Driving during the winter in an electric car may sound scary to you because you may believe that the engineers are only concerned about the driving range, and not the stability on ice and snow.
I have believed that it was going to be a hassle to drive in the wintertime because I felt that the interior of my hybrid would not be heated as fast as within a conventional car. Also, I had read that the driving range would be a lot lower during cold and snowy weather.
How well does an Electric Car really handle during snowy conditions? An electric car handles quite well on snowy roads. It provides instant torque then makes your driving experience safer and more stable than within a conventional car. Nevertheless, an electric car that has 4 wheel drive will handle snow better than an electric car that has just front-wheel drive.
There are other aspects of an electric car that allow it to handle better in the snow than a regular car that may have not been built into the design to make them handle better in the winter. Nevertheless, these pluses do exist.
An Electric Car is Heavy Due to its Battery, Providing More Stability on Snowy Roads
One attribute of an electric car that makes handling heavy snow easier is that it is heavy in general. The weight of the battery and the components that are connected to the battery are not light. This added weight helps to create more traction during slippery conditions.
If a car is light, it will slide on icy roads with less ability to maneuver than a heavy car that has gravity working on its side. The added weight due to the battery pack will allow the tires to grip more to the snow and ice.
I had a friend that had a large pickup truck that would fishtail because of the lightness of the rear of the truck. He used to load it with sandbags so that he could drive smoothly in wintery conditions.
Personally, I have not noticed problems with my hybrid car during winter. It might not be terribly heavy overall, but the battery pack is situated in an area that provides the tires with a lot of traction even when turning on ice.
The Drivetrains in an Electric Car Communicate Quickly with the Onboard Computer – Perfect for Winter Driving
Electric car manufacturers seem to be incorporating all-wheel drive into their vehicles. The fact that the drivetrain can communicate quickly allows these cars to use effectively AWD systems. Here is a shortlist of models that have AWD:
Tesla Model 3
The reason that AWD works well in the winter is that each tire is told by the onboard computer which traction to use. If a wheel is spinning on ice, the system will add in more traction to pull the car out of that patch of ice.
When you are able to pull away from an icy area, your winter driving starts to become fun in general.
I am driving a Sonata Plug-in Hybrid that does not have AWD, but it handles well in the snow due to its four-wheel ABS. I cannot wait to purchase the next Sonata that is scheduled to have AWD.
Beside good traction with all tires, an electric car has the ability to hit high torque even before the vehicle starts to drive through a snow-covered road.
Fun to Drive in the Winter with a Drivetrain that Has Stability Control
The drivetrain in most electric cars provides instant torque that will allow you to crawl through ice or even slush that is hard to deal with because of the lack of grip.
Also, the electronic traction control in an electric drivetrain allows some electric cars to send power to specific wheels that are losing traction.
This feature is advanced for the typical conventional cars, but electric cars are able to add in the AWD feature because of the strong onboard computer system. The systems are allowing fast communication that is a prerequisite for smooth power distribution to each tire separately.
The Range is Lessened by the Cold But No Problems Starting the Engine During the Winter
One of the major complaints that reviewers have with electric cars is the range is lessened during cold snaps. I have read many articles that state that is a fact, but it should not deter you from buying an electric car just based on a driving range reduction from time to time.
You need to realize that there are ways to reduce the effect that cold weather could have. You can keep your electric car charging in your garage that is heated. This will ensure that you have the maximum mileage possible.
It is true that once you are driving around that more electricity will be used to keep the temperature of the battery up, but this increased need for electricity will not break the bank.
Using more electricity is going to cost you a lot less than if you had to fill up your conventional car with gas. Also, even conventional cars will require more gas than usual in order to keep the motor running efficiently during sub-zero temperatures.
The decrease in the range during severely cold weather is actually not all that high. One study stated that a Tesla lost 38 percent of its range during a period of 20f. However, Tesla feels that this estimate is high. They are saying that actual customers are not seeing drops in driving ranges anywhere close to that level.
Plus, electric cars are able to be started with ease during cold weather. Even though more electricity is going to be used in the initial minutes to heat up the battery pack. Personally, I am ok with that since that I know that I can drive away and not have to worry about warming up a complete conventional car engine.
