For nearly a week, freezing temperatures have enveloped the central United States from Chicago to northern Texas, creating struggles for electric vehicle owners. The cold has reduced driving ranges and forced long waits at charging stations across the region. Electric vehicles lose some of their travel range in frigid conditions, especially at temperatures below zero seen this week. Studies confirm range loss varies from 10% to 36% in cold weather. EVs also cannot charge as swiftly when temperatures plummet.
Lithium ions flow through a liquid electrolyte inside EV batteries, generating power. However, the ions move more slowly through the chilled electrolyte and release less energy. This cuts range and can drain the battery faster. Similarly, electrons travel slower in the cold, preventing the battery from accepting electricity quickly at charging stations. Chemical reactions slow in extreme cold. Batteries must reach adequate temperatures for electrons to flow smoothly during charging.
In Oak Brook near Chicago, television crews captured Teslas running low on charge last Monday as temperatures plunged below -20°C. Long queues formed at the Supercharger site with waits exceeding 30 minutes in some cases. Outside Ann Arbor, Michigan on Wednesday, multiple Teslas plugged into limited stations as strong winds swept the area and the mercury hit -14°C. At least one EV neared empty with the next charging post still miles away.
The cold weather effects were on full display at a Supercharger in Pittsfield Township near Ann Arbor later that week. With only 7% battery remaining, a Tesla driver plugged her vehicle in but it would not accept a charge. The display indicated the battery required heating before electricity could flow into it. After reaching suitable temperatures, charging the depleted battery to full capacity would require nearly two hours.
Lack of Consumer Education Adds to Cold Weather Issues
Part of the cold weather problems are linked to inadequate consumer knowledge according to experts. Electric vehicle batteries can be preconditioned when extremely cold to warm them prior to charging. Many new EV owners remain unaware of this feature. Instead, they pull up to stations with frozen batteries and sit waiting as the vehicle struggles to heat up enough to start charging. Basic training and improved messaging from manufacturers could help lessen some of the cold weather headaches.
Still, even with proper preconditioning, charging times will be longer in frigid conditions. The chemical nature of lithium batteries means slower electron flows when cold which unavoidably hamper charging speeds. And cold snaps like those hitting the Midwest this week exacerbate all the cold effects. However, experts emphasize EVs can manage winter travels with attentive pre-planning.
Frigid temperatures intrinsically hamper lithium battery performance. But solutions exist both near and long-term according to researchers. In the shorter timeframe, consumers will adapt driving and charging patterns to winter constraints as EVs become more popular. Automakers entering the EV market may opt for battery chemistries favoring cold weather operation even if marginally sacrificing range.
Equally crucial, immense investments further cutting-edge battery technologies for extreme conditions. Military and aerospace research particularly focuses on lithium formulations providing outstanding subzero capability and rapid charging. As these advances emerge from labs, electric vehicle designers can incorporate the upgraded battery materials. Such ongoing innovation leaves experts optimistic that the cold weather impacts seen this week will lessen substantially in future electric car models. But even today’s EVs can manage winter travels with attentive pre-planning according to owners and researchers.
###Frigid Weather Planning for Electric Vehicles
The record cold weather over the last week shocked many electric vehicle owners across the Midwest unprepared. But learning a few winter adaptation essentials will reduce issues for most as temperatures plummet. These practical preconditioning steps ready lithium batteries for charging and retain range in subzero conditions.
Check Routes in Advance - Frigid temperatures intrinsically reduce range. Carefully planning travels to minimize mileage becomes critical before setting off across snow-covered landscapes. EV navigation systems outline existing and future charge points. Review routes and charging options thoroughly at home to avoid being stranded roadside by surprise in ultra-cold weather.
Know Vehicle Features - Beyond merely the basics, read vehicle manuals to understand battery capabilities during temperature extremes. Master controls for preheating or preconditioning to ready lithium cells for rapid charging when cold. Review battery management details to squeeze max range through adjusted driving styles and proper charging etiquette when plunging mercury readings strike.
