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Winter driving and hypermiling tips for electric car owners

Cold weather has the potential to diminish electric car driving range, but there are a few simple tips you can follow to mitigate the issues.

It’s winter and even though global warming is making our winters a bit warmer each year, it is still cold out which affects all kinds of vehicles. Because electric cars are not driven by a gasoline powered furnace, hence they do not have a ready on-board heat source, cold weather is a tricky issue because the cold decreases the effectiveness of batteries, and generating heat to warm the passengers takes away energy that could be used to drive the vehicle. Not to worry because there are a few bits of simple advice courtesy of the MyNissanLeaf discussion board.

The first factoid is that batteries are chemical devices, storing electricity in carefully designed chemical reactions, and it’s a matter of simple physics that chemical reactions slow down in colder temperatures. It has to do with the rate of vibration at the molecular level at different ambient temperatures. This is an issue that affects not only electric car owners, but gasoline car owners as well are experienced with the car battery or engine fluids freezing up and being unable to start the engine. In extreme climates the common practice is to plug in an engine block heaters to ensure you can start the car, and perhaps someone is working on just such an accessory for electric cars.

Cold weather has an effect to decrease the energy you can draw out of a battery, but it appears to be a matter of debate just how profound that effect is. It’s best to assume your range will be a bit less than it normally would be.

Coda Automotive’s sedan has an active thermal management system to keep the battery at optimal temperature, even while parked. The system both heats or cools the battery depending on ambient temperature, because operation at high temperature is also a bad idea. Effectively what Coda has done is build the equivalent of an engine block heater (or cooler) into the car. In theory it means the Coda sedan will not see a range degradation in cold weather, while the other electric cars will.


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