AAA: Cold weather can cut electric vehicle range by almost half

New research conducted by AAA revealed that when temperatures dip to 20 degrees Fahrenheit and a driver uses heat to warm up their auto, the driving range of the vehicle decreases by 41 percent. Many Tesla owners began reporting issues with their Model 3 vehicles, Bloomberg recently published accounts from a number of Tesla owners that faced range issues during the recent cold weather.

First, the organization obtained a baseline range reading on each vehicle at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. In 93°F (34°C) weather, range dropped by about four per cent with no climate control activated, and around 17 per cent with the air conditioner running.

New research from AAA has shown that at temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit, combined with the use of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system to heat the inside of the vehicle, the average driving range is decreased by 41 percent, AAA said on Thursday.

The AAA study used five sample cars, each from a different manufacturer, with a minimum 100-mile range and wide availability in the U.S. It compared performance at three temperatures: 20°F, 75°F, and 95°F, per the SAE International standard, used in the automotive industry. That could cut the vehicle's range by 41 percent, it said.

Regardless of which model - BMW i3 S, Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S and Volkswagen e-Golf - was put under the microscope on a dynamometer in a climate-controlled room, the range bleed was much the same. Greg Brannon, AAA's director of automotive engineering, said in a statement "We found that the impact of temperature on EVs is significantly more than we expected".

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In a statement to The Associated Press, Tesla disputed the findings. The company said that based on data collected from its cars on the road, "the average Model S customer doesn't experience anywhere near that decrease in range".

When the temperature tumbled to 20°(-6°C) last week in Hickory, North Carolina, near Charlotte, Jason Hughes noticed the range fall when he drove his Tesla Model 3 on the commute from home to work. "If you want to go somewhere far in the cold, you're going to be using more power".

The driving range of electric cars is not only impacted in cold climates, but in extremely hot environments too.

AAA says electric cars can still be used in extreme climates but recommends that drivers heat or cool their cars while still plugged in to a charging station.

Where cars with a petrol or diesel engine can rely on the waste heat created by combustion, electric vehicles need to rely on battery power to drive the climate control.

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