by Bryant Kolle, Advisory Board of EV Universe
As the cold season is upon us, chances are you might be taking an EV Winter road trip. Any drive through the chill or snow requires some preparation. The question often comes up though. Anything specific you should do with an electric vehicle?
Well, I recently took a 500-mile EV winter road trip around Michigan in my Kia EV6. When I left it was 64 degrees and sunny. When I returned it was 29 degrees and snowing. Overall, it was a great experience, but I learned a lot. In this post, we’re going to share some tips for your next road trip in an electric car.
Range drops as the temp drops.
Just like gas powered vehicles, your EV range will drop as the temperature drops. I started out the trip getting around a 276-mile range when it was 64 degrees outside. Our first DC fast charging stop was about 145 miles away, with about a 130-mile buffer.
As we drove on, the range dropped as we were driving 75 mph and the temperature fell to 44 degrees. We arrived with around 80 miles left on the range estimator. A combination between the temperature drops and the 75mph driving ate up some of the buffer. Activation of the battery pre-conditioning feature to cut down on the charge time also affected the range slightly.
Point being, colder temperatures clearly affect your EV battery and range. Plan ahead and recognize that your estimated range could change dramatically along the way!
Use battery pre-conditioning if possible.
During my Winter road trip, I activated “winter” mode on my vehicle charging settings. In the Kia EV6, this is a nifty feature. When you put a charging station into the navigation, the car starts to warm up the battery when you get close to the charging station. The battery charges faster in cold weather, but this mode also decreases your range. That’s because it uses energy to pre-condition the battery as you approach the charger.
In this case, the trade-off was worth it. We achieved close to the same charging speeds we usually get at Electrify America Stations during the warmer months. For example, the EV6 charged from 20% to 80% in about 18 minutes with the winter mode activated. If your electric car has such a feature, consider using it on your Winter road trip.
If it is snowing, use “snow mode.”
This seems like a no brainer, but it’s worth saying here. Use “snow mode” if it is snowing! With the Kia EV6, snow mode engages the 2nd motor in the front and that takes a few miles off the range from ECO mode. However, it is well worth it. This mode activates AWD functionality in the snow and helps keep the torque and regenerative braking in check. On your next Winter road trip, think safety first in the snow even if it costs a bit in range.
Charging may take longer.
Charging may take longer in low temps. This is typical in most EVs, especially if any battery pre-conditioning is not utilized. I can tell you about our experience with charging during the Winter road trip. After charging, we drove another 125 miles, spent the night at our friends and awoke the next day to still about a 35% charge. We had a short commute downtown and parked at a ChargePoint slow charger. We went to our football game for 4 hours and afterwards ate dinner.
As the navigation was to a generic parking deck instead of a fast charger, our Kia EV6 spent a considerable amount of time charging at only around 3.7 KWH instead of the 6.6 KHW at the same charger just a few weeks prior. Be prepared for this on your trip. It took a lot of time for the battery to heat up to the optimal temperature to allow for faster charging.
Heated features use energy.
If taking advantage of creature comforts like a steering wheel heater, seat heaters, and a toasty warm cabin, recognize that they use energy too. This is especially a factor if your electric car doesn’t have a heat pump. And let’s face it – we’re all using heated features on a Winter road trip! Plan to give yourself more of a mileage buffer. We went from about a 276 mile range in 64 degrees to 235 miles when it was 31 degrees. Heated features certainly play a role in that range drop.
I hope you EV owners find these tips helpful to navigate the colder weather. Some light planning and preparation are all you need for a successful Winter road trip!