There’s only so much lipstick you can put on a pig. Eventually, even Stevie Wonder can tell what it is – if only by feel.
Well, some EV owners were feeling mighty cold last week. Nervous, too. About the effect of cold weather on their electric cars. Apparently, no one told them that using electrically powered accessories – like the heater – draws power from the battery which propels the electric car.
Resulting in it being propelled less far.
Nor that batteries suffer a kind of erectile dysfunction in cold weather. They become flaccid, sooner.
Less range, again.
But – for the very first time – the general press actually reported this.
CNBC headlined their story with the news that “Electric car owners have discovered cold weather saps batteries faster.” This being news right up there with the Flash bell-ringer that running the air conditioner in July will increase your power bill.
The CNBC story quotes a study done by the American Automobile Association on the effect of cold weather on electric car performance. Several models were tested, including the Tesla 3, Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt, VW eGolf and BMW i3.
AAA found that, on average, when the outside air temperature falls to 20 degrees, the advertised best-case range of these EVs fell by 41 percent.
Some by half.
Extra! Extra! Read all about it (here).
This is even worse than it sounds, actually – because EVs start out with best-case ranges that are far less than those of almost any non-electric car.
Especially the lower-cost models.
For example, the Nissan Leaf – at $30,000, it’s the lowest priced EV on the market – touts a best-case range of 150 miles.
This is already less than half the range of any non-electric car. For an economy car, it’s pitiful. The Nissan Versa – similar to the Leaf in size but about half the price – averages 34 MPG and has a 10.8 gallon tank. Thus, it can travel about 340 miles before it runs dry – no matter how cold it is outside.
The Leaf’s range less 41 percent is about a fourth the range of almost any non-electric car.
Which is a problem compounded by the recharge problem.
An EV like the Leaf that’s had its range almost cut in half by cold weather can only recover a portion of that range at a “fast” charger – so about 80 percent of the 40-something percent. This because of the way EV batteries charge; or rather, the precautions during recharging at a “fast” charger, which are necessary to avoid damaging the battery, or shortening its useful life.
There is a rough analogy, if you’re familiar with propane gas tanks – such as used by people in the country to power house heaters and such. The tanks can only be refilled to 80 percent, too. So, a tank that could physically hold 100 gallons actually only holds 80.
Recharging the electric car at a “fast” charger requires cooling your heels for at least 30-45 minutes.
In the cold, remember.
Most “fast” chargers are not located inside.
And because the charge/range of other EVs will also have been gimped by the cold, there are likely to be lines at these “fast” chargers (see my piece here about the issue of EV charging station throughput).
There are nowhere near enough “fast” chargers in existence to accommodate the number of EVs already out there under “best case” conditions. The ratio of cars needing to charge up vs. the number of available places to charge up will increase in cold weather.
So, just think:
Your electric car – which has had its best-case range of 150 miles reduced by cold weather to 70 or 80 miles (better turn down the heat) will need to find a place to recharge 40-50 percent sooner – and when you do find it, you’ll wait at least 30-45 minutes (assuming you find a spot not already in use by another EV) to recover about 80 percent of the 70-80 miles’ cold-gimped range.
Which means you can go about 50 miles before you’ll need to plug in . . . again.
This isn’t just a hassle. It’s potentially lethal.
What if you find yourself stuck in gridlocked traffic because of weather – or an accident? It’s true EVs use less power when not moving, but the heater is an energy hog. It’s also essential to life when it’s minus 10 degrees outside. What do you do? Turn off the heat to preserve battery charge – at the expense of preserving your life?
You can use an IC car as a life preserver if you find yourself immobilized by a blizzard; even with a half-full tank, you can stay warm for a day or more. And you can also creep/crawl in gridlocked traffic for hours without worrying about the car leaving you – literally – out in the cold.
AAA found that “just turning on” an EV when the air temperature is 20 degrees reduced the range of the EVs they studied by 12 percent on average. Use of the heater – and defroster – compounded that. These cars often have heated seats, but best not to use them much, if it’s cold out. Which rather defeats the purpose of having them in the first place.
These are things people ought to be told about.
AAA’s director of automotive engineering Greg Bannon agrees. He says these inconvenient truths may “surprise” people who buy an EV without having been told about them prior to their purchase.
They may also be “surprised” to discover that hot is also a battery-range gimper. Use of the air conditioner in the summer has the same effect as using the heater in winter.
Because AC (like the heater and defroster) uses electricity in an EV. Lots of it.
America is being gulled into electrified Yugos – which haven’t even got the upside of being cheap to buy. And while the Yugo itself may not have worked that well, at least the heater usually did.
Still, it’s nice that the inconvenient truth about EVs – some of them at least – are finally getting a little traction in the general press.
Maybe it’s not be too late to stop this crazy train.
. . .
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