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The Deal With Electric Cars in Winter

7 November 2011

My knowledge of cars is extremely limited- starts with getting gas and ends with filling up tires.  Despite this, I have heard that there are some concerns about electric cars and their functionality in winter.  Since I am a dedicated Minnesotan who would like to have the option to have an electric car, I decided to investigate this.  Here are some basic things I  found out:

Electric cars are so efficient, there is little-to-no heat generated by the battery and/or motor (in the case of the Chevy Volt) which is why the battery is more difficult to keep warm (Source).  This, in combination with the fact that the batteries used in electric cars don’t function well in cold temperatures leads to a drop in efficiency during the winter, specifically when temperatures are below freezing.

Nissan has addressed this problem with their line of Leaf all electric cars and made their cold weather package standard on 2012 models. This package includes features like battery insulation and heated seats (a personal favorite feature in winter)! A test done by Nissan for winter (14 degrees) city driving and found that the range reached was 62 miles.

The Leaf isn’t the only electric car to keep winter in mind – the Chevy Volt has backup gas that will kick in once the battery power has run out. The coldest weather test that I could find for the Volt was at -2 degrees it went 20 miles on the electric battery. Perfectly practical for most metro users! Here is a site that can help explain how the gas and electric work together in cold weather.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 November 2011 8:44 pm

    I’ve wondered if they might consider insulating EVs for this reason. Or maybe using heat pumps instead of resistive heat, for efficiency…

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  1. Plug-in conversions for hybrid cars « The Minnesota Energy Challenge Blog

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