Electronics and extreme temperatures aren’t friends. And that frigid relationship between the two includes electric vehicles and their battery packs. A new study from AAA found that in 20-degree Fahrenheit temperatures electric vehicles could lose as must as 41 percent of their range. High temperatures also caused a loss in range. At 95 degrees, EVs experienced a 17 percent loss. However, much of that loss is attributable to the use of the HVAC system.
AAA’s study found that if drivers don’t mind freezing or sweating, the loss of range is smaller. In 95-degree temperatures, EVs not using the HVAC system to cool the interior saw the range decreased by just four percent. In 20-degree temperatures, the loss of range is just 12 percent so long as the HVAC system isn’t in use. That would decrease the range of the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which has a standard range of 238 miles to 209 miles.
“The appeal of electric vehicles continues to grow since a greater variety of designs and options with increased range have come onto the market,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “As long as drivers understand that there are limitations when operating electric vehicles in more extreme climates, they are less likely to be caught off guard by an unexpected drop in driving range.”
AAA conducted its research with the Automotive Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, making it one of the more mythologically sound studies. The vehicles included in the study—2018 BMW i3s, 2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV, 2018 Nissan Leaf, 2017 Tesla Model S 75D, and 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf—were tested in ARC’s climate controlled test sells using chassis dynamometer and data logging equipment.
The AAA gives consumers real-world numbers on how extreme temperatures affect an electric vehicle’s range. Earlier reports have been inconclusive as to how much temperatures can affect range. In late 2016, the Detroit Free Press saw a modest 16 percent decrease in range on the Chevrolet Bolt EV during a polar vortex—blisteringly cold temperatures that as recently as last month caused General Motors and others to suspend operations due to natural gas demand. A news story from 2017 reported an even more drastic loss of range—64 percent in sub-zero temperatures.