the process. Always aim to keep the vehicle’s battery between 20% and 80% charged and use the Eco Mode whilst driving in winter to reduce battery drain.
Venson goes on to advise those considering buying or leasing an EV as their next car, to do their research. A number of car manufacturers provide online calculators to show how much the range of their EVs are reduced by temperature, using certain features and speed.
Alison Bell continues; “For those perturbed about the battery range of an EV in cold weather, a plug-in hybrid could offer a more practical alternative. Whilst the battery power will still decrease in the winter, just like an all-electric vehicle, using two powertrains will ensure longer journeys. Whatever powertrain vehicle you are driving this winter, it is important to prepare your vehicle, so it functions efficiently in adverse driving conditions. Not only does it reduce wear and tear, it also helps mitigate against the chances of having an accident due to driving a poorly maintained vehicle.”
Venson’s top tips to ensure electric vehicles run at their best this winter
- Use the vehicle’s precondition function. This allows the driver to heat or cool the battery and cabin as needed, allowing the stored energy in the battery to be used as its main purpose, to power the vehicle. By making sure the car is plugged in while preconditioning means you are not draining the battery. Tesla and the Jaguar I-Pace electric for example, will let you do this remotely via an app.
- Be Battery Kind. Batteries like consistency, so when possible, avoid running your battery super low. Aim to stay between 20 and 80 percent charged whenever you can to maximise battery efficiency and longevity.
- Regenerative Braking. When the battery is very cold using the regenerative braking system will be less effective. Therefore, turn it off when driving in icy and/or snowy conditions and rely on the vehicle’s friction brakes until the battery warms up.
- Use the Eco Mode. Eco Mode generally reduces the amount of power supplied to the drive motor and features, like the cabin heater. Used in the winter, it can reduce the power to the motor, so the car accelerates more slowly – not a bad thing as it reduces the possibility of wheel spin.
- Avoid freezing ‘fuel cap’. In extreme cold weather leave the vehicle plugged in overnight to avoid a frozen fuel cap should you need to charge the vehicle in the morning. Also be prepared, refer to the manufacturer’s guidance for how to release the fuel cap manually.
Properly inflated tyres. As the temperature drops, tyre pressure falls and under-inflated tyres create more road friction, which impacts on the vehicle’s efficiency. Drivers need to check tyre pressure and general tyre health regularly as properly inflated and safe tyres are an easy way to help maximise winter range.