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AAA: EV battery range cut by more than half in cold weather

Research finds range for three EVs dropped from 105 miles at 75 degrees to 43 miles at 20 degrees.

By Douglas Newcomb Mar 24, 2014 11:44AM

EV Charging. Photo by AAA.When shopping for an electric vehicle, battery range is one of the most important considerations. But while actual mileage may vary depending on driving style, temperature affects the range of an EV much more than it would a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle.

According to recent research from the auto club AAA, EV range can be reduced by as much as 57 percent by the outside temperature. AAA’s Automotive Research Center in Southern California conducted tests to measure the driving range of three EVs -- a 2013 Nissan LEAF, a 2014 Ford Focus Electric and a 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV -- in cold, moderate and hot weather.

Conducted between December 2013 and January 2014, each fully charged EV was operated on a dynamometer in a climate-controlled room until the battery was fully depleted. The entire driving cycle for each EV was completed in a moderate, hot and cold climate following standard Environmental Protection Agency test procedures for city driving.

The result was that cold weather can cut an EV's range by more than half.

The AAA tests revealed that while the average battery range for all three EVs was 105 miles at 75 degrees Fahrenheit, this dropped to 43 miles when the outside temperature was 20 degrees. AAA found that a warmer temperature has less effect on battery range, but still lowered it to an average of 69 miles on a full charge at 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Electric motors provide smooth operation, strong acceleration, require less maintenance than internal combustion engines, and for many motorists offer a cost effective option,” John Nielsen, managing director or AAA automotive engineering and repair, said in a statement. “However, EV drivers need to carefully monitor driving range in hot and cold weather."

AAA noted that EV drivers “need to plan carefully in hot and cold weather” and added that it offers mapping tools such as its TripTik Travel Planner that can help EV owners find charging stations along a route.

[Source: AAA]

Mar 24, 2014 3:23PM
The only EVs I've ever seen in my neck of the woods are the Chevy Volts, due to the gas engine back-up. Our average temperature for the last 4 months has been in the single digits, with nightly lows getting down to -20 F and even -30 F many times this season. (It was -20 F this morning, and it's almost April already)  I can only imagine the range on a pure electric is substantially lower than 43 miles at -30 F considering the time needed to warm the cabin to a somewhat bearable temperature to keep the windows from frosting up from a person's breath.  
Mar 24, 2014 12:39PM
Just another example of manufacturers lying to consumers. Please don't try and tell us that Ford, Nissan and Mitsu did not know this already.
  This is a big blow to electric vehicles, pretty sure that many thousands would not have purchased them had they known this in advance. If I owned one, I would be asking for a buy back right now.

Mar 25, 2014 5:47AM

Wow, I have to say that I kind of agree with Frosty's post here.  Mark that down on the books!  haha.

Anyhow, can you say range-anxiety X 2!!  Just one more reason why these cars are a big no for me.

Mar 28, 2014 12:00AM
We had a BRUTAL winter this year in upstate New York.  February and early March were far colder than normal.  I see several electric cars occasionally on my commute.  While I didn't see any stranded electric vehicles, I did notice two times that they had dangerously frosted windows, as if the electrical system wasn't or couldn't keep up with the outside temperatures and conditions. The drivers did not look comfortable driving them.
Mar 28, 2014 3:55AM
Hold the presses......EV car's battery behaves like a battery wrt temperature!
Mar 28, 2014 3:27AM
really ?cold weather kills batteries? wow what a shocker. how much money did they waste on this research?  anyone living north of DC could have told them that morons. and to prove I am smarter then them here goes. supper conductors are only supper at supper low temperatures while the power source remains at  room temps . anything lower and power output drops exponentially as temps drop. so long and short is this cold drains batteries heat sustains batteries. like duh and
Mar 25, 2014 6:20PM
I am skeptical about EV's like everybody else.  This certainly doesn't help consumers feel confident in purchasing an electric car. But keep in mind, every generation will get better.   80 years ago, the flathead V8 in a ford pickup made less than 50 horsepower, now power levels are about 8 times that.
Mar 24, 2014 8:19PM
not only cold weather, the hot weather as well kills the battery.
i need to know why we don't start developing magnetic reactor engines??
Mar 26, 2014 9:26AM
and think about this. this 50% decrease was at a very mild 20 degrees.... i wonder how much -20 would do.

also this is exactly why I prefer the Volt, ELR, and i3 when it comes to EVs. their backup gas engines allow for easier use in cold climates. 
Mar 28, 2014 2:52AM
I bought a Volt in October. I live in Central Texas, not Minnesota. Any temp above 50 will give 40-42 miles range. Below 32 drops it to 32-35 miles range. I am very satisfied with the car and how it was presented by the dealer. Our test down here will occur in June when the temps will be higher and the A/C comes into play. Overall I am very satisfied with the car. Momma drives 35 miles round trip to work Mon-Fri. With out having to drive 300 miles every 2 months to visit Grandma, we would have used maybe 40-50 gallons during that time. If you commute 20-30 miles, the Volt is your car. If you want to be "green" and drive it every so often and on weekends, I think not. Its too expensive to be a toy, but it makes a great commuter car. We will put 2000 miles a month and are tickled to death! The $20 increse in electric bill is a great tradeoff. I am 6'2" tho, and it is not a long distance cruiser. I pity the fool who sits be hind me when I am driving. You will have had to lost your legs in an accident to be able to sit there. All jest aside, excellent car!
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