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Driving an electric car in winter

January 3, 2018

This is it! Winter is upon us! And if you had any doubts, the past 3 weeks at -20°/-28°C (-4°/-18.4° F) must have frosted them for good (until April)!

So, what's with your brand new electric car then? Well, it will just be fine! The following are a series of advice to enjoy the winter with you favorite automotive vehicle and get the best out of the season. Note that, although most of the advices are Tesla-oriented, some general rules apply perfectly to other electric car models such as Chevrolet (Volt, Bolt), BMW (i3, i8, 530e, 330e X5)...

1/Drive and charging speed...in winter.

The remaining amount of energy in your battery defines its State Of Charge (SOC). Faster charging occurs between 25% and 75%. Therefore, when driving long distance, from superchargers to superchargers, you want to stop and charge few minutes (20 to 30 mins) then, off you go. Going fast while staying within that limit of 25/75 will make you save time.

Of course, if those superchargers or any chargers are rare, driving fast will make you at risk. In this case, drive slowly will help you stretch your range.

Also, charging-speed wise, be brave and charge as soon as you reach your final destination as you will get better changing speed. If you wait for the day after or just few hours, your battery will get cold and will limit the voltage. Consequently, your only way out is to warm up your car either by driving it or precondition it so your battery will get back to ideal charging temperature...after about 30mns though.   

This is the general rule. In other words, when it is the summer. During winter, your car consumes a lot more. Expect 1.5 to 2 times more. Which decreases your range by as much. But still, the rule outlined above applies. The only thing is that you will reach the 20% faster than ever. Therefore make sure you will reach your charger before running out of energy! To that end, see next section for some tricks.

2/ Range...in winter.

There is no miracle;  your driving range will be shrunk. Anything between 15 to 40%. Various environmental condition explain that such as the outside temperature, falling snow and freezing rain but also the use of the heater for the battery and the cabin. Here are some tips to maximise your range:

- Avoid hard acceleration. This is true in summer and even more in winter!

- Opt for turning on your seat/steering wheel/wipers rather than warming the cabin. This is provided that all occupants will not attempt on your life after doing that :). Perfect opportunity to enhance your negotiation skill!  

- If you have to warm cabin up, when setting up the climate system, prefer the recirculating mode to the outside air flow. The latter consumes more energy. However, your windshield could fog.  

- You may want to use "range mode" but the efficiency to warm up the cabin will be affected. Seat heaters are not impacted. Also, traction responsiveness may become an issue. 

3/Preconditioning before leaving...in winter

During winter you lose more often your regenerative breaking ability. In other words, your brakes life will shorten faster. To avoid that, precondition your car before departure. Doing so, since Tesla last update of their app vers.3.2.3 (345999d8f1), the battery will be warmed up which will reduce or eliminate the effect of the cold weather which are higher consumption and loss of regenerative braking capability.

Of course, this is ideal when the car is plugged as the grid will be used instead of your battery/driving range.    

 

I could have detailed you why you should equip your car with small tires (i.e. 19" instead of 20/21/22") and properly inflated or prefer alloy wheels to steel wheels or, if you stop but don't charge, don't wait for the battery to cold down, leave as soon as you can; slow down to reduce the strain on your battery, or turn on the Saving Energy mode or to lighten the car as much as possible (remove that bag of sand in your trunk! Keep it only if you are willing to trade your range for better rear-shell drive car traction. Keep in mind that your braking distance or car balance get affected). I could have detailed all those tips are more but, this blog would have been too long. So I leave you with the essential. Enjoy your electric car during the winter and do not let anyone tells you those two are not made to live together. It is simply false! Happy winter season!

  

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