Does Temperature Impact EV Range?

Paul MilnerOctober 8, 2021

As more fleets around the world begin to adopt electric vehicles, certain considerations are being integrated into management strategy that were never a thought with ICE vehicles. While fuel savings and less frequent maintenance are major selling points for the vehicles, managers must also understand how temperature and weather conditions affect electric vehicle health and range.

Just as with any battery-operated item, there is an optimal operating temperature for EVs. Because of this, fleets operating in areas with extreme weather must keep this in mind during the peak of harsh winter and summer months.

Extreme cold conditions

Anyone in colder regions knows the feeling of watching your phone battery go from 50 percent to 5 percent within minutes of taking it out of your coat pocket. Or of leaving your phone in the summer sun and getting an overheating warning on the screen. Electric vehicle batteries are not much different.

Extreme cold temperatures can reduce vehicle range by up to 12 percent, which is a significant amount if you cannot recharge throughout the day. This happens because the cold slows the chemical and physical reactions happening inside the battery that are necessary for it to work.

Cold temps also lengthen charging time for EVs, due to increased impedance. This is important to note as managers create a charging plan for their fleet. It’s possible that vehicles could need more time at charging stations during winter months, or a higher power solution for quick charging.

Managing high battery temperatures

Luckily, the effects of cold weather on EV range and charging are mostly temporary. Exposure to extreme heat, on the other hand, causes permanent harm and degradation.

In general, exposure to heat speeds up chemical reactions. In the case of a lithium-ion battery, this means that the reaction happening throughout the discharge cycle is happening much faster, draining the battery at a higher rate. This is bad news for vehicles working long hours on the road and depending on optimal vehicle range.

This is why thermal management is crucial for maintaining battery health and longevity. They utilize complex liquid or air-cooling systems to keep batteries at an optimal operating temperature of 288 to 208 K. This allows batteries to function at peak performance and not suffer loss of power or range.

In extreme weather EV batteries are working overtime, having to keep the driver in the cabin warm or cool, along with the battery itself.

The biggest perpetrator

Surprisingly, the main culprit of lost EV range is not temperatures themselves, but the use of in-cabin climate control as a result of those unfavorable temperatures. Heating and cooling use up a large amount of power from an EV battery, and the amount of range lost can be up to 40 percent. This can be a very daunting figure for drivers and managers, and increase range anxiety.

It was found that electric vehicles operate most efficiently on days that are around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Days that were even a few degrees higher or lower saw more drivers turning on the heating or cooling to get that optimal in-cabin temperature of 70 degrees, ultimately making vehicles less efficient.

In extreme weather EV batteries are working overtime, having to keep both the driver and the battery pack at optimal temperatures. This strain on the battery can be detrimental for battery health, and prevent it from performing as well as it should.

What can fleet managers do?

There are a few ways managers can encourage drivers to preserve battery power while on the road. One way is by encouraging drivers to use heated seat and steering wheel features to keep warm. This requires far less energy than constantly keep the air heated but still keeps drivers warm.

Another consideration is keeping vehicles in temperature-controlled garages at night. This will help to keep EVs at optimal temperature, and will reduce the amount of energy required to get your vehicle initially warmed up or cooled down.

Lastly, keep vehicles plugged in when possible. OEMs suggest that drivers leave EVs plugged in when not being used on very hot or cold days. This allows for the battery temperature controls to keep working and help prevent battery degradation.

The good news is that as EVs continue to evolve, larger battery packs are being made. With larger volume and capacity, a loss of vehicle range will be less significant and less of a threat to EV drivers.

If you’re interested to learn more about your vehicle’s performance and how our team of analysts are helping fleets optimize their operations, schedule a demo with us today.

Paul Milner

Benchmarking and Professional Services Manager

Paul Milner is a Benchmarking and Professional Services Manager at Utilimarc. He studied mathematics and philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. Working at Utilimarc for nearly ten years, he helps find the stories and solve problems within complex data sets. See more from Paul

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