The technological advancement that has occurred in the field of battery production is undoubtedly one of the reasons that have led the electric car market to explode ahead of time, but despite all the progress made, batteries still have several weaknesses that must be taken into account when buying.
With the arrival of winter, many new owners of electric cars are faced with a bitter discovery: the performance of the batteries can be clearly affected by extremely cold temperatures, going to reduce the autonomy and the speed of charging accordingly. All this happens because the electrodes of the battery, that is, the negative and positive poles between which the flow of electrons takes place, are sensitive to sudden changes in temperature; in essence, as is the case on endothermic cars that in winter have higher consumption due to low ignition temperatures, electric cars in winter have a lower autonomy and charging capacity.
The situation will improve in the near future when the spread of lithium-sulfur batteries takes place, able to offer better performance both in terms of mileage and in terms of charging capacity.
What are the remedies for the winter?
Battery preheating is the best method to ensure maximum performance: the battery must be kept between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius, and below this threshold, the capacities are significantly reduced, as you can easily experience with other devices such as smartphones. According to tests carried out by the American Automobile Association, an electric car at -6°C loses about 12% of autonomy compared to the one used at 23 °C.
To buffer this problem, some manufacturers have integrated on their cars a system of preheating the battery pack, but the most effective method is undoubtedly to park the car in a closed place and disconnect it from the current immediately before using it; in this way, the battery will have already been heated by the charging system, and will more easily maintain its temperature during use.
Another important aspect to take into account in winter – but also in summer – is that of heating the passenger compartment, for which there are two solutions: classic heating is definitely hungry for energy and can consume up to 4 kW, while heating by a heat pump – an increasingly popular option on electric cars – can take place with very reduced consumption, between 500 and 750 W. Unfortunately, the heat pump is not very efficient at very low temperatures, thus denying the advantage in terms of energy consumption.
Also in this case the advice is the same: preheat the passenger compartment when the car is still attached to the current – and possibly parked indoors – and detach it at the last moment. Where available, seat and steering wheel heating systems consume much less electricity and are very effective at keeping those in the car warm.
Aerodynamics is a really fundamental aspect for electric cars, because reducing the turbulence of air around the car can significantly improve the mileage range. Installing a ski rack or a roof box on the roof of your car can clearly reduce the amount of kilometers that can be covered with a single charge, so our advice is to disassemble it when not necessary.
The solar panels installed on the roof of an electric car can provide a little help in terms of autonomy: this is an option not yet widespread, but already seen on models such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which can provide some kWh that in winter can be very valuable. To ensure that they work at their best, it is important that the roof of the car remains clean and well exposed to sunlight.
Among the most important aspects there is undoubtedly that of the driving style to be maintained in the winter months: when the roads are snowy or offer poor grip for various reasons, it is important to maintain a fluid driving style avoiding sudden changes in speed, both in acceleration and braking. The choice of route can also make the difference in this aspect,because a flat road, even if longer, could be easier to travel and less expensive in terms of energy consumed. Another valuable help comes from regenerative braking, which can provide a good amount of energy to the car while driving: be careful, however, if the battery is too cold it will not be able to absorb the recovered energy, which will instead be wasted. Finally, the choice of tires can be crucial: as we well know, there are already several tire solutions dedicated to electric cars, to improve performance and consumption in the various areas of use, even winter ones.
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