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Frigid Weather Effects on Electric Vehicles and Charging

6 months ago

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


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