Driving back from the mountaintop cold of the Appalachians to the heat of Florida in a BMW i3, I got to experience how range and charging times vary from a more northern state to a southern state. I was not quite prepared for this. According to Norwegian consumer organization for automobiles, EVs have a range loss of close to 20% in winter conditions. EV batteries also charge slower in the colder climate. That is not exactly news, but the important question they answer is, how much do diverse EVs vary based on the weather?
With a snowy parade and variety of zero-emission EVs, the Norwegian Automobile Federation (NAF) has tested the range and the battery charge time of the top 20 currently favored electric vehicles in winter conditions. The challenge went to the very end — the 20 vehicles were driven until they shut down. No guessing needed. The point was to accurately measure their real-world range.
Typically, testing for the range and consumption of electric cars sold on the European market (using the the World Light Vehicle Test Procedure/WLTP system) is done in summer temperatures on a 23-kilometer stretch of road. Some of the testing may be performed in a lab. Test results are not real-life figures. So, many wonder before buying, how do they actually perform in real winter conditions?
“To test all the cars equally, the test drive was performed without preheating of neither cabin nor battery. All cars drove the same route on the same day, with similar style of driving, and climate control settings.
“The test route consisted of city driving, highways and country roads in speeds from 60 kmh (37 mph) to 110 kmh (68 mph). All the cars had one climb through a mountain pass. The longest running cars climbed two mountain passes.
“Cars sold in Norway might differ from other European markets. Some cars are sold with winter edition equipment, with heat pump, battery insulation and possibility of preheating. Although preheating was not used in this test, other differences in equipment might affect the winter range. “
Across the 20 models, there’s an average range loss of 18.5% compared to their WLTP range ratings. The most faithful to the original was Hyundai KONA — it was the EV that came closest to its own stated WLTP range. The KONA had a deviation of only 9% compared to its WLTP range. Quite interesting is that KONA is also the car with the longest actual range in the lowest price range bracket. Besides that, it has a respectable charging speed. It was also CleanTechnica’s 2019 Car of the Year.
The other side is the Opel Ampera-e, which comes at a higher price and less range that only charges with a maximum of 50 kW. Further, it only operated to 70% of the stated range (WLTP). It seems the downside pushes the Ampera-e into a more outdated zone. Your style? Going only reasonable distances? It is still a fine EV.
What of Tesla? “Worth noting is that the Model S, at the end of the test, drove in more challenging driving conditions than the other models. The last miles were driven in relatively deep, new snow which increase the consumption severely.”
The Tesla Model S Long Range does have the longest WLTP range on the market, so, no surprise, in the real-life range test the Model S went the furthest. Yet, the Tesla had the second-largest deviation compared to the WLTP range in the test. The Tesla managed only 74% of the stated range.
Several charts and graphs are included in the NAF article.
The EVs tested:
- Tesla Model 3, Model S, Model X
- Kia Niro EV, Soul EV
- Hyundai Kona EV, Ioniq EV
- Jaguar I-Pace
- Opel Ampera-e
- Mercedes-Benz EQC
- Audi e-tron 55 quattro, e-tron 50 quattro
- Nissan Leaf 62 kWh, Leaf 40 kWh
- Renault Zoe
- Seat Mii Electric
- Skoda Citigo, Citigo-e IV
- Volkswagen e-up, e-Golf.
EVs don’t suddenly shut down when they run out of power. Drivers are given several warnings. Does the EV suddenly stop when it finally runs out of charge? The NAF explains that, no, EVs don’t just suddenly shut down when they run out of battery charge. There are plenty of warnings from the EV before they run out of power. Even with the first warning, drivers maintain driving comfort and speed for a while. In fact, most of the EVs maintained speed until the last few kilometers. After that the drivers all experienced a loss of acceleration and a limit on maximum speed. The heating automatically shut down in some of the EVs.
NAF offers a notable fact about the inching turtles. “If you run completely out of power you can still drive a few more kilometers. Just shut the car down and leave it for a short while, maybe half an hour to an hour, and you’ll have power enough to drive even a few more kilometers.” Hope you are close to a charging station and can avoid a tow.
As far as charging, I am sure the northerners already know that it can be slow to get the battery warm before charging in the colder weather. So winter time charging can be slower than expected in warmer weather.
Complicated rapid charging
The test team also measured the rapid charge, focusing on effect and time. Check out the full details here.
“Rapid or fast charging with roadside chargers of an electric car is not necessarily straight forward. Charging speed, meaning how many kilowatts the battery can handle, depends on many factors such as state of charge, battery temperature and outside temperature.
“The charge test was done after driving on the highway for a minimum of two hours, to ensure that the battery was warm. The cars were driven straight to the charging station, without standing in line waiting. All the cars charged from less than 10 percent to minimum 80 percent.”
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