By on February 5, 2020

Obviously, cold winter weather will have some impact on how far you can drive in your electric vehicle, but just how much range loss you can expect depends on make and model and, of course, the actual temperature. Your own comfort levels will dictate heater and seat warmer settings, potentially shaving off more miles.

After the TTAC budget for a comprehensive multi-model test turned up a squirrel and two paper clips, the Norwegian Automobile Federation stepped in, putting a raft of new models through their paces.

If you’ve ever seen the Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance, a black comedy revolving around a vengeful snowplow operator, you’ll know that Norway gets pretty cold and snowy. There’s also no shortage of EVs. It’s an electrified mecca over there, so what better locale for a range test?

Published in the federation’s Motor magazine, the results show that even mild winter weather may require alterations to travel planning. As the test cars plied their way north from the capital of Oslo, temps fell from just above freezing to minus 6 degrees Celsius. That’s 21F, or shorts weather in Minneapolis.

Each vehicle embarked with a fully charged cold battery, with the cabin temperature set to room temp and the seat warmers on low (these being the most likely real-world settings). Every vehicle was then driven until battery exhaustion.

The findings? Let’s start with the biggest winner and greatest loser. In terms of range retention, the Hyundai Kona Electric shed the least miles, retaining 90 percent of its WLTP range. The Opel Ampera-e, known to Americans as the Chevrolet Bolt, saw the greatest loss. The little hatch retained only 70 percent of its range, whining to a halt after 184.5 miles.

2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV - Image: Chevrolet

The rest of the pack saw range retention mainly in the high 70-percent realm, though the big-battery Tesla Model 3 was fairly low on the scale with 72 percent retention. The Jaguar I-Pace ranked a hair lower, at 71 percent. Of course, both of these models, like the Ampera-e/Bolt and Kona, have range to spare in most driving applications.

Two models at opposite ends of the price ladder returned good range retention. These vehicles were the Tesla Model X, which kept 83 percent of its WLTP range during the test, and the lowly Hyundai Ioniq Electric, which kept 87 percent. Despite getting a range boost for 2020, the Ioniq needs to keep all the miles it can.

Indeed, the importance of range retention increases as rated range drops. A driving radius that might be deemed adequate for a buyer’s purposes on a warm, sunny day in June might not be quite as rosy in January. Hardly a concern to, say, Californians, but it’s certainly something worth considering if you live in Chicago or Toronto. Keep in mind that the testing conditions in Norway were fairly mild.

No one wants to forego heat in a bid to make it to their destination.

One model that was supposed to reach our shores in short order (but has since been delayed a full year) is the Mercedes-Benz EQC, which generated some controversy when the automaker announced a lackluster estimated EPA range of 200 miles. The company soon increased that projection to 222 miles. In the Norwegian test, the driver made it 190 miles before requiring a tow to the nearest fast-charge station.

Sadly, there was no Porsche Taycan to test. That models boasts a range that pales in comparison to even Chevrolet and Hyundai.

As for the commonplace Nissan Leaf and Leaf Plus, those models retained 77 and 78 percent of their range, respectively. The most affordable of those two is rated at 151 miles by the EPA. The Norwegian test returned 129.9 miles.

One test only provides us with an idea of what to expect. A multitude of factors come into play when it comes to EV range: temperature, whether or not the vehicle contains a battery heater (or whether the garage itself is heated), terrain, and use of vehicle accessories. Still, it’s just another reminder to do your homework before buying a new vehicle.

[Image: Hyundai, General Motors]

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32 Comments on “Will Your EV’s Range Suffer in the Cold? Norway Sheds Some Light on That...”

  • avatar

    they should have a gasoline/diesel heater option so the EV’s can compete better

    but that won’t help EV’s range reduction when cooling in hot climates

  • avatar

    Yeah though I drive through the valley of range and blistering cold, I sacrifice myself for the god of electrons.

    BTU’s in a gallon of fuel never felt so good.

  • avatar

    “If you’ve ever seen the Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance,…. you’ll know that Norway gets pretty cold and snowy. ”

    Well. Right now they have a show on tv called Vikings. In parallel, they show action in Norway and Kievan Rus. In Kievan Rus they have weather cold and snowy. But in Norway it is like mid spring or something.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      I watch “Vikings” too, but it’s not as good as it was before Ragnar was killed off.
      Norway is surrounded by water and the temperatures are mitigated somewhat. Kyiv is landlocked and continental, so it gets full-on winter.
      Kind of like how Kansas City is much colder than Boston, even though Boston is much farther north.

      • 0 avatar

        Perhups you are right. Kattegat is an area between Denmark and Sweden. Nearby city there is Gothenburg, Sweden. Their climate is such that winter temp is about 32F. And in the show Kattegat is filmed in Lough Tay, County Wicklow, Ireland.

