Running Hot and Cold: Weather Extremes and Electric Cars

Close up of electric car with a connected charging cable
Posted: March 24, 2023

Buffalo’s Christmas blizzard of 2022 raised disquieting questions about how cars can power through rough Western New York winters. Even by the standards of life along Lake Erie, Friday, December 23, and the weekend that followed came as a shock. 

If you were one of the people stranded on the road during the blizzard or struggling to get anywhere at all, you might have wondered if you could find a car, any car, that works better in extreme weather. The advent of electric vehicles has added yet another layer of complexity to the question. 

What if you get stuck on the highway in a snowstorm with an electric car? 

What if the temperature plunges below zero? 

What if you need extra power to grind your way out of being stuck in the snow? 

While it is not advisable to over-generalize, a growing body of research may suggest that cold weather can temporarily reduce electric vehicle (EV) battery range and affect the overall performance of a car under especially difficult conditions.  

Electric Vehicles and Cold Weather 

Cold weather can slow the chemical and physical reactions that make batteries work. This can reduce EVs’ power, leading to longer charging times and a loss of range, according to some sources which recommend keeping electric cars in a garage, plugged in, until you need to leave home.  

Electric Cars React to Winter Differently.  

According to an article published by Recurrent, an organization that seeks to provide more transparency in used electric car transactions, the Nissan Leaf has a reputation for performing poorly in extreme heat and cold. The article discovered that the colder the temperature, the smaller the charge the car’s battery can hold. Nissan also doesn’t recommend storing the battery below -13°F for more than seven days because the battery may freeze, according to the article. 

The Chevy Bolt is a popular EV option with a 250-mile range. Reports from Alaska found that the Chevy Bolt can lose half of its range at -40°F, an extreme temperature that many will not have to endure. Tesla’s Model 3 has almost no change in range in cold or hot conditions, according to the article. Why? Tesla’s “on-board computers synthesize a consistent experience and limit “regenerative braking” in wintry conditions to protect the battery from damaging its charges when it gets cold. 

Colder Temperatures Can Cut Range in Half 

AAA research found that colder temperatures can cut EV range in half. 

According to a press release issued by AAA: “[W]hen the mercury dips to 20°F and the HVAC system is used to heat the inside of the vehicle, the average driving range is decreased by 41 percent.” According to AAA, someone engaging in urban/highway driving at 20°F might only be able to travel 59 miles, instead of the 100 miles that driver would have traveled in less extreme weather. Under these circumstances, it is no wonder that AAA urges electric vehicle owners to be mindful of a reduction in charge.  

Electric Vehicles and Hot Weather 

Temperature has a big effect on the rate of an EV battery and can cause degradation. Higher temperatures can directly impact the “rate and efficiency of chemical reactions inside a battery” because higher temperatures increase the total energy in the system, leading to faster reactions.  

EV batteries degrade in the heat, so it’s important to store EV vehicles in a temperature-controlled area. Higher temperatures can also damage batteries while they are charging, according to the article published by Recurrent. 

Enhanced Tires: EVs’ Secret Sauce 

An article in Tire Review assessed the key differences between EV tires and regular tires and found that EV tires can be quieter, carry more weight, have strong traction and durability, and reduce rolling resistance.  

The article found that EV tires: 

  • Are designed to reduce noise 
    Such tires are manufactured to have “specialized tread patterns and sound-absorbing foam and rubber compounds” to ensure the quietness of an EV. 
  • Can carry heavier vehicles
    EV tires can withstand heavy weight. These tires are built to carry weightier EV vehicles, which can weigh up to 20% more than vehicles powered by internal combustion.  
  • Have better traction and durability
    EV tires are designed with “specific stiff and wide center rib patterns,” making them strong and durable, and better able to support an EV driving experience.  
  • Offer less rolling resistance
    These tires are built with lower rolling assistance which leads to less energy loss and more battery power, according to the article.  

Hurt in a Car? Call William Mattar. 

As more and more EVs make their way onto New York roads, we will continue to provide you with information relevant to their growth and the infrastructure that supports them. In the meantime, if you’ve been injured in a motor-vehicle accident involving an EV or other type of motor vehicle please do not hesitate to contact one of the experienced personal-injury attorneys at William Mattar, P.C., Call (844) 444-4444. 

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