The winter weather impacts us all, from power outages at home to slipping across the black ice on your 6am dog walk. Drivers of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICE) have to adapt their driving habits, as well as plan routinely for journeys and vehicle maintenance. This is no different for EV owners, for which the harsh weather brings an array of new issues, such as nerves surrounding range anxiety, accessing chargers and daily driving habits.

So, what is driving an electric car in winter really like?

The smooth electric motor makes driving easy and safe – with no gears and the intuitive regenerative braking feature, the vehicle pulls away and slows down smoothly. Regenerative braking progressively slows the vehicle and takes the motion from the wheels to recharge the battery. Further to this, regenerative braking combined with narrow eco tyres reduce the chance of skidding on snow and ice. However, stopping distances still remain up to 10 times more in slippery conditions. Many electric cars also come with eco-mode; this setting allows drivers to adjust various aspects of performance to preserve their battery range.

Staying Warm

Gone are the days of sat shivering waiting on your engine to heat up before you can get on the road. EV heating systems can be remotely started via app/keys to preheat the cabin and battery to allow for a seamless driving experience. This preconditioning feature allows drivers to warm their vehicle directly from the national grid if still plugged in, rather than using the vehicles charge.

Range/Charging times

Studies have shown that the battery range of an EV in cold conditions can drop by up to 30/40%. This is due to an increased use of lighting and interior heating. As well as the battery performance decreasing due to the chemical process that produces and stores electricity inside the battery, slowing down and reducing its ability to hold a charge. Similarly, drivers should anticipate for longer recharge times in the cold weather and factor this in to journey times to avoid feeling rushed or missing appointments.

There are steps drivers can look to take to minimize the impact of the cold weather on their range capabilities, however this may require a shift in expectations and habits;

  • Park inside where possible

A cosy garage will allow drivers to set off without having to make use of pre-heat functions.

  • Keeping topped up

Ensure you have at least 20% battery reserve to warm both the cabin and the battery.

  • Knowing your vehicle

Understanding all the features available with your EV will allow you to be a more energy efficient driver, for example utilisation of pre-conditioning and eco-mode.

  • Park in the sun

Make use of the natural heat from the morning/afternoon sun to heat up your vehicle, again avoiding unnecessary use of pre-heating the cabin and draining charge if not plugged in.

  • Journey planning

Know where your nearest charger on your route is via the ChargePlace Scotland App. Do not squeeze your EV battery for every drop of juice – regular top-ups go a long way to preventing instances of batteries dying and drivers becoming stranded.

We always recommend checking with your vehicle manufacturers manual as each make/model of car will have differing settings which allow the driver to alter these features mentioned and much more.

See also our general top tips for driving in harsh conditions as well as our winter breakdown essentials guide.

If you are caught up in the bad weather whilst trying to get your vehicle charged on the ChargePlace Scotland network and require immediate assistance – please give us a call on 0141 648 0750.