Give Batteries a Warm Up - Lithium-ion batteries charge optimally above 10°C during cold snaps. Most EVs automatically heat batteries nearing charge points when preconditioned. If uncertain, manually turn on warming features an hour before arriving at stations. Allow batteries to reach 10-15°C to enable electrons to flow faster. Faster flows translate directly into quicker charging.
Adjust Speeds Downward - Driving slower boosts range by reducing energy consumption across all EV models. As temperatures dip far below freezing, pay special attention to speed. Limit cruising speeds to 80 km on highways and precisely follow reduced limits set for inclement driving conditions. Slower acceleration from standstills also curbs battery drainage, stretching vehicles farther on each charge.
Use Climate Control Sparingly - Running heating systems saps huge amounts of energy reserves from EV batteries. Dress warmly, use seat warmers when available and lower climate control settings. Shut off completely if manageable for short drives. The less power diverted means an extended range from each battery charge. Shut off heated seats/steering wheels after warming up too.
Garage Park When Possible - Keeping batteries warm in garages or underground parking preserves range between drives. But when street parking, keep EVs fully charged whenever subzero nights loom ahead. Park facing east to take advantage of morning sunlight too. The small solar gains help maintain interior warmth and protect batteries overnight. Preconditioning before driving off each morning saves energy also.
Leverage Apps - EV automakers design advanced phone apps providing owners remote monitoring/control of charging parameters plus cabin preheating and more. Maximize these tools duringarctic cold spells. Target battery warming and interior heat priming while hooked to stations for no range loss. Apps enable starting warming rituals 30+ minutes before unplugging.
Remain Vigilant - Pay constant attention to temperatures and driving distances as thermometers tumble. Tap EV display maps to pinpoint charge stations reliably within the remaining range if concerned. Know that displayed mileage recalculates lower automatically as cold saps battery power. Continually recalculate the range mentally with colder factors included until warming again.
Think Ahead - Preconditioning, heat preparation and other cold adaptations drain battery reserves faster by design. The trade-offs retain normal winter usage overall through purposeful planning. Concentrate efforts on easing daily commutes and critical trips versus discretionary driving. Sacrifice a few non-essential journeys if range projections seem overly tight.
The record midwest cold snap produced real difficulties, but educated adapting makes electric vehicle travel wholly realistic even in subzero extremes. Drivers worldwide traverse snowy landscapes reliably in EVs through behavior modifications tailoring charging and driving to winter constraints. This intelligent adjusting coupled with improving technology points drivers toward an electrified automotive future regardless
Overcoming Winter Range Anxiety
The worries of being stranded by drained batteries in freezing conditions creates “range anxiety” for many drivers transitioning to electric vehicles. The cold climate tips and essential preconditioning steps outlined earlier answer the majority of winter EV questions. Still, new EV owners in particular must remain vigilant until adapting fully to managing winter’s drain on batteries.
Paying vigilant attention to displayed ranges and charge levels prevents nearly all range anxieties from materializing at frigid temperatures. Condition batteries beforehand, lower speeds, adjust climate controls and follow other helpful winter guidelines to guarantee reaching stations comfortably. Equally vital, plan trips accounting for cold factors automatically lowering projected mileages to prevent drives exceeding actual remaining battery capacities at a given moment.
Of course, even the best preparations cannot prevent an unexpected issue from depleting reserves quicker than anticipated on occasion. However, the widespread and still growing EV charging network offers backup options. Numerous charge point apps and vehicle navigation systems pinpoint the closest available stations if needed suddenly. Seeking a spot to top up for 15-20 minutes maintains winter travels.
Future electric vehicle models will drive range anxiety to the history books in all but the most remote regions. Better battery formulations increased quick charging ports, and advanced preheating capabilities are on the horizon. But already, smart winter planning, proper charging etiquette, and route caution make current EVs reliable year-round transportation choices. Test drives demonstrate firsthand that modern electric cars and trucks handle winter duties nearly on par with internal combustion competitors.
In truth, EVs present trade-offs versus gas vehicles in all seasons. However, the environmental and ownership incentives will continue attracting converts. So rather than fear winter battery drains, drivers should follow cold weather guidelines extra closely. That appropriate adjusting coupled with the expanding charge network will then erase range anxiety fears for electrified travel.