Cold weather tips for electric vehicles and hybrids

Nov 10, 2016   | Categories: Fossil Fuels, Fuels
Whether you drive a gasoline-powered car, a diesel truck, a hybrid or an electric vehicle, winter motoring is never a lot of fun.

And it’s expensive, too. Canadians are quite accustomed to the extra costs of putting on the winter tires, checking antifreeze and wipers, and doing all the usual cold-weather maintenance (see our great tips) on their vehicles.

Worse yet, cold weather brings reduced fuel efficiency. When it’s 30 below – as in, really cold – conventional gasoline cars with internal combustion engines (ICEs) can lose 12 percent of their gas mileage, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Energy Department.

Hybrids are affected even more, with mileage drops of 34 percent. But all-electric cars (EVs) suffer the most. In a 2014 study by the AAA Automotive Research Center in Southern California, EVs travelled a 57 percent shorter distance at 20 degrees F (minus 7 C) than they did at 75 degrees (24 C).

A study by Carnegie Mellon University explains that as weather becomes more extreme, electric vehicles have shorter ranges and produce more emissions.

“We found that average electric vehicle range in some regions can drop from a rated 75 miles to just 45 miles on the hottest or coldest days of the year,” said mechanical engineering graduate student Tugce Yuksel, who worked on the study.


EVs consume more energy in hot or cold weather because heating or cooling the interior drains energy from the battery, which is already less efficient when it’s cold.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to keep from freezing in miserable weather.

4 cold weather tips for electrics, hybrids 

  1. Warm an electric car's interior while plugged in
  2. Use seat heaters not cabin heaters to warm electric vehicles
  3. Take plenty of time to charge an electric vehicle
  4. Park electric vehicles under shelter

If you are driving a gasoline or diesel-powered car, find out how refineries make fuels specifically for cold weather.
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