Looking after electric cars in winter: 6 essential tips

How do electric cars fair in wintery climates? This will be one of the most important questions asked by drivers considering the switch to electric. Persuading motorists that electric cars can indeed do everything that other vehicles can doesn’t need to be a challenge.

Whether it’s icy windshields, a slushy road, doors frozen shut, and laboured batteries, winter can be harsh on cars. To ensure that your electric car is performing at its peak in winter, you must take good care of it. This will also maximise your safety and comfort too. Here are 6 essential tips for taking care of your electric car in winter.   

Electric Cars in Winter: Keep your car out of the cold

We begin with a rather simple tip. If you have a garage, it’s best to park your car inside it. This will keep the car away from the tough impacts of being in a directly cold atmosphere. Being in the garage means less chances of frozen locks and frosty windscreens. However, if a garage is not an option, there are a few more tricks you can adopt. Cover the car with a tarp to protect the doors, mirrors, and the windscreen. If a tarp is not an option, you can place cardboard under the windscreen wipers, both front and back, to stop frost from forming overnight.

Another tip is to use a silicone spray for the door joints, to keep the rubber seals strong against winter conditions. It will help them from freezing and make it easier top get into the car on a chilly morning.

Also note that an electric car left outside in the cold, and unplugged for the day, will have a bitter effect on the battery. Notably, the battery will be ice cold and it may have also used up some of its energy to preserve itself. Therefore, when you switch the car on, the power bars on the energy gauge will be down. Don’t worry though once the battery warms up the bars will also power up. It would, however, be a good idea to know where your public charging sites are.

Do not: Use hot water to remove frost. This can weaken the windscreen due to temperature difference.

Electric Cars in Winter: Use heat cautiously

Electric cars in winter - take care of your battery

Turning the vents on too high and keeping them on for a longer period will decrease the range of an electric car by up to 30 percent. This is because blasting the heat consumes a lot of energy. A good way to combat energy loss at cold starts is turning on Pre-conditioning. Having this in your settings means that you can easily avoid those freezing cold first few minutes in the car.

Pre-conditioning allows the car to reach your desired temperature before you drive off. It can be programmed remotely, and the heating can kick in up to half an hour before you hit the road.

In addition, if Pre-conditioning is done while your vehicle is charging, energy will be taken from the power grid instead of the battery. This means that you’ll not only drive off in a warm car, but also with a fully charged battery.

Do: Turn on your heated seats and/or steering wheel. Both features will provide warmth without using up too much juice like regular heating.

Electric Cars in Winter: Charge the battery frequently

Looking after electric cars in winter starts by keeping a fully charged battery

If there’s ever a time to keep your electric vehicle charged to 100, winter is it. When the temperature starts to drop, the electro-chemical processes inside the battery are likely to slow down. This means that the battery’s capacity and performance is lower than usual. To top that off, as we just covered above, heating the car also uses up energy, all of which affects the car’s range.

To avoid any disappointments and road issues in the winter, it’s advised to begin your drive with a fully charged battery. Many manufacturers offer remote charging features, which gives you the option to charge up during off-peak times when electricity costs less.

The general rule is to plug in as often as you can. Even if that means a quick charge on a level 1 standard 110/120-volt outlet one hour before you venture out. This will enable your battery to last longer in cold weather.

Going back to Pre-conditioning – when this is activated whilst your car is on charge, it also activates the battery temperature and brings it up before you start driving. And as this energy comes straight from the grid, the battery’s range remains unaffected.   

The bottom line is that a charged-up battery is a warmer, happier battery.

Electric Cars in Winter: Equip the vehicle with winter tyres

This goes for every car out on the roads in winter. When ice, snow, hail, and sleet hit, give your car extra shield against cold weather with winter tyres. When the temperature officially reaches below 7°C, summer tyres won’t give you the reliable performance you need. Winter tyres are more supple, with agile rubber, deep treads, and plenty of grooves. All of which provide better gripping and traction as well as improvement in braking. More importantly, they help to drastically reduce your chances of skidding and swerving. To simply put; winter tyres are safer.

Electric Cars in Winter: Drive in Eco mode

Contrary to what many motorists may have been told in the past, driving at a gentler pace in winter will help to preserve your battery. Driving in Eco mode as much as possible will not only allow you to save energy and drive economically, but it will also help to reduce the power used by the AC system, which is a further win-win for the battery.

You can also utilise Eco mode with smoother starts and stops. Avoid any abrupt driving and you’ll automatically reduce the risk of the car sliding on slippery road surfaces. When winter comes calling, a smooth style of driving is recommended.

Electric Cars in Winter: Use the defroster efficiently

Looking after electric cars in winter means using the defroster features wisely

Fog; it came, it saw, it conquered. And even more so in winter. You can bet that where cold weather travels, a foggy windscreen will thrive. Use the electric car’s front and rear defrosters to be rid of fog. When required, turn them up to max as defrosters tend to work quicker and more efficiently to clear fog than the normal heat settings.

However, defrosters also use up battery capacity, which varies from one electric car to another. So, once the fog disappears, turn the defrosters off. You might just be able to get five or ten miles more out of your drive.

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