    • 0 avatar

      Norway has Maritime climate, it is surrounded by water which has much higher heat retention than surface. Kiev is 1000 miles away from closest inland seas. Kiev has continental climate. This is 6th or 7th grade geography.

  • avatar

    Actual useful results.

    The Model S and X Teslas are apparently still supplied by battery cells made by Panasonic in Japan. Are they the old 18650 whatsits? The poor old model 3 has the Panasonic Gigafactory cells 2170s or something, and have whatever fooling around with the chemistry Panasonic let the geniuses at Tesla fool around with, seeing as they were going to supposedly make their own and had a few ideas. Result: Model X kept 83 percent of its range, but the Model 3 slumped to 72%. Hmm. I sense pure genius at work.

    And Hyundai seems to have a clue as well, while the Bolt tanked.

    Good to know.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    A 20-30% reduction in range from a mild cold spell? This is not encouraging.
    What happens when the battery sits out in -10F weather? Or -20F? Not the kind of weather you want to be stranded in.
    For those from sunny climes, keep in mind that driving a car at highway speeds through below-zero air requires the heat to be CRANKED the entire time. You won’t be able to set the heat low.
    Add another decade to the “end of fossil fuels”.

    • 0 avatar

      This is when you get a pair of “battery operated” socks and gloves like the bikers wear in cold climate, maybe a snow mobile suit also, you know, just in case!

  • avatar

    Ten to thirty percent loss at thirty three to twenty one degrees. What’s it like at minus twenty five on a winter night in a northern US state or in Canada? PHEVs don’t have that problem while providing many of the benefits of electrification.

    • 0 avatar

      The article doesn’t appear to state that. The range reduction is calculated from WLTP results. I can’t find detailed parameters for the WLTP test series, only vague statements like “room temp” which I’ll take a WAG is ~ +70 F. or +21C. This was a 2 minute Google search so not exhaustive.

      *If* the above assumption is valid, the temperature delta is more like 40 to 50 deg F. And I’d question whether a test performed at “room temperature” would have cabin, seat and/or steering wheel heaters turned on. A reduction to ~ 70% capacity under those conditions is about what I expected. A build-out of charging stations to some to some “reasonable density” (another indeterminate term) would push this into an edge issue for most use cases especially for the longer-range cars.

      • 0 avatar

        So WTF can’t I edit within the allotted time?

        I’m assuming you mean from +32 to +21 deg. and not from +70 to the lower-indicated temps. That may not be the case but I couldn’t get back in to state that.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m relatively pro-PHEV. I’m keeping an eye on the final specs and lease rates for the next 330e.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep. A PHEV would work well for me. It’s about 120 miles RT for the occasional run to the nearest large city (where I also have family). But it’s only about 40-ish miles RT to get to decent shopping and services offerings. A PHEV covers all that and for those uses would be electric-only 90% of the time.

        • 0 avatar

          I figure if I have to carry around something big and heavy that I won’t use most of the time, I would rather that be an ICE than a gigantic battery. Much more useful, lots cheaper.

          But I don’t drive enough to care about electric propulsion in any form. I’d buy a Hemi Challenger if Chrysler would make me a convertible one.

  • avatar

    There are those below zero Michigan mornings when I got to start my ICE car – and it feels like the crankshaft is going through mud as the starter just barely turns over.

    Another data point – One Detroit writer’s experience with the Tesla 3:

    “The car’s computer was honest enough to tell me what most EV advocates only whisper — that battery range degrades significantly in cold weather. At the speed limit in 30-degree December temps, I would only get 70 percent of battery range, burning 154 miles of range to roll up 114 miles on the odometer.

    As the mercury dropped below 20 degrees in this winter of the polar vortex, my range has degraded as much as 50 percent.”

  • avatar

    This seems pretty accurate. Our own Bolt reports around 180-190 miles range on the coldest days. One thing you can do that helps a lot is to remote start an EV while it’s still connected to power. The climate control uses the most power warming a cold interior to room temp, and if the interior is already warm before you disconnect from power it will save you a decent number of battery Wh.

    The Bolt’s range is long enough that the loss in winter really isn’t an obstacle at all. We’ve never once taken the battery under 25%, and that’s usually starting from a 90% charge (which extends battery lifespan and ensures regen available starting down the hill from our house).

    • 0 avatar

      How do you like the Bolt? I’ve seen so few out in the wild. Genuinely curious to hear someone’s day-to-day experience with one.

      • 0 avatar

        Come to Seattle and you won’t be able to throw a rock without hitting one. There are three, plus my own, within two blocks of me. We are very happy customers, although we’re not yet ready to ditch the second gas (hybrid) car.

