Our Fleet Product and Policy Manager, Mike Coulton, shares his top tips that EV drivers can employ to maximise range and efficiency in cold weather.
Smart charging: if you know what time you’re leaving in the morning, make sure your overnight charge finishes as close to this time as possible (which you can typically do via the car’s mobile app, or via your smart charger app in some cases). This will mean the battery will be warmer because of the charging activity, so you won’t lose (as much) range by the vehicle having to warm the battery from its own energy reserves.
Pre-conditioning: this is where you pre-heat the car prior to setting off, but from the mains electricity supply (whilst charging) rather than by using the battery. Again, this can be controlled by the app (or pre-programmed in the car), and not only does it help improve range, but it also means you get into a nice warm car on a cold morning. Another benefit is you’ll never have to scrape your windscreen again – pre-heating the car’s cabin also defrosts all the windows, which is a welcome bonus. On some vehicles, you can even turn on the heated seats, steering wheel and windscreen too.
Heat management: from an efficiency perspective, it is much more efficient to use the heated seats and steering wheel than to heat all the air in the cabin. Therefore, to maximise range in cold weather, it is recommended that you pre-heat the cabin to a nice warm temperature whilst the vehicle is charging. Then before setting off, turn the cabin heater down 1-2’C and use the heated seats (and steering wheel if fitted) to maintain a comfortable temperature for the driver and passengers. This is particularly important if you find yourself low on charge and need to maximise your range to get to a charge point! Many EVs also have a “range” or “ECO+” mode, which will automatically reduce the effectiveness of the air con and heating systems to maximise range if you find yourself struggling to reach your destination or next charger.
Some makes and models will pre-condition the battery if you navigate to the rapid charger as a destination or waypoint, which helps significantly with improving rapid charging times in winter – of course, if you’re really low on range, the vehicle won’t ‘waste’ energy heating the battery to optimum charging temperature, but if you’re due to arrive with >20% range then it should help you get a faster charge when you do arrive.
Finally, DO NOT let your battery get to a low state of charge (SOC) unnecessarily. Batteries can suffer from cold soak, whereby they may not have enough energy to power the car at all, even if you left them with 20 miles of range remaining. Always try and keep them topped up between 50-80% is best practice, and only go above or below this when you need to. For example, it is far better for your battery to top up from 60% back up to 80% every night than to charge up from 20% to 80% every three days, but it makes no difference to the amount of electricity you’ll use.