Jan 16, 2024 - Energy & Environment

How freezing temperatures are affecting electric vehicles

A man is seen at a Tesla charging station in Norway on Jan. 17, 2023. Photo: Petter Berntsen/ AFP via Getty Images

Electric vehicle drivers are reporting trouble charging their cars as an Arctic blast sweeps much of U.S.

The big picture: Not only does charging take longer in freezing temperatures, some electric vehicle owners are surprised to find how much their car's driving range is compromised by winter weather.

Driving the news: Long lines and issues charging EVs have been reported in areas like Chicago that are experiencing bitterly cold weather.

  • Tesla driver Brandon Welbourne told CBS News Chicago that a charge that should take 45 minutes was taking two hours. "I've been here for over five hours at this point and I still have not gotten to charge my car," he said.

How it works: While all cars are less efficient in the cold, electric vehicles are impacted more because the energy it takes to both power the vehicle and warm the cabin lowers its driving range, according to analysis firm Recurrent.

  • A Recurrent analysis of 18 popular EV models found that, on average, their range dropped to around 70% in freezing conditions.
  • EV owners in colder climates therefore must adjust their driving and charging habits in the winter.
  • Cars parked outside in the extreme cold conditions are especially vulnerable.
  • Of note: Some EV manufacturers have been adding heat pump technology to reduce the impact.

In the meantime, here's what EV drivers can do, according to Recurrent:

  • Warm up the car while it's still charging.
  • Once the car is warm and you start driving, use seat warmers, a heated steering wheel and turn down the car heater. These features use less energy and provide targeted heat, saving battery life.
  • Expect the charge time to take longer since cars limit charging voltage when the battery is cold. Regular charge speeds will resume when the battery is warmed up.
  • Leave your vehicle plugged in with a maximum charge setting of 70% or 80% when possible.

State of play: Some 90 million people across the U.S. were under wind chill advisories on Tuesday.

  • The Arctic outbreak over the Lower 48 states brought a major expansion of snow cover across the country, with 54.5% of the continental U.S. blanketed as of Monday.

Zoom in: Tesla's "Cold Weather Best Practices" says it's possible for a vehicle's charge port latches to freeze in place in extremely cold weather or icy conditions.

  • The manual advises drivers to thaw the ice on the latch by enabling the "Defrost Car" setting on the mobile app.
  • The company also recommends using the "Trip Planner" feature to navigate to a charging location for at least 30-45 minutes before arrival to ensure optimal battery temperature.

Go deeper... In photos: Arctic blast brings snow and frigid temperatures across U.S.

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