How To Help Your EV To Have More Range In Winter

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On various EV forums, Facebook groups, and on Twitter, we often see new EV owners struggle as fall sets in. They bought an EV in the spring or summer months, and got used to seeing certain range estimates on the guess-o-meter. But, with colder temperatures, those numbers drop, sometimes precipitously. People who didn’t get much information during the buying process often think there’s something seriously wrong with their car, and the most unfortunate of them can no longer do the driving they bought the EV for.

A recent press release by Ford shows that it is aware of this issue, and Ford offered some cold weather driving tips for new owners of the F-150 Lightning. In this article, I’m going to share what Ford shared and add some other tips and tricks I’ve picked up that make EV winter driving a lot more bearable.

Readers familiar with me as a writer might think, “Hey! You live in the desert! How can you give us cold weather driving tips?” But, keep in mind both that it gets cold fast in the high deserts of the Southwest at sunset in the winter, and there are some wicked tall mountains out here where it gets Canada cold. So, I do have some experience to draw upon!

Ford’s Winter EV Tips

The Ford F-150 Lightning pickup has been put through some of the harshest conditions to ensure its quality. It’s gone through months of winter driving in Alaska and Michigan, as well as being exposed to a range of temperatures in Ford’s atmospheric chambers. They aren’t kidding, as they’ve tested their vehicles in temperatures as high as 140F and as low as -40 (C or F, it’s all the same at -40).

However, electric vehicles tend to have energy decreases in cold weather due to battery cell chemistry. Temperatures below 40°F make the electrolyte fluid sluggish, which then limits how much power is available for discharge and how quickly the vehicle’s battery can charge. As F-150 Lightning customers across North America begin their first winter with their new electric pickup, Ford wants them to be prepared for a possible significant reduction in range caused by colder temperatures.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning winter driving
2022 Ford F-150 Lightning, image courtesy of Ford

Park Indoors When You Can

The first thing recommended is parking your EV in an enclosed garage when possible. This helps keep the whole battery pack out of the cold, and allows you to start your drive with a warm battery pack. By starting warm, it’s a lot easier (and less energy intensive) for the vehicle to keep the battery pack warm. This both helps keep the fluid from becoming sluggish and saves energy during the drive, and both of those things increase your range.

Keep Your EV Plugged In

This helps because most EVs have the ability to heat or cool the battery pack when parked, but they tend to be a lot more aggressive about that heating and cooling when there’s shore power to draw from. That way, a vehicle doesn’t strand you trying to keep itself at ideal temperatures. If you park outdoors, this both prevents degradation and helps the battery have more range when you go to leave.

Tesla Model 3 home charging
Photo by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica

Precondition or Use Departure Timers

Most EVs allow you to remote start them before you leave, and nearly all of the rest allow you to set a time to start warming up the cabin for departure. This saves range by using home power to warm the cabin instead of your battery power. Then, your vehicle only has to maintain a good temperature.

When it comes to battery temperatures, it’s best to set a departure time for the car to finish charging just a few minutes before you depart. The charging helps warm up the battery pack and makes it less sluggish for departure.

Use Heated Seats & Steering Wheel To Cut Back On Heater Use

Even if you pre-heat the cabin, keeping it warm can still draw quite a bit of power. So, it’s generally a good idea to avoid using the heater. Fortunately, you don’t need to freeze your butt off to do that. If your vehicle is equipped with heated seats, crank those up. Heated seats and steering wheels use very little energy compared to heating the air. Combine that with keeping a jacket or coat on, and you can let the cabin be at a lower temperature while still being comfortable.

This is also true for fast charging sessions. If you keep the heater on during a fast charging session, you’re diverting that energy to your heater instead of into the battery pack, which will slow down your charging.

Seat Heater and Defrost Controls. Photo by Fritz Hasler

Get Snow Off Your EV

While it sucks to stand out in the cold and brush snow off your car, it’s worth doing. Not only does getting the snow off the car help lower its weight, but you’ll get the car back to its aerodynamic shape by getting it off. One easy way to do this is buy a broom that you use just for snow clearing.

Take It Easy

Another great thing you can do to preserve EV range is take it easy. Avoiding sudden acceleration and braking is generally good advice in winter driving anyway, but even when the pavement is sunned up and the road is freshly plowed, you can get some of the vehicle’s cold weather range back just by driving less aggressively.

You can find many hypermiling tips all over the internet, but what it basically comes down to is looking ahead and doing a lot of coasting instead of using the brakes.

Check Your Tires

Finally, it’s a good idea as usual to make sure your tires aren’t low. When cold weather suddenly sets in, your tires will naturally go to a lower pressure, even without leaks. By putting some extra air in them, you can make sure you’re at the right pressure and minimize energy lost to rolling resistance.

But, do be careful to not overinflate in slippery conditions. You can often get away with that in the summer and first part of the fall, but overinflation could get you stranded in the cold.

tires for electric cars
Image credit: Michelin

One Extra Tip

I’ve tried to expand upon and explain further about Ford’s winter EV tips, but there’s one more thing I’d recommend: ABC. Always Be Charging. I don’t mean this literally, of course, because there’s not always a place to charge. It still makes sense to charge your car whenever possible in the winter months. Not only does it help manage battery pack temperatures, but it also helps you have some extra range to make up for winter losses.

If you have a place you frequent, like a workplace, it’s a good idea to see if the owner will allow you to plug in, even if it’s just Level 1 AC charging (120v, normal plug). This doesn’t add a lot of range, but helps your EV have some energy to keep the battery pack warm during the coldest days.

Do you have more cold weather EV tips we didn’t share here? Be sure to share them in the comments or on our social media pages.

Featured image provided by Ford.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1956 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba