Continuing our commitment to sustainability…and meaningful climate action…and all things EVs, our “Take Charge” series of stories include this installment and its companion articles “An update on EV infrastructure”, and “Maintaining your RV”.
Put your EV winter driving worries on ice
It’s a common misconception – EVs aren’t made for Canadian winters. But consider this observation from NPR for a second, in Norway “Around 8 in 10 new passenger vehicles were all-electric” in 2021. In so many ways, its climate is exceedingly Canadian in nature. So, what works for the Norwegians can work for us.
General tips for typical Canadian winter driving
Like a regular vehicle, it’s suggested that you use winter-rated tires. All seasons will begin to harden at 7°C. The colder it gets, the harder the rubber becomes, and the less grip you’ll have on the road. Even in the slightest snowfall or on the tiniest bit of road ice, your tires will turn into hockey pucks if you try to stop or maneuver your vehicle. Don’t let four-wheel drivetrains lull you into a false sense of confidence. They’re no help if your tires are sliding on the road.
Plus, it’s always a good idea to have a winter car emergency kit stowed in your vehicle. A typical kit will include a portable shovel, flashlight, batteries, reflective road triangles, blankets, hand warmers, work gloves, first aid kit, and more. Bad weather is a busy time for roadside assistance providers, so you need to be prepared for a long wait if you find yourself stranded in a difficult winter situation.
Range worries in winter
A common concern for EV drivers is range loss in cold weather. As noted by Consumer Reports, “Once the temperature hits the freezing mark or below, the demands on the battery increase. There isn’t really a hard and fast number where battery performance is affected, but in general, as it gets colder, the voltage and the power output decline for an EV battery”. Part of it is due to the impact of cold temperatures on battery chemistry. However, it’s also due to the energy required to run functions like heating and window defogging. They require battery power that you wouldn’t use on a nice sunny day. To minimize that impact, many EVs provide functionality that allows you to program a pre-heating schedule for your vehicle while it’s still plugged in. It takes more energy to heat a vehicle than it does to maintain a warm cabin. So, you save quite a bit of battery power when your vehicle is heated via plug in.
What better way to get an understanding of an EV driver’s winter experience than from a Sudbury, Ontario resident. “Later that week, temperatures plummeted. With a daytime high of -29 and the heat blasting for comfort, the 377 battery was good for about 225 kilometres. Significant? Sure — but that’s still enough for a week’s worth of commuting and errands, for many.” So yes, there can be a significant loss in range in extreme Canadian winter days. Though for most drivers, it has little impact in the drives of their daily lives.