Something that you need to take into account that on longer trips in your electric car, the reduction in electricity will be less pronounced because the battery pack and the car interior will be already warmed up during the first portion of the trip.
The Electric Motor Provides Strong Traction and Control Due to the Digital Controls
I was wondering why an electric car has so many advanced features such as a highly responsive all-wheel drive. It is because of the architecture of an electric car. Electronic controls and signals are crucial and normal in an electric car.
The number of moving parts has to remain low to reduce the overall weight in the design for an electric car. The electronic control system has to be flexible because of the need to distribute the electricity that is not endless.
Adding in superior traction is easy to accomplish in an electric car. It is a matter of having great programmers that will be able to write code that will communicate quick commands to each wheel to add traction and extra power when needed.
What is great about the digital controls in an electric car is that it does not require much electricity at all. An electric car has a low number of moving parts. The more moving parts that a car has, the more power that will need to be distributed and thus diluted.
Besides having a strong digital system, electric cars are well balanced with respect to weight.
Tesla Has Good Traction in the Winter Due to its Weight Distribution
Another reason for outstanding traction in winter weather for an electric car is that it has great weight distribution. The main components are located close to the center of the electric car. This weight placement is preferable to a car that has a gas engine that has a lot of the weight at the ends of the car.
Many manufacturers claim that they have models that have a weight distribution of 50/50. However, they do not seem to highlight that the weight is close to the ends of the car which can negatively affect the stability during quick turns.
With the typical electric car, the battery pack is located close to the center of the vehicle; sometimes even under the back seats. This helps to balance correctly the vehicle during turns that are taking during higher speeds.
Also, the components in an electric car that heavy, are located close to the ground. Having a high portion of the weight low allows the center of gravity to be lower. A low center of gravity provides easier handling during snowy weather.
Telsa Uses Traction Control that Ensures that the Back End Does not Fishtail on Icy Turns
I wanted to find out if a Tesla has instances fishtailing especially with models that had rear-wheel drive. I read that it did not have problems with icy roads during descent or even an ascent.
Some people seem to fear that the regenerative braking will lock the wheels during a slippery descent, but apparently, if you feather press the accelerator, the wheels will not lock and the traction control will ensure that the backend does not slide around.
I used to have a rear-wheel-drive Sonata that would fishtail if added even slight acceleration during an icy turn. It is freshening to hear that the traction system in a Tesla is advanced enough to prevent the dreaded fishtail.
Besides just preventing fishtailing, the traction system is strong enough that you can pull away from an icy parking space that is pointing up a hill. You just press on the accelerator and you will be able to pull away smoothly.
Pulling away is fine, but what if you need to brake while driving down a hill? Your Tesla will still be under your control. It will simply stop and the rear end will be correctly aligned. There are not many cars that can deal with braking while going downhill during slippery conditions.
What if you are still worried about Fishtailing in a Tesla that has Advanced Traction?
If you are still paranoid about fishtailing in your Tesla, you should ensure that you have the best tires. Tires can affect greatly wheel traction. Higher priced tires will provide even more traction during slippery conditions. You will fishtail if driving a rear-wheel-drive vehicle that has tires that are cheaper in design that create less friction in the snow.
Of course, the typical Tesla will have adequate tires. But you can change them out to the best ones for winter driving that way you feel more reassured.
Tesla’s Adequate Tires and Power Distribution
Tesla uses a traction system that will really focus in on specific tires that are losing traction during snowy conditions. The onboard computer will almost instantly send power to the tire in question so that it has more traction. This change in power for a tire adds traction in a way that is very different from a gas car.
A gas car will use its braking power to alter the spin on tires. The electric car’s onboard computer alters the spin on the tires which is very different from the conventional braking system.
One of the goals of an electric car to use regenerative braking to generate more electricity that can be used to power the vehicle. Regenerative braking happens when the electric car is slowing down. Its speed is reduced by reducing the amount of power that is sent to the tires.
An Electric Car is Easier to Handle In Snow Than a Regular Car If it Has the Right Tires
There are electric cars other than Tesla that have great factory-installed tires. Nevertheless, you should strive to have the best tires based on your climate and that you are pressurizing the tires correctly.
