Can You Drive EVs in Extreme Temperatures? Two Myths Debunked

We debunk two myths about whether EVs can operate in extreme cold and heat. Find out why they perform no differently than traditional vehicles when drivers take the right precautions.
Written by Jason Crosby
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Oct 2, 2022
EVs
have their fair share of myths swirling around them. Whether it’s the belief that they can somehow wreck the U.S. power grid, or that EV batteries can’t be recycled, it’s obvious from the misconceptions floating around us that we don’t have as much common knowledge with EVs as we may feel comfortable pretending we do. 
Perhaps one of the most pervasive concerns is that EVs aren’t suitable for people in extreme climates—but that’s simply not true. Just like a normal car, an EV may need special care to ensure it drives optimally in hot or cold weather, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t up to the job. 
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Myth #1: EV batteries don’t work in cold weather

TechCrunch
explains that this myth is simply untrue. Though EV batteries can lose 10-15% of their capacity in cold conditions, they don’t require spark or glow plugs in order to start their motors, as a gas or diesel engine would. 
Also unbeknownst to most drivers, many modern EVs allow you to precondition your battery before you drive off in the snow or winter gloom. This allows the battery to effectively warm up, so to speak. This occurs while the vehicle is charging, not while it’s running in the garage or driveway. 

Myth #2: EVs don’t run properly in hot weather

We should point out that extreme temperatures will affect most vehicles in some way, whether they’re ICE-powered or an EV. In normal conditions, driving in hot weather means that the
EV owner
is going to be blasting the A/C—and just as in a traditional vehicle, an EV will experience decreased range due to power being converted to its A/C system. 
LifeWire
reports that excessive exposure to extremely high external temperatures can degrade the capacity of an EV battery, but many automakers conduct rigorous tests to ensure that their vehicles can perform well in the varied climates of the U.S.—from Arizona to Hawaii. 
In general, EVs actually perform better in cold temperatures than they do in high temperatures, but in general do best in a temperature range of between 65-70º Fahrenheit.

How to ensure your EV runs optimally in hot or cold weather

We’ve included a few tips to ensure that your EV runs safely and efficiently in extreme temperatures. Before venturing out in your EV in hot or cold weather, be sure to keep the following in mind. In hot weather: 
  • Avoid parking your EV out in the sun. Instead, find a shady spot, or better, park in a garage or climate-controlled space. 
  • Allow your EV’s cabin to cool off before you start driving, preferably while it’s plugged in. This way, you’ll waste less electricity using your A/C unit while driving. 
  • Use economy mode (if available) when it’s hot out. This will reduce acceleration and power to accessory systems (like entertainment, A/C, etc) and provide the battery with more power—ensuring you get the most out of your fully-charged battery. 
  • Avoid charging your battery outside when the weather is below freezing. Battery capacity decreases as temperatures drop, so you’ll get more out of your charge and put less wear and tear on your EV battery by charging someplace out of the cold. 
  • Go easy on the accelerator. Driving without a lead foot is an easy way to preserve battery capacity in cold temperatures. 
  • Keep your car’s load light. This means that although it may be tempting to put sandbags in the trunk during the winter to help you gain traction, EVs already have an exceptionally low center of gravity. They can also weigh close to 2,000 lbs more than a gas-engine variety of the same model, which helps with traction in icy conditions. 

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