Common Sense Winter Electric Vehicle Strategies To Make the Most of Range and Efficiency
Electric vehicles, just like any hybrid or conventionally powered vehicle, face challenges in winter. In order to make the most of your electric vehicle's range and temperature, there are some EV-specific and some general things to do. For a complete list of all the ways that winter hurts range and efficiency in any vehicle, please see our primer, Five Reasons Why Your EV Range and Fuel Efficiency Drop In Winter.
Electric Vehicle Cabin and Battery Preconditioning
Electric vehicles have one neat trick that is key to maximizing range and increasing efficiency in winter. It's called preconditioning the cabin. The importance of this should not be overlooked. In essence, the preconditioning function allows you to warm up the cabin while still plugged into the grid, your home solar energy system, or whatever EV energy supply you use.
There are two main advantages to preconditioning. The first is obvious. You use the power supply's energy to warm up the car, rather than your battery supply. A no-brainer. There is a second benefit though. Your EV batteries like to operate at a certain temperature, and that temperature is definitely not below freezing. As the video below explains, by preheating the battery you actually increase your vehicle's range and efficiency beyond just the free climate gains. Your owner's manual will show you how to precondition the cabin using the internal menus or a phone app.
A scientist named Boyle worked out that gases decrease their pressure when temps drop way back before the internet. We could go all PV-nRT on you, but suffice it to say that when temps drop by about ten degrees, car tires of any type, and using any type of gas inside (be it air or nitrogen), will see a drop of about 1 psi. So that means if your proper tire pressure setting is 35 psi and you set it at 70 F, when temps drop to 20 F you have lost about 5 pounds of pressure. Don't take my word for it. Measure it yourself, you gas-law denier! Boyle would be proud.
To avoid losing range and energy, and to avoid seeing that pesky "Tire Pressure" monitor alarm come on, add air to your tires as winter approaches and always check it when it is at it coldest. You can have a local shop add nitrogen if you prefer to throw money away. But Boyle would shake his head in disappointment.
Use Steering and Seat Heaters
Whatever method of providing heat to your cabin your EV uses, it will never be as effective as the heated steering wheel and heated seats. This isn't speculation, but feedback from actual users and owners of EVs. Use them to the max and use your EV's heating system to the minimum that you are still comfortable.