If you live in a cold area. you need to have a relatively low level of tire pressure so that all of the treads will create friction. If you have tires that are too pressurized such as the type that are toted as being green, and efficient.
If I were you, I will spring for tires that are one of the following brands if you feel that you may be able to improve traction by changing out your factory-installed tires:
You just need to ensure that you do not over-pressurize them so that the treads will be able to maintain maximum traction.
Now that you have dealt with your tires to improve your winter driving, you should consider other factors that will make your winter driving fun and pleasant.
Many Electric Cars Pre-Warm Which Keeps Windows Clear During Stormy Winter Weather
During stormy winter conditions, there is a way that electric cars are able to keep their windows free from frost and ice. Electric cars have an advanced level of thermal management. They can be prewarmed in a way that is similar to a regular car.
The problem with a regular car is that it uses gas to create heat that will melt the ice and snow on your windows. An electric car uses electricity to heat the windows, but electricity is definitely a lot cheaper than gas.
Here are a few reasons why electric cars hardly ever have a problem with iced up windows in the winter:
- You can keep them plugged in before traveling. Electricity will be charging the battery pack, while at the same time, the windows will remain clear. The electric car is able to continue to heat the windows without using any of the stored energy if it is still plugged in.
- In many cases, you can control when the heating of the electric car begins through an app on your cell phone.
- The speed at which the electric car is able to defrost windows is fast. Even though the battery pack is being warmed up to function fully, this is accomplished quickly which allows the onboard computer to focus the power towards defrosting the windows.
Having windows free from ice at all times makes winter driving safer and more enjoyable. Most of us have tried to drive during a winter storm when the ice build-up on the windows was a variable. It makes winter driving more stressful.
Another aspect of electric cars besides having frost-free windows is that they do not require the warming up process that some regular cars demand for winter driving.
You Do Not Need to Warm Up an Electric Car During Cold Weather Which Reduces Your Stress Level
With a regular, gas-consuming car, you need to warm up the engine before driving during the winter. I once owned a Hyundai Genesis that worked well during the winter. Most mornings the Genesis would start-up easily.
However, on the coldest mornings, it was as if I had to press and hold the start button for more than 5 seconds before the engine would start. One time, it did not start at all and I had to wait a few minutes before trying again to start the engine.
With my Sonata Hybrid, I never had an issue even during the coldest morning of the year. The car started up right away, within a split second. Nevertheless, it would take a few more minutes for the interior to heat up, but at least I was able to drive right away instead of idling for a few minutes.
In other words, there is no need to warm up your electric car. If your electric had been plugged in, it will start right away. Even if the car had not been plugged in, most electric cars will use a small amount of the electricity to keep the battery pack warm enough to work well during cold spells.
If you are worried that your range will be affected due to prewarming the battery pack slightly, just try to ensure that keep your electric car plugged in.
As electricity is used to warm the battery pack, the electricity stored will be topped up continuously because the vehicle is plugged in. Also, there is no need to worry about environmental effects because no exhaust is involved.
When you are idling your gas car, you are polluting the air.
Electric Cars Are Gearless Which Makes Pulling Away From An Icy Area Easy
Another reason why electric cars are better than conventional cars during the winter is due to the fact that they do not have gears. Gears are going to cause some vibration or jerkiness when the car switches to a new gear.
In my hybrid, when it is using the gas-powered engine, I can sense when it switches to another gear. It feels as if the car is being jerked forward. Now, of course, this is not something to be terribly concerned about unless you are going over a slippery patch of road during the winter. It can be unnerving which could stress some drivers causing them to slightly panic.
The likelihood of sliding on snow or ice increases if your car is being jerked forward during a gear change. You will feel as if you are not in full control.
In an electric car, the onboard computer will decide when more power is required to the wheels and the transition to another level of power will be seamless.
One report that I read was that EVs engineers were not necessarily trying to make a smooth change to a higher power level, they were just designing an engine that would be more efficient which would reduce the dependence on the stored electricity. Nevertheless, I see it as a benefit for winter driving.
Another reason why this gentle implementation of power is beneficial in the winter is that it will allow one to drive through an icy patch in full control.
