Driving an EV in Winter
Whether you're a seasoned EV driver, or one of the thousands who made the switch this year, it's important to stay safe on the roads this winter by preparing your vehicle for cold weather driving.
The arrival of winter means fewer hours of daylight, plus the potential of snow and black ice on the road. New EV drivers need to take particular care as their vehicle will respond differently under these conditions to a petrol or diesel vehicle. There are also a few technical aspects to EVs that are affected by low temperatures, and may impact their performance this winter.
To help you stay safe on the road and get the most out of your EV during the colder months, here are a few essential safety tips to remember.
Turn off regenerative braking to avoid potentially dangerous slips
Single-pedal driving, or regenerative braking, is one of the great joys of driving an EV. However, during the cold winter months it's strongly advised that you turn regen braking to low, or off completely.
In normal conditions, regen braking works by turning the kinetic energy of the car into a chemical energy stored in the car's battery. During the winter months, however, it can lead to dangerous, unexpected handling characteristics. On slippery roads, the brake-like force to the wheels can cause a loss of grip, reducing the tyre's ability to help steer the vehicle. This can result in the vehicle going into an uncontrolled and potentially dangerous slide.
Regen braking can normally be easily switched off through the in-car interface (if you're unsure, consult your vehicle manual). Just remember to turn it back on in the spring when the weather improves - the energy savings are hugely beneficial to both the driver and the environment!
Give your battery some love
Just like mobile phones, EV batteries don't respond well to cold temperatures. Some models will experience a drop of around 10-30% in range until the battery has warmed up. Charging speeds can also be affected, with home charging sometimes taking an hour or two longer than usual. Rapid charging in public could also take an extra 15 minutes or so. Therefore, good battery care is key to keeping you and your vehicle warm and mobile.
Where possible, store your EV in a temperature-controlled space like a garage. You should also make the most of pre-heating features, which allow you to warm your vehicle while before you head out. Charging the battery will also help to keep it warm, so it's smart to carefully time charging, reaching optimum capacity just before you depart - this way, the battery will still be warm. All of this can usually be done via a mobile phone app, making it highly efficient while still being incredibly convenient. There's nothing more luxurious than getting in a warm car without a frozen windscreen on a cold winter's morning.
Keep your tyres inflated
EV drivers should also take particular care to ensure their tyres are properly inflated. EVs tend to be heavier than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. This is because the battery's central position means the vehicle has a lower centre of gravity, putting more strain on the tyres.
General driving tips
In addition to this EV-specific advice, all the usual winter driving tips for conventional cars still apply. Plan your journey in advance, check the weather conditions before you leave, and make sure you carry de-icer and a windscreen scraper throughout the cold months. If your car has an auto-mirror folder function, consider turning this off as the motor may break if your mirrors are iced up.
With a bit of forward planning and a few extra precautions, you'll keep yourself and your passengers safe at all times, whatever the weather. Driving in an EV is a wonderful experience in all seasons and winter is no exception. However, this is a great time to get to know your vehicle, every model will respond differently to the change in weather so make sure to pay attention to its needs and it will pay you back in kind.