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What do extreme cold temperatures mean for drivers of electric cars like Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf

We’re all used to warming up our cars in the winter, but what can drivers of newer electric cars expect as temperatures drop?

It’s all about the battery. And batteries don’t exactly love extreme temperatures – cold or hot.

If you work outside in the winter, you will notice that your cell phone’s battery doesn’t always hold a charge as long as it does in better weather. The same is true for electric vehicles and hybrids.

The Chevrolet Volt is an electric vehicle that also has a gas generator to produce electricity when its battery runs out. The Volt’s generator works much like the one you might use at home as a backup when your power goes out.

On a normal day – when temperatures are neither extremely hot, nor extremely cold – a new Volt can drive nearly 40 miles on the charge from its battery. After that, the gas-powered generator kicks in to extend the car’s range.

“During the colder months, the energy needed to warm the vehicle’s cabin and high-voltage battery can cause your electric range to decline,” says Chevrolet on a blog for Volt owners.

Tuesday morning’s single-digit temperatures were enough to do the trick.

When automakers test their vehicles, they certainly subject them to conditions that are far more chilling than your drive to work on the coldest Tri-State day.

Electric vehicles and hybrids won’t stop running in the cold, but their makers all say you can expect to drive fewer miles on each charge or tank of gas.



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