You can press on the accelerator knowing that the onboard computer will only send the power that is needed to increase the traction to each and every wheel. In other words, you are not going to end up spinning through the ice with little control.
I have noticed that I can travel through ice smoothly in my hybrid. I do not necessarily force the accelerator, but I have noticed that I seem to drive straight the ice without sliding around.
I do feel that it is because of the quick and efficient communication of the onboard computer to the rear wheels. It is as if the computer can sense that I had pressed too hard on the accelerator and decided to just send enough power to provide the perfect amount of traction.
You may be wondering why I am mentioning a hybrid instead of only focusing on electric cars in general. This is because a hybrid has a similar onboard computer that causes the vehicle to be mostly controlled by the code added by the engineers.
The Center of Gravity in an Electric Car is Low Making Winter Driving Easier
You may have learned in school, that the lower the center of gravity, the higher the stability. For instance, am I presently learning how to ski. When I am told to bend my knees, I am lowering my center of gravity which is providing me with more stability on steep hills. If I were to stand straight up, my balance would be negatively affected if I were to travel over a bumpy patch.
The same principle applies to electric cars. An electric car has a center of gravity that is near the center of the vehicle. Also, the center of gravity is quite low to the ground since the battery pack is partially hidden underneath the seats.
In other words, engineers for electric cars has created two benefits by storing the battery pack near the center of the car:
- They have managed to place a lot of weight at the center point of gravity.
- By having the battery pack hidden under the seats, they have also made sure that the center of gravity as low to the ground as possible.
You may be wondering how this heavy and low center of gravity is helpful during the winter. It is because more stability is achieved allowing the car to handle better in slippery conditions.
If you are in a vehicle that has a high center of gravity, any movement left or right is going to have a negative effect on the stability during a slide.
The combination of the low center of gravity and the fast control system for traction, makes winter driving much more enjoyable and stressfree. You are to achieve high traction and then you are able to maintain through the subtle commands that are being sent by the onboard computer to each wheel.
Range Is Lowered During Winter But Added Cost is Less Than for a Gas Car
One way of comparing a conventional car’s ability to handle winter driving is to look into the finances. There is a ton of press stating that electric cars should be avoided during winter months because of the huge loss in driving range.
I do not believe that this loss in range is that great. I have read many comments from actual electric car owners stating that it never becomes a factor. We all realize that an electric car can not travel as far as a regular that has a full tank of gas. However, as long as you are able to get from point A to point B, who cares about a slight loss in range.
I have a hybrid car that switches over to the gas motor if I try to heat the interior with the dash controls. I have just recently decided that I would use just the heated steering wheel and the seat warmer during short trips. This ensures that I am using less gas during the wintertime. I have noticed that the gas motor rarely kicks in.
In other words, make some adjustments in your driving habits so that you can lessen the reduction in range that happens during winter. Why not just keep your coat on and turn on the seat warmers. You will still be toasty warm and you will use a lot less electricity.
Even if you were to use more electricity to heat the interior of the car during longer voyages, you are not going to spend a lot more since the cost of electricity is relatively low.
Also, you need to take into account that gas cars use more gas during the winter. They use the heat created by the exhaust to heat the interior which requires more gas. Also, a gas car has a lot of moving parts that need to be warmed up to function optimally.
Here is one scenario that will prove to you that an electric car handles winter better in a financial sense:
- The added cost for a conventional vehicle on a trip of 1000 miles. I am assuming a range loss of 10 percent due to low temperatures: Gas $100 + Loss in Range $10 = $110.
- The added cost for an electric car during the same trip. I am assuming a loss in range of 20% even though it would probably be lower: Electricity $35 + Loss in Range $7 = $42
In other words, even if you have a 50% loss in the distance that you could travel on a full charge in an electric car, you are still going to have a happier winter financially.
Winter Driving in an Electric is Better Because of the Lack of Repairs
Another issue that should be concerned about is the number of repairs that may be required during the winter months. It is very evident that a conventional car is negatively affected by the winter. The salt that is added to the icy roads will damage any car, of course, including electric cars.
Nevertheless, there are other components in a gas car that do not deal well with winter conditions. The following items affect gas cars, but not electric vehicles:
- The heating system in a gas car is a system that is not used on a regular basis. When a mechanical system is not being used, it is going to break down. It is very evident that the heating system in most cars is going to break down at least once during the lifetime of the car.
