Here’s everything you need to know about driving and looking after an electric car in the cold weather.

EV batteries in the cold weather

The first thing to address is that cold weather does have a negative impact on battery life. Batteries will operate less efficiently, and so you’ll get fewer miles out of them in cold weather; a drop of anything between 10 per cent and 20 per cent in total range for some models.

Here are our best tips and tricks to help you overcome the cold in your EV:

Prolonging electric car battery charge in the cold

Drive efficiently

You can conserve your battery by driving at a steady speed, avoiding sudden acceleration and braking, and minimising the use of features like the radio and heaters.

Use eco-mode

Where fitted, an electric car’s “eco-mode” focuses battery power where it’s needed and away from features like heaters, speakers, and gadgets. If your battery is dropping a bit too fast for your liking, switch the eco-mode on and head to your nearest charging point. 

Cover your EV

Keeping an electric car in a garage or enclosed parking space, or even just under a cover can help keep the car and its battery warmer. The warmer it is, the more likely it is to hold its charge.

Preheat the car and its battery

Most modern electric cars have a feature called ‘preconditioning’, which allows you to set the car to warm up just before you get in, and while it’s still plugged in. That way, you’re not using the car’s battery to heat the car. Depending on the car you may be able to do this remotely via a phone app, or on a timer so it’s ready to go before you leave for work.

Use regenerative braking

Plenty of electric and hybrid cars use regenerative braking. When you slow or brake, the electric motor acts as a generator and sends the energy back to the battery to top you up. It’s a way of recharging a little bit as you drive.

For regenerative braking to work properly, the car needs to be warm so the battery can best capture that extra energy. So, try and warm the battery before you set off (by preconditioning it, ideally). This way, you can recoup some range as you go.

Charging takes longer in cold weather

Expect overnight charging to take an extra couple of hours in cold weather. Similarly, rapid charging could take up to 45 minutes rather than the usual 30.

Charging points can be affected by cold weather. Tesla has stated that extremely cold weather can result in slower charging speeds at its dedicated Supercharger stations.

Driving an EV in cold weather

Driving in the cold can be nerve-wracking, and there are a couple more factors to consider if you’re taking an electric car out on the cold roads:

Driving an EV in the snow

Electric cars are built differently from petrol and diesel models. In most, the heavy battery is located underneath the car – which gives the car a lower centre of gravity. This tends to give electric cars better traction, so they’re better equipped to crawl through snow.

Plenty of electric cars also include features like stability control and anti-lock braking, which can further support handling and traction by monitoring your speed, reducing wheel-spin and activating your brakes for you. Some may also have a specific ‘the cold’ mode to help in slippery conditions.

Driving an EV on ice

Electric cars are generally heavier than petrol or diesel, so it’s even more important to drive slowly and carefully in icy conditions, as any slides may be harder to bring back under control. 

Can I use the cold tyres on an electric car?

Yes, the cold tyres are available for electric cars.

the cold tyres improve traction and have more grooves in them – which help displace water and grip into snow or ice. They contain more silica, meaning they stay softer in cold temperatures. the cold tyres also have vibrating rubber blocks that shake loose snow off as you drive.

As electric cars tend to have higher outputs and weigh more than petrol or diesel cars, you’ll need tyres with specific requirements. These requirements can include:

  • Minimal rolling resistance
  • Optimal grip
  • Sufficient load capacity for heavier EVs

Check the handbook or with the manufacturer for guidance on which specific tyres are suitable for your make and model. Generally, the cold tyres with a lower rolling resistance can give you a better range, because turning the wheel requires less energy.

Can I tow another vehicle using an electric car?

It’s still a common courtesy to tow another vehicle through snowy drifts, but will that be the case when we’re all driving electric cars?

Some electric cars available today can tow another vehicle, but most probably shouldn’t. Check with the manufacturer, handbook, or dealership as to whether a specific make model can tow another vehicle.

Can an electric car be towed?

Generally, you should call a breakdown recovery service and avoid asking someone to tow your electric car.

The transmission in most electric cars lacks a neutral position, so the motor(s) are permanently engaged. If someone pulls you along with a tow rope and all your wheels are on the road, you risk damaging the drivetrain and control units.

Can I drive an electric car through water?

It should go without saying that electricity and water don’t mix, but electric cars do have several precautions that mean they can, if absolutely necessary, drive through a flooded area.

The drive units and batteries in electric cars (like Tesla) are sealed, so they’re unlikely to be damaged by splashes of water. As with any car, the higher the water level, and the longer you drive through a submerged road, the higher the risk of damage is – so drive steadily and minimise your contact with water where possible.

One advantage electric cars have over petrol and diesel is that they don’t have an air intake or an exhaust, so the propulsion system won’t be affected if you drive through water. 

Charging an EV in rain or snow

It is safe to charge an electric car in rain. Both electric cars and charging stations use protective layers and covering shields that prevent water mixing, short-circuiting, sparks or current loss.

Can I charge an electric car in a power cut?

Surprisingly, you might be able to charge your electric car in a power cut.

Some charging stations have battery backup systems – meaning they’ll still have the power you can access even if the grid is down.

In Conclusion

Generally, looking after an electric car in the cold is basically the same as looking after petrol or diesel.

Keep it clean, keep anti-freeze topped up (yep, electric cars can use anti-freeze for their cooling systems too) and – crucially for electric cars – keep the battery topped up.