Freezing Temperatures Cut Electric Vehicle Range by 41%, Says AAA

Saturday, February 09, 2019
GoLocalWorcester News Team

As temperatures continue to dip below freezing, AAA is warning electric vehicle owners that their range could be cut in half.

According to new research from AAA, when the mercury dips to 20°F and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is used to heat the inside of the vehicle, the average driving range is decreased by 41 percent.

“The appeal of electric vehicles continues to grow since a greater variety of designs and options with increased range have come onto the market. As long as drivers understand that there are limitations when operating electric vehicles in more extreme climates, they are less likely to be caught off guard by an unexpected drop in driving range,”  said John Paul, AAA Northeast Senior Manager of Traffic Safety and the AAA Car Doctor.

Similar Effect in Heat

AAA’s research also found that when outside temperatures heat up to 95°F and air-conditioning is used inside the vehicle, driving range decreases by 17 percent.

Additionally, an electric vehicle with a compromised driving range will require charging more often, which increases the cost to operate the vehicle.

For instance, AAA’s study found that the use of heat when it’s 20°F outside adds almost $25 more for every 1,000 miles when compared to the cost of combined urban and highway driving at 75°F.

Precautions to Take

AAA offers the following precautions for electric vehicle owners during the cold and hot weather.

  • Plan ahead. When drivers are aware of the weather conditions before heading out, they can plan for more frequent stops for charging as well as identify the location of charging stations. Drivers can access these locations through AAA’s Mobile app or TripTik Planner.
  • Make time to “pre-heat” or cool down the inside of the vehicle while still connected to the charger. This will reduce the demand on the vehicle’s battery to regulate cabin temperature at the onset of driving.
  • If possible, park the vehicle in a garage to help stabilize cabin temperature.


AAA’s Test

AAA tested five electric vehicles, all with a minimum EPA estimated driving range of 100 miles, in partnership with the Automotive Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center.

Real-world driving conditions were simulated using a dynamometer, essentially a treadmill for cars, in a closed testing cell where ambient temperature could be closely controlled.

To determine the effects on driving range, scenarios for cold and hot weather conditions – both when using HVAC and not – were compared to those of driving with an outside temperature of 75°F.

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