Do Electric Cars Lose Range in Cold Weather?

A guide explaining the impact of cold weather on electric car range and how to maximise it using a few simple tips.

Last updated: Mar 14, 2024 4 min read

Summary:

Similar to petrol and diesel cars, electric cars lose some range in cold weather, because driving in temperatures close to freezing is less efficient.

You can reduce the impact of this by pre-heating your car and battery, maintaining your battery well and planning your journeys ahead of time.

How cold weather affects EVs

Cold weather with temperatures close to freezing can decrease the range of electric vehicles (EVs) by around 10 to 30%. It’s something electric car drivers are familiar with, but it remains a concern and requires some adjustments to driving and charging habits.

Although this effect is temporary and range returns to normal levels once it gets warmer, it’s important to understand why a drop in temperatures affects EV range and what you can do to maximise it when it’s frosty outside.

Understanding EV range

Range describes the number of miles an EV can drive on a single charge, meaning a battery that is fully charged. You’ll typically see this number on the dashboard in the car.

To calculate EV range, you multiply the car’s battery capacity by the kilometres per kWh it can travel, although this can fluctuate depending on how efficiently the vehicle uses energy.

Many factors can impact the range of an EV. Your driving style, the conditions on the road, how much weight your electric car is carrying, battery capacity and very cold or hot weather are some aspects that will make a difference.

The impact of cold weather on EV range

Battery performance

Every EV battery has an optimal operating temperature, a range in which they perform best. Freezing conditions slow down the chemical reaction that happens in an EV battery while storing or releasing energy. This makes using the battery in cold weather less efficient and leads to a lower range.

Increased use of heating system

When it’s cold, you’re likely to use more heating. Some EVs have an internal Battery Thermal Management System, which will bring the battery to its optimal operating temperature.

Plus, you’ll be more likely to turn the heating up to warm the cabin for you and passengers, which will also increase the use of energy.

Different driving conditions

Conditions on the road are different in cold winter weather than they’d be on warm summer days, and that makes a difference to your EV’s range.

Ice, snow and wind increase driving resistance, meaning more energy is required to propel the vehicle. In conditions like these, an electric car will also benefit less from regenerative braking, so less energy will be repurposed.

You’re also more likely to use your headlights in the winter as the days are shorter and visibility is often low.

Petrol and diesel cars are also impacted

It’s not just EVs. Petrol and diesel cars are also less efficient in winter because of decreased engine performance in cold temperatures, more heating and unfavourable driving conditions. This means drivers of internal combustion engine cars will find their fuel consumption to be higher in the winter months.

Tips to maximise electric car range in cold weather

1. Maintain your battery

Good and consistent battery maintenance is an important foundation for maximising your EV range. Here are our top tips for maintaining your battery well:

  1. Prioritise slow charging when possible. Frequent fast and rapid charging can degrade the battery more quickly.

  2. Keep your battery charged between 20 and 80%.

  3. Only charge to 100% when absolutely necessary for long journeys.

  4. Regularly service your EV and battery.

  5. Avoid extreme temperatures. This isn’t always possible, but if you can, park in a garage where temperatures may be more consistent.

2. Pre-heat your car whilst it’s plugged in

With your EV plugged in, pre-heat the car before you set off in cold weather. This process is referred to as pre-conditioning.

Pre-conditioning brings your EV battery up to optimal operating temperature, keeps it healthy for longer and heats the cabin without losing any range. Plus, you won’t lose any range by plugging it in whilst pre-heating.

3. Plan your journeys

Every time you start your cold EV, you’ll have to use energy to bring it up to temperature, which is inefficient. Take some time to plan your journeys in advance so you can do multiple trips in one go where possible.

If you’re not always able to avoid short journeys, you can easily keep your battery topped up by using destination chargers.