- The heating system in an electric car is called a heat pump, and it has a lot fewer parts than the heating system in a gas car. In other words, it is not going to break down as much. Plus, it is used most of the year since it also is used to cool the cabin air during hot weather.
- The oil cooler in a gas car can develop problems during the winter season. The threads in the oil cooling system can become damaged by the salt and the magnesium chloride that is added to roads in colder climates. The threads in the undercarriage of a gas car can become damaged by these additives through corrosion. Once the coolant starts to leak, the engine may overheat.
- An electric car does not have the same oil cooler system since the engine does not heat up as much as it does in the gas-powered motor. Coolant is used to some extent, but it less likely to become damaged during winter weather.
- Water can leak into the transmission system of a regular car. As cold air is heated on the surface of the transmission, condensation can occur. The condensation can accumulate and turn to ice once the engine begins to cool down. Anytime that a liquid freezes, it expands which can damage the transmission.
- An electric transmission does not have the same transmission system as a conventional car. Problems due to freezing water are less likely to occur internally in an electric car.
How to Conserve the Electricity Stored in Your Electric Car When Driving During the Winter
One way to make sure that your electric car is more beneficial than a gas car during the winter is to reduce your need for electricity. Here are some tips on how to extend the range of an electric car during the winter:
- Even though your electric car handles well in the winter, you need to ensure that the tires have an adequate level of pressure. As the air temperature drops, so do the pressure in your tires. If you notice a warning light indicated low tire pressure, make sure you add air to your tires.
- If you tend to keep your electric car outside, consider garaging your car during the winter. Having the car warm will reduce its electricity use since electric cars will use some of their electricity to heat up the battery pack.
- Make sure that you dress warmly while driving your electric car. There is no need to use electricity to warm up the interior of the car during short trips. Wear your winter jacket and turn off the air heater. Also, turn on the steering wheel heater and the seat warmer so that you will feel warmer. Those two functions do not require a lot of electricity.
- Something that many people do not realize is that using the ECO feature will save on electricity use. Turn it on during the winter to reduce your overall consumption.
- Try not to drive fast during the winter. The faster that an electric car travels, the greater the effect of drag. Drag is friction that is caused by air rushing alongside the car.
- To make winter driving more pleasant, be aware of the location of charging stations that are close to your: shopping area, work, and your home. Even though you will be conserving electricity by following the above steps, you still may end up with a discharged battery pack.
- If your EV is able to use an app to control the preheating, do so. Since the battery needs to be heated slightly for it to operate efficiently in an electric car during the winter, make sure to do so by using your app. It is best to have a 240v level 2 charger installed at your home since the prewarming function will draw a lot of electricity and a less powerful charger will have trouble keeping the battery charged fully during the warming up phase.
- If you are parking while shopping, make sure that you use indoor parking facilities when possible. If this is not possible, at least park when the sun can hit your electric car. Even during the winter, this area will be much warmer.
How Well Does the Tesla Deal with Winter Conditions
Tesla models work quite well during the wintertime. They have indicators that will guide you towards saving on the driving range.
For instance, there will be a small snowflake on your dashboard that appears next to your approximate range if the battery pack is too cold. Make sure that you have your Tesla plugged in when you are not using it so that your battery pack will work as well as possible during the winter. Having it plugged in, will prewarm the Tesla.
Also, you can schedule departure times in advance so that the interior and the battery pack will be sufficiently warm just before your departure time.
Here is how to set the departure time in a Tesla:
- Press the “Charging” button
- Select “Scheduled Departure”
- Select “Schedule”
- Pick “Depart at:”
If you want to precondition the interior of a Tesla, you can use their app. Within the app: Press “Climate” and then “Turn On”.
If you wish to defrost the windows before your trip, use the app to activate the defrost feature.
It is best to use just the seat warmers and the steering wheel warmer during cold weather. If you are still going to turn on the heat, make sure to turn off the heat once the interior has been adequately heated.
Another tidbit is to avoid constant use of the app. Using the app forces your Tesla out of sleep mode which uses electricity.