How Well Do Electric Vehicles Handle Minnesota Winters?
Electric vehicle sales have been increasing year over year. The surge in gas prices this summer also has made electric vehicles more appealing. I wouldn't worry about driving an electric vehicle in the summer in a Northern climate, but what about our harsh winters?
Our Northland winters are brutally cold and snowy. The big worry many people have is how the batteries and range will handle the cold weather. There have been numerous third-party testing by places like Consumer Reports, The Wired, and AAA. Inside Hook featured an article with many good points and in-depth research on the issue.
It's all about the range.
The biggest concern with electric vehicles is range loss. Electric cars have an average mileage they can travel before needing a recharge. Their peak performance occurs in temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees. Anything below 40, you start to lose performance. In the winter that range can be cut drastically. Wired found that they had a range reduced by 20%. And that's perhaps one of the more positive tests. Other reviews have found in some cases they have a 50% reduced range.
Why the reduced range? It's because a gasoline-powered car has an internal combustion engine that produces heat. An electric-powered car doesn't have that heat available, so it uses the battery to heat other parts of the car. Cold weather makes the car need to use more battery for running systems rather than only moving the car.
A lot of EVs also have defrost technology that can work remotely to clear off snow and ice from the vehicle. As you can see here, the driver keeps it plugged in while defrosting their Tesla.
But can electric vehicles drive in the snow?
The biggest advantage that electric cars have over gas-powered cars (besides no emissions), is that it has instantaneous power. Ford claims that this helps with handling because it's easier to control with instant power. They have tested the vehicles to -40F so they will indeed operate. They can drive through snow and are quite capable.
A standard F-150 Lightning has a range of 230 miles. More expensive trim lines and optional extended-range batteries can go over 300 miles. Now if you factor in extreme cold conditions in the winter, Your range could be less than 200 miles. Depending on how many miles you normally drive, this could be more than enough range for you. But if you are someone who has a typically long commute, it may not have enough range.
Will it die in a cold weather traffic jam?
How do electric vehicles do in traffic jams in cold weather? It's a good question. Many people think that they will run out of power before a gasoline power car would. That really depends on what the charge is when it stops, just like how much gas is in the tank. I found this really good experiment that this YouTuber did in Michigan. It shows that it's really not something to worry about with the Teslas he used.
It comes down to your lifestyle.
Someday I will own an electric vehicle, but for right now they just aren't quite where I need one. I drive a Toyota Tundra and I use it to trailer some heavy stuff. I also go places remotely that don't have electricity anywhere nearby. I'm sure that EV charging will become more accessible, and technology will continue to improve. For some, an EV might be the right choice that can withstand a Minnesota Winter.