When the Mercury Drops So Does Electric Vehicle Range

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AAA finds that icy temperatures cause drop in electric vehicle range

In recent years, electric vehicles, also known as EVs, have gained popularity as more variety in design, style and options have become available. Not only are these electric cars considered environmentally friendly, they offer other benefits such as lower-than-average ownership costs and the latest in advanced safety technology.

Despite how far electric vehicles have come in the past several years, many drivers are still hesitant to purchase one due to “range anxiety.” This is the fear of running out of power before reaching home or the next charging station. AAA Automotive Engineers say the key to overcoming this fear is to understand what factors can impact electric vehicle range. To help drivers learn more about what limitations exist, AAA conducted primary research to determine if outside air temperature as well as the use of heating and A/C has any effect on range.

How Far Do Electric Cars Go?

AAA’s study found that both hot and cold temperatures can reduce driving range. However, when the mercury dips below freezing, electric vehicle range is more dramatically affected. But, the use of HVAC to heat or cool the inside of the vehicle places additional strain on the battery and diminishes range at a higher rate – driving range for vehicles tested decreased an average of 41 percent. Should drivers turn off electric car heating and air conditioning while driving to save on battery? Absolutely not! There are other ways to preserve driving range that will not endanger the safety or disrupt the comfort of the car’s occupants.

Extend Your EV Battery Range

The best way to maximize driving range is to plan ahead. When drivers are aware of the weather conditions (i.e. changes in temperature) before heading out, especially on a longer trip they should plan for more frequent stops for charging as well as identify the location of charging stations. Charging infrastructure for electric vehicles continues to grow with the number of charging stations across the United States numbering more than 16,000. Drivers can access these locations through AAA’s Mobile app or TripTik Planner. Also, before hitting the road, AAA recommends “pre-heating” or cooling down the inside of the vehicle while still connected to the charger. This will reduce the demand on the vehicle’s battery to achieve the proper cabin temperature while driving.

“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,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations.

Plan Ahead When Driving an Electric Car

Most Americans live in regions where temperatures fluctuate during the year, however climate should not discourage someone from considering an electric vehicle for their next car. Those interested in owning an electric vehicle just have to do some additional planning when driving during more extreme conditions.

Click here to view the full AAA Electric Vehicle Range Testing report

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