What are electric cars like in extreme weather?

Can electric cars cope with extreme heat or cold, rain and snow?

By Michael Boxwell on July 18, 2011 12:27 PM

Just as the economy of a petrol car varies depending on the temperature and weather conditions, the range of an electric car can vary in extreme weather conditions.

Range is not badly affected by lights nor windscreen wipers, but extremely cold temperatures can reduce the range of most electric cars by around one third. Some manufacturers reduce this problem by incorporating battery heaters into their vehicles, keeping the batteries warm whilst the car is on charge.

Using heating or air conditioning makes the biggest difference to the range of an electric car. Turn on a fan heater onto full blast and leave it switched on can reduce the range of an electric car by up to 30%. Manufacturers have worked around this problem in different ways: Nissan and REVA have a remote control pre-heat function that allows the car heater to be switched on whilst the car is still plugged in. Mitsubishi and Peugeot have heated seats which use much less energy. Volvo is experimenting with a diesel heater option.

Driving an electric car in the snow can be a lot of fun. An electric motor is ultra smooth and does not need to be revved up when pulling away and can slow the car down without using the brakes. Consequently, an electric car on ice and snow is far easier to control than a combustion engine car.