DENVER — Electric vehicles are becoming more popular and a new report from AAA found that they might not perform as well when the temperature drops to 20° or lower.

Research from AAA shows that when the temperature dips that low and the car's heater is engaged an electric vehicle's average driving range plummets 41 percent. 

That means for every 100 miles of combined urban/highway driving, the range at 20° would be reduced to 59 miles. 

To minimize the chance of a dead battery, AAA suggests that electric vehicle owners make a habit of checking the forecast and planning ahead for this range reduction and the need to charge more frequently.

"As electric vehicles increase in popularity, it's important to remember how they differ from gas-powered cars," said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. "That doesn't mean you shouldn't buy an electric car, it just means you should understand their limitations when cold weather comes around."

It's not just the cold. AAA's research also found that when outside temperatures heat up to 95° and air-conditioning is switched on, driving range decreases by 17 percent.

 While extreme temperatures play a role in range reduction, the real culprit is the use of heating and air-conditioning systems – especially the heater.

AAA's research found that the use of heat when it's 20° outside adds nearly $25 more for every 1,000 miles when compared to the cost of combined urban and highway driving at 75°.

AAA tested five electric vehicles, all with a minimum EPA estimated driving range of 100 miles, in partnership with the Automotive Club of Southern California's Automotive Research Center.

"It's clear that electric vehicles thrive in more moderate climates. Here's the problem: Most Americans live in an area where temperatures fluctuate," McKinley said. "The good news is that automakers are continually making advances to improve range. For now, though, electric vehicle drivers have a responsibility to plan ahead during both cold and hot weather."

Simple Precautions
If you drive an electric vehicle, it's easy to offset potential temperature-related reductions in driving range:

  • Plan ahead. When drivers are aware of the weather conditions before heading out, they can plan ahead for more frequent charging stops. Drivers can find charging stations through AAA's mobile app
  • Make time to "pre-heat" or cool down the inside of the vehicle while still connected to the charger. This will reduce the demand on the vehicle's battery to regulate cabin temperature at the onset of driving. 
  • If possible, park inside a garage to stabilize cabin temperature. 

You can read the full AAA report here.

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