It’s a well-known fact that extreme temperatures can have significant effects on a car. Anybody who has shuffled into their car in sub-zero temperatures this winter, only to find that their battery is dead, can attest to this firsthand. But what about modern all-electric vehicles? The American Automobile Association (AAA) put three EVs to the test to find out how hot, moderate, and cold temperatures affected the cars’ operational range.
AAA tested a 2013 Nissan Leaf, a 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and a 2014 Ford Focus Electric on a dynamometer in a climate-controlled room. Each vehicle was fully charged and then driven to mimic stop-and-go city conditions until the battery died. AAA conducted the same test for all three vehicles in 95-degree, 75-degree, and 20-degree Fahrenheit temperatures. As it turns out, the range of an electric vehicle varies significantly depending on the outside temperature.
In ideal conditions, at 75 degrees, the average range of the Leaf, i-MiEV, and Focus Electric was 105 miles. When the heat cranked up to a toasty 95 degrees, average range fell 33 percent to 69 miles. The batteries fared even worse in the cold — at 20 degrees, the cars' average range dipped to just 43 miles, which is 57 percent below the range seen in moderate temperatures.
Although electric vehicles are different from traditional combustion-powered vehicles in many ways, it’s clear that both are subject to fluctuations in performance relative to outside conditions. Pumping the A/C on full blast in the summer or dialing up the heat in the winter will definitely make for a more comfortable commute, but all drivers should expect to see decreases in efficiency as a consequence. Electric vehicle drivers, too, would do well to plan accordingly on particularly hot or cold days, and not press their luck when it comes to keeping their batteries charged.