The Achilles heel of electric cars: electric vehicles, cold weather and the lack of information

Electric cars are known to lose their range when temperatures drop. But if you’re wondering whether electric vehicle charging is also slower in cold weather, look no further than the dry fine print of a recent Toyota press release: “For the bZ4X AWD, charging may slow more than other models in weather conditions below 32 degrees.” Fahrenheit [zero degrees Celsius] This may not be possible when the temperature drops to around -4°F [-20 degrees Celsius] and under.”

Not all automakers are as coming as Toyota. Subaru’s new, all-electric Solterra shares a platform with the bZ4X, but the automaker is conservative about its cold-weather performance. “While the Subaru Soltera is expected to launch later this year, we are unable to provide more information at this time,” Sebastien Lagoy, a Subaru Canada spokesperson, wrote.

When asked about cold-weather charging restrictions in the new Nissan Arya, a company spokeswoman provided a similar response: “We cannot comment on this because Nissan does not publish such data,” Rachel Gascola wrote.

Hyundai has acknowledged the problem with the Ioniq 5. “The Ioniq 5’s charging rate slows, as with all electric vehicles in cold conditions. However, we do apply battery heating on the Ioniq 5 in the Canadian market, so we can still charge the car even lower than – 4F,” said Jennifer McCarthy, National Director of Public Relations for Hyundai Canada.

Explaining Toyota’s disclaimer, Philip Crowe of Toyota Canada said that if the battery itself was kept warmer than minus 20 degrees Celsius — such as using an AC charger, or not leaving the car outdoors for long periods of time without charging — it would help. And the owner will still be able to charge quickly using DC fast charging.

But for some electric vehicle drivers, this may be less than ideal.

“If you’re charging below zero, the charging process is going to be very, very long,” said Moataz Mohamed, assistant professor of civil engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton.

“Below zero degrees Celsius, you can’t just plug in an EV and get power in your battery right away. There are several stages to charge a lithium-ion battery.” In the first stage, you actually convert that electricity into heat to heat up the battery and then the battery starts accepting or storing energy. This energy used to heat the battery pack leads to loss of range and longer charging times.

A cold battery could mean twice the charging time, said Lawrence Zeer, project manager for Ultium Energy Recovery Systems at General Motors in Clarkson, Michigan. The battery is on some models, allowing charging times to stay the same fast.

The new Ultium Battery platform in its latest electric vehicles, including the GMC Hummer and Cadillac Lyriq. The Bolt won’t have it, but all other models will. Zahr said the company has taken lessons from Bolt. “We need to do it better.”

Battery preheating can be done on many electric vehicles – some cars use the Connected Services app, which lets you preheat the battery and cabin before boarding your car, all from your mobile phone.

Not only does cold weather increase charging times; It also reduces the range. If your car is parked outside for days in less than 20°C weather, “You can see half of your car [range] The ability is starting to drop, Zahr said. But it wasn’t gone forever. “The power is still there, but you can’t get it out of the battery because of the temperature.” And as the battery gets warmer, he said, drivers will see the ranges begin to increase.

According to a recent study from Recurrent, a Seattle-based battery analytics company, all electric vehicles lose some range in cold weather. Of the 13 electric vehicles studied, the range fell an average of 10 percent to more than 30 percent. This is in large part because the chemical reactions that lithium-ion batteries depend on occur more slowly and climate control is less efficient in an EV than a conventional internal combustion engine, said Liz Najman, a climate scientist and director of communications at Recurrent.

When you drive a conventional gasoline car, the engine results in a lot of waste heat. Touch the hood and you’ll really feel the heat. Basically, the car keeps all that energy and the extra heat flows into the cabin so you get free heating,” Najm said.

“In an electric car, electric motors are very efficient. They don’t have a lot of waste heat, so the battery has to generate a lot of heat, and that derives from the same source you get on your range.”

Based on Recurrent research, the most efficient cold-weather electric vehicle was the Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD SUV, which reached 98 percent of its original rated range in just under one to six degrees Celsius. The Model Y uses a new, more energy-efficient heat pump system to regulate temperatures without drawing from the high voltage battery.

The least efficient electric vehicle was the Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD, which achieved 65 percent of its range in minus one to six degrees Celsius. Heat pump, so power is taken from the battery to generate heat, which reduces range.

The Chevrolet Bolt, which also doesn’t have a heat pump, made 66 percent of its original range, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

Based on Muhammad’s studies, heavy-duty electric vehicles lose between 16 and 22 percent of range based on climate control settings, road conditions and the battery’s interior temperature. “This is the Achilles heel of electric cars,” he said. In cold temperatures, a plug-in block heater is recommended when you park or a smart charger is used, so if you need your car at a specific time, the system will optimize the amount of energy used to make sure it’s ready.

For manufacturers, he recommends abandoning the equivalent data for fuel consumption and replacing it with a multi-level system designed to accurately reflect the range in the EV.

“We shouldn’t use the same approach with electric vehicles because it’s not about highways or urban areas. It’s the other way around. If you’re driving in choppy traffic, you gain a lot of power from the regenerative braking system,” Mohamed said. Automakers have to provide three key figures for electric vehicles: summer performance data with air conditioning, winter performance data with heating, and complete performance data without air conditioning or heating.Then, drivers will be able to make an informed decision about whether an electric vehicle fits their lifestyle.

In cold weather, Recurrent’s Najman recommends using seat heaters and steering wheel heating instead of vented climate controls, charging immediately after the ride when the battery is warm, and making sure any car you buy has a heat pump to generate heat with minimal drag. on battery.

On the bright side, she said, loss of range and slow charging times in cold weather are temporary and won’t harm the battery. “Your range should return once the weather has melted.”

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