Jan 19, 2024 - Climate

Low temperatures create problems for D.C. electric vehicle drivers

The hood and Tesla logo on a Tesla car covered in snow.

Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Attention D.C.-area Rivian and Tesla owners: It's still going to be a pain in the neck to keep your car charged as temps drop again this weekend.

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: There's a winter weather advisory in effect for the D.C. area until 7pm this evening, with snow expected into the afternoon.

  • Don't plan on as much powder as earlier this week — anything from a coating to two inches is most likely.
  • This weekend will also see very chilly temperatures, with lows expected to be in the teens on Saturday and Sunday.

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

  • The analysis of 18 popular EV models found that, on average, their range dropped to around 70% in freezing conditions.
  • Cars parked outside in 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, use seat warmers and 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.

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