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Electric Cars In Winter: Six Steps To Maximize Driving Range

We get asked a lot whether winter weather makes electric cars impractical. Short answer: No.

We even rounded up some of the best electric-cars-in-winter stories last month.

But it’s a fact of physics that a plug-in electric car will have a longer range in temperate Southern California than in the icy steppes of the Northeast, upper Midwest, and much of Canada.

We’ve done our own cold-weather test of the 2012 Nissan Leaf, for instance. We found that without using the heater, 80 miles of range was still possible–if not very pleasant.

But switch on those accessories, especially seat heaters or cabin heat, and you’d be wiser to stop every 50 miles or so to re-charge.

With that in mind, we’ve boiled it all down to six top tips for keeping your electric car’s range as high as possible when the temperature drops as low as you can imagine.
(1) Keep the car plugged in!

Electric cars use some electricity to keep their battery packs heated or cooled to the ideal temperature range.

Even if the pack is fully recharged, the battery will be warmer in winter if your car stays plugged in until you leave. That means more range.
(2) Pre-condition the cabin before you leave

Most electric cars also let you “pre-condition” the cabin, which is to say, heat it up using grid power rather than battery energy. Many let you do this via smartphone app from the comfort of your nicely heated home.

This is another reason to keep the car plugged in. Using grid power to heat the cabin leaves you with a fully charged battery, for maximum range.
(3) Use seat heaters rather than cabin heat


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