It’s pretty well known that cold weather has a negative effect on the lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles like the Ford F-150 Lightning. In a press release, Ford says, “Temperatures below 40°F cause the electrolyte fluid to become sluggish, limiting how much power is available to discharge and how quickly the vehicle’s battery can charge. As F-150 Lightning customers across the United States and Canada begin their first winter with their new electric pickup, Ford wants to help make them aware that in low temperatures they could see a significant reduction in range, which is normal.”
For you combustion engine aficionados out there, wipe that smug look off your faces. Cold weather reduces gas mileage significantly for you as well. In most parts of the country, gasoline is blended with lighter aromatics to improve cold weather starting, but those winter blends also lower fuel economy by about 10%. In addition, electronic injection systems are programmed to increase the ratio of gasoline to air in cold weather for smoother running engines. All in all, most drivers notice a reduction in gas mileage of between 10 and 20% in winter.
Ford offers 8 tips to minimize the effect of cold weather on the performance of its F-150 Lightning pickup trucks.
- 1. Park your F-150 Lightning in a garage whenever possible.
- 2. Keep your F-150 Lightning plugged in when parked.
- 3. If planning a longer commute, precondition your vehicle using departure times to warm the battery while plugged-in by using the FordPass app or your trucks center screen.
- 4. If equipped, use the heated seats and steering wheel as primary heat to reduce energy consumed by HVAC.
- 5. When charging, turn off the heater if possible, or lower the temperature enough to remain comfortable. (Especially when using DCFC)
- 6. If your F-150 Lightning is covered with snow, brush all the snow off before driving to eliminate extra weight and drag.
- 7. Keep driving speeds moderate in cold temperature as high speeds use more energy.
- 8. Ensure your tires are at the proper pressure.
There’s nothing scary in that list, just practical advice that will become standard operating procedure for all EV drivers in the very near future.
The principal recommendations are to keep your vehicle plugged in so that electricity from your home charger is used to heat the passenger compartment and the battery pack before you start driving. Many people who drive diesel-powered cars and trucks do much the same thing by keeping their engine heaters plugged in overnight when it’s cold outside. Diesel fuel really don’t like the cold, which is why some long haul drivers prefer to keep their engines idling rather than shutting them off when parked in cold weather.
The other pertinent advice is to make use of seat and steering wheel heaters whenever possible rather than relying on cabin heaters which consume a lot of battery power. As a Nissan LEAF veteran who once lived in frosty New England, I can attest that this tactic works quite well until the thermometer drops below 20º F or so.
Ford notes that it has tested the F-150 Lightning extensively both in temperatures as low as -40ºF and as high as 140ºF, so it knows a thing or two about operating electric vehicles in extreme temperatures. The best part of its 8 tips is they apply equally to all EVs, so even if you don’t have an F-150 Lightning in your driveway, you can apply Ford’s advice to your own electric car experience.