As we head into winter, electric vehicle (EV) performance can be impacted by colder temperatures. If your vehicle is well maintained, it will work even in the most extreme conditions, similar to petrol or diesel cars. In this article we explain what impacts EV efficiency in the winter, and how to get the most from your battery.

Are electric vehicles less efficient in winter? 

The simple answer is yes, EVs are less efficient in colder temperatures. On average EVs have 20-30% lower range in winter due to a mix of reduced battery performance and increased energy consumption from the heating systems. 

Person plugging an EV into a charge point at Watergate Bay Hotel.

EV batteries work by creating chemical reactions in the Lithium ions. Put simply, cold weather can slow these movements down, restricting battery performance.

Studies in the US have found that efficiency can drop by as much as 41% in temperatures below -6C, if you choose to have your heating on full blast.

Heating the vehicle takes lots of energy from the battery, which is already running on reduced power. Some models of EV have auxiliary heat pumps, taking heat energy from the air outside rather than using the battery to generate heat. These will increase range during the winter, but these are not standard on every model, so make sure to check this if you’re thinking of purchasing an EV. 

Even though your vehicle’s mileage will drop in very cold temperatures, it will likely be high enough for you daily commute, as well as some longer journeys, as average mileage is still well over 100 miles. It’s worth mentioning that combustion engines are less efficient in winter too.

Is EV charging impacted by cold weather? 

It is safe to charge electric vehicles in heavy rain or snow, as there are many layers of protective material to cover the electrical components and stop water and small particles getting in.

When charging in public or using a Type 1 charger at home, charging speeds may be slower. There are options to get high-quality, water-resistant home chargers with power boost options, to ensure maximum efficiency in winter. 

Electric car plug charging in the winter. Amsterdam, Netherlands

How to maximise efficiency of your EV 

There are ways to maximise the efficiency of your EV in winter, including performing regular maintenance, the same as with any car. 

  • Keep your EV charged up
    By topping up your battery more often, you will help to maximise the range and performance, as well as ensuring you won’t get stranded in extreme weather conditions. Keeping your charge percentage above 20% also helps with the overall battery health. 
  • Pre-condition your vehicle
    When your car is plugged in, you can pre-condition it by turning on the heating and defrosting the windscreens if needed. This means that the heating will be drawing power from the mains rather than directly from the battery.  
  • Get a good set of winter tyres
    As with any car, winter tyres will help to improve efficiency by making it easier to drive on icy roads. Even with winter tyres, care will need to be taken in snowy or icy conditions as electric vehicles are heavier than petrol or diesel vehicles, so are more likely to slip. 
  • Use heated seats
    If your EV has heated seats or a heated steering wheel, these use less power than the main heating. Make more use of these features to minimise the strain on the battery. 
  • Drive more smoothly
    Avoid harsh acceleration or braking as these will decrease the power in the battery. Some models have eco or winter settings, and by turning these on, you can maximise the range further.  
  • Drive more slowly
    In an EV it is most efficient to drive slowly. While this isn’t always safe or practical, reducing your speed from 70mph to 60mph, for example, will increase your range.