If you have spent some time in gas-powered cars, you know that it’s a good idea to let it warm up a bit before driving. The oil in the engine is sitting at the bottom of the oil pan and start-up is where the most wear takes place. Once warmed up the oil is flowing, the car is getting up to temperature, and you are ready to drive. What about your Electric car? no engine, so can I just hop in and go, or do I need to “warm it up” before setting off in my new EV?
It’s one of the benefits of an EV. Electric cars DO NOT need to be warmed up before driving, but warming up the battery or “preconditioning” before driving in cold temperatures will increase efficiency and available range.
EV batteries which are Lithium-ion batteries work best in a relatively narrow range of temperatures. In colder temperatures the rate at which the battery can charge or discharge is reduced as the cold makes them less efficient.
Some models, such as Tesla’s line will heat the batteries automatically to ensure they are operating at a sufficient temperature to maximize efficiency and reduce battery degradation. This process will either consume power from the battery or if plugged in, will draw from the charger to be sure you have a full battery when setting off.
Preconditioning can increase the energy consumption on average, by 5%
In fact, cold, regardless of preconditioning, is going to have an adverse effect on your range.
When temperatures drop below 20F gasoline-powered cars have an average drop of about 15% than it would be at 77F. For electric vehicles (EVs), range can drop roughly 39% in mixed city and highway driving. About whopping two-thirds of the extra energy consumed is used just to heat the cabin. Source: https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/coldweather.shtml
I tracked a few data points on my own vehicle, to see what the range loss is. Note that this warming the batteries prior to driving and the car is plugged in. Up here in Canada. So, this is in Kilometers and Celsius.
The other concern is battery health and degradation. Charging or discharging a cold battery puts extra wear on it, which can affect it’s life over time.
Almost all Electric Vehicles have the ability to warm the cabin remotely using electricity from the grid while the vehicle is still plugged in, either using a phone app or remote key fob. You can still warm up the cabin if not plugged in, but it will reduce your range. It is best practice though to warm your batteries regardless to maximize range and battery health.
You can drive a cold car without warming the batteries, but if you want the most range out of your car, get the batteries up to optimal temperature before setting off.
If you want to learn more about Battery Preconditioning, see our post HERE.
So I leave you with this advice, plug your car in at night if you can, and have it set to warm up shortly before you leave. Your batteries will thank you. You’ll get into a warm car, won’t have to wait long for regen braking to kick in, and you’ll maximize your range.