        – The powertrain is smooth, responsive, and powerful. You’ll win more drag races than you expect.
        – Range is more than enough for our uses. No range anxiety whatsoever, and no gas station stops.
        – With cheap Seattle power, fuel costs are about 1/4-1/3 of a similar gas car.
        – Solid structure and good suspension tuning, although the ride is a little choppy because of the short wheelbase.
        – Packaging is excellent. It fits in the tiniest parking spots while comfortably fitting four full-size adults and quite a lot of cargo.
        – Interface is intuitive and well-presented (IMO much better than the Model 3).

        – Expensive. Won’t pay for itself in TCO compared to a Sonic. You have to want EV advantages.
        – Interior materials look and feel cheap. It’s a Sonic inside, $30k+ pricetag or not.
        – A few features are missing at the price point: sunroof, dual-zone climate, power seats, memory seats are the ones that I really notice.
        – Front seats are a bit narrow and will not fit Burger King-Americans well.

    • 0 avatar

      Dal, I saw a Bolt at a convenience store and talked to the woman that was driving it. She was very knowledgeable and when queried about driving range, stated the best to date was 330 miles between charges. It must have been my look of amazement (or perhaps disbelief) so she pulled out a composition notebook with records her and her husband recorded. Were they hypermiling, hair-shirt-wearing Ninjas or is that within reason to achieve? It was during summer.

      One of the magazines catering to the EE trade bought a Bolt and did an engineering teardown on it. Their conclusion was that GM produced a first-class electrical design WRT the powertrain so good for them.

      • 0 avatar

        330 miles is hard for me to imagine, but then again it’s really hilly around here and EVs get better range on the flat. Still, I expect some hypermiling was involved. With the Bolt’s 60 kWh battery, 330 miles would be 5.5 mi/kWh. I get between 3ish mi/kWh (short winter trips) and 4.5 (the best summer trips).

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I have done this and it does help with the range, however, at least in my case if it is cold enough that the car needs to use the resistive grid versus the heat pump style heater (I think somewhere around 30ish heat pumps become inefficient), you will notice it on your power bill. If your chuckleheads kid kicks that bad boy. on like an hour before he leaves for school you will really notice it and want to have a discussion with him.

  • avatar

    I was reading an article similar to this in a Romanian newspaper the other day. Diesel is still the fuel of choice there but slowly the 2%-ers are getting into Tesla’s not because they love the environment but for the novelty/uniqueness of it. The author was talking about the weekend trek that people from the capital city Bucharest make to the mountains and skiing areas 60 miles North of the capital. Due to the lack of highways the 60 miles can take anywhere from 2 to 7-8 hours with tons of stop and go traffic Last weekend was a bit cold I guess ( 15F) and after being stuck in traffic for a few hours he claims to have seen a bunch of dead electric vehicles on the side of the road and lesser peons in VW Tdi just slowly passing them while smiling and waveing. To summarize, the author was advocating for hybrids not pure electrics due to the nature of Romanian winters and huge traffic jams encountered all over the place, particularly in the winter when having the heater at full blast is a must

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Battery performance follows an Arrhenius equation, which is a fancy way of saying performance is non-linear with respect to temperature, so capacity will drop like a rock below 0°C. You can play games with the chemistry (electrolyte viscosity, etc) to improve low temperature performance, but at the expense of room temperature capacity / range.

  • avatar

    Once you’re actually driving the battery will generate internal heat from its own operation, but I have no idea how much above ambient it might able able to stay. (Remember that most EV batteries need to be actively cooled in warmer weather.)

    But if you park the EV outdoors for a lengthy period at low ambient, I bet you’re dead meat.

    • 0 avatar

      @NeilM: The batteries are actively heated too. Parking outdoors isn’t an issue either. If the temps are extreme, you can plug the car in and the battery will be kept at a safe temperature.

  • avatar

    Sadly the greenies will need global warming to get the most out of their dirty battery vehicles – powered by dirty energy sources – their rare earth metal batteries produced by extensively dirty mining and then the processing to turn those minerals into actual batteries. From the start, EV’s start with a dirty resume that works to be as clean as a fossil fuel car’s efficiency over their respective lifetimes. And remember that today’s ICE are often producing cleaner exhaust than the air that it takes in. Do the research.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “That’s 21F, or shorts weather in Minneapolis.”

    Damn straight!

    EV’s get hit with the double whammy in cold weather. Reduced battery range plus electric heat which really uses a lot of juice even in the ECO setting. The GF & my son both complain about my cold Volt in the winter but I tell them heat sucks too much of my precious battery juice……toughen up you wussies we’re almost home….LOL!

  • avatar

    My wife, who is cold all the time doesn’t even leave the seat heat on once the leather is up to body temp.

    Do people really leave the heated seats on all the time? I guess the question might be, do heated seats take less power than heating the cabin so you can heat your backside and lower the cabin temp?

  • avatar

    I hit “reply”, write all that, and then you tell me I need to log in? Again? You basta…!

    At least with the old commenting system you could go back and retrieve your text.

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