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Here’s how cold weather impacts EV batteries and range

Chris Teague

Chris Teague

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Electric vehicles may be taking over, but they are not the perfect solution for every driver and every situation. The industry is only just figuring out how to electrify commercial vehicles like semi-trucks and cargo vans, and charging remains a mystery for large portions of the country. Weather plays a significant role in how EVs perform, and a recent study from Recurrent Auto shows that not all EVs are ready for winter. 

cold weather impacts EV batteries

Recurrent studied the cold-weather range loss in 7,000 electric vehicles and found that some can lose as much as 35 percent of their range when the temperature drops. Many EVs have thermal management systems that help maintain consistent battery temperatures in extreme temperatures. Still, a decrease in range is the last thing any EV owner needs, especially when it’s cold and painful to fiddle with a charger. 

Consumer Reports released a study earlier this year with an overview of how different EV models behaved in cold, mild, and warm temperatures. All of the vehicles lost range in CR’s research, but some took significant hits. The Tesla Model Y has an EPA-estimated 326-mile range. In cold weather, CR recorded just 186 miles of range. The Ford Mustang Mach-E’s 270-mile EPA range dropped 82 miles from 270 to 188. 

Cold temperatures cause the reactions inside batteries to slow, which increases charging times. Climate controls, which most people use in winter, can drain the battery faster, especially when passengers use heated seats and the heated steering wheel. Vehicles like the Rivian R1T come with front- and second-row heated seats, so it’s easy to see how the strain on the battery could quickly build.  

While the winter EV battery drain is real and can be very frustrating, there’s no need to worry about damage. When temperatures return to less extreme levels, you should notice an improvement in your vehicle’s range. 

On the flip side, extreme heat can accelerate battery degradation and cause significant damage. High temperatures speed up the reactions inside batteries and can trigger unwanted reactions in the process. If you’ve ever seen a smartphone or other electronic device with a bulging backside, it’s the swollen battery after it got too hot. However, in large EV batteries, the reactions can lead to fire or explosion. 

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