Maximizing Your Battery in Winter - Tips for New EV Owners

JohnnyForensic

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Electrek had a good article for new EV drivers and maximizing their range in winter. As we’re heading there in the Northern Hemisphere, thought it would be good to share.

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If you don’t live in the Southern Hemisphere or close to the Equator, then cold temperatures are headed your way, if they haven’t already arrived. As winter approaches, here are six tips for how to get the best range from your electric car’s battery.

Electric cars in winter
Operating range is one of the most important performance metrics of your electric car, and it can be impacted by cold weather. It’s harder for ions in Lithium-ion batteries to move around in the cold, and that can affect your car’s range.

Cold weather also affects charging, and your car’s battery likes to be within a certain temperature range. If it’s really cold outside, it’s better for the battery to warm up first before it can charge at faster speeds. That means charging can take longer in winter.

The whole process is controlled by the car’s battery management system that protects and optimizes the performance of the battery cells.

Here are six tips on how to get the best performance out of your EV as the winter months quickly approach.

1. Park your car in a garage if possible
Not everyone has a garage, but if you’ve got one, put your EV in it. (And if it’s full of stuff, then clean it out – your car needs it.)

Keeping your vehicle inside during winter can make a difference in its battery performance. The warmth of the garage will help your car hold battery charge for longer and charge more quickly.

Also, if you’re out and need to park, if there’s a choice between parking outdoors or in a parking garage, go for the latter.

2. Warm up your car in the morning
Most EVs come with apps that allow you to heat up your car in advance of departure. If you turn on your car’s heating before you leave the house, it will heat up the cabin to your desired temperature and also warm up the battery to aid performance.

Most people charge their cars at home overnight. If the car is still plugged in when you start heating it in the morning, then the battery’s charge won’t be tapped.

3. Don’t let the battery charge get too low
When it’s really cold, the car’s battery management system reserves a certain percentage of the battery capacity – generally about 15-20% – in order to heat the battery up.

So if you usually keep your battery charged above 15-20%, and ideally a minimum of 50%, then you will have a nice margin to keep your car’s performance as optimized as possible.

4. Heat the passenger, not the car
Since EVs of course don’t have an internal combustion engine, there’s little additional waste heat that helps to warm the passenger cabin.

However, blasting the heat when it’s cold can drain your EV’s battery and reduce its range. Try restricting heating to just the driver, whether it’s by turning air vents on or off, or controlling seat or steering wheel heating settings. It consumes less electricity than heating the whole car.

5. Inflate your tires
As the temperature drops, the air in your tires contracts and the pressure falls. Regularly check your tires’ pressure in order to maximize winter range. You want your car to drive with as little resistance as possible.

Also, if you live somewhere that gets a lot of snow, you’ll probably want to consider putting on winter tires. You can read more about that here, if you’re a Tesla Model 3 driver, for example.

6. Use Eco-Mode
Most EVs have a form of “eco-mode,” in which you can boost mileage and reduce power consumption by limiting the energy supplied to the driving motor and cabin heaters. You may accelerate more slowly, but this can also make driving safer in icy or snowy conditions.
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stmache

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Addition to Number 2 is something I read recently. When charging overnight, time it so it ends close to when you leave each day. For me, as an example, I leave at 7:30am, I charge between 3AM and 7AM so the battery is warm when the Mach-e will start to prep the car for my programmed leave time.

Where I live, it will start to get below 40 degrees F overnight starting tomorrow and charging and range will be affected the most since I got the car in early May. I do have a garage but will need to move my other Mustang to winter storage first. :D Probably early November.
 

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To the "heat the passenger not the cabin" end:

Dress warmly and don't set the HVAC too high. Better yet: During the plugged in precondition heat the car to the maximum so the HVAC will barely run during your commute. If you can turn off the e-heat/HVAC and crack a window so the inside windows don't fog up.

Of course the Mach-E (even the short ranged one) has enough range that a lot of people can make their commute with the heat blasting and still be able to make it home after work without needing a charge. Thus many of the drastic measures aren't needed (unless you're cheap and want to save a few pennies on electricity during the winter).

Any EV with 200+ miles of range can handle just about everyone's daily needs. Charge it back up overnight and start again.

Now if you want to road trip in winter...then you'll want to take the measures into account.
 

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Can someone clarify the "turn the car on while its plugged in" thing.

I tried this the other day after I used FordPass to turn off charging and then turned on the car. Is that the right thing to do? I was stressed about turning on the car while it was actively charging.
 

Pibbman

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Does anyone know if the car is plugged in and you're doing the whole preconditioning (warming up car before you get in, etc). Is it actually drawing power from the charger at this point or is it drawing power from the battery charge?


EDIT:
Never mind... apparently article claims the battery won't be used.
 

ncaadam

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Does anyone know if the car is plugged in and you're doing the whole preconditioning (warming up car before you get in, etc). Is it actually drawing power from the charger at this point or is it drawing power from the battery charge?
The manual says in some conditions it will partially pull from the battery, but I think in most situations, it pulls from the charger source.

I’m sure someone on here could tell you what those conditions are
 

stmache

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Can someone clarify the "turn the car on while its plugged in" thing.

I tried this the other day after I used FordPass to turn off charging and then turned on the car. Is that the right thing to do? I was stressed about turning on the car while it was actively charging.
You can program the car to have the car ready by a certain time of day. I choose 7:30am, M-F, as that is time I usually leave. What the car does is pre-condition the battery and interior based on how you set your heating or cooling. You can also set a time you leave work, too.

In the FordPass app, go to the Vehicle page, Charging menu, Charge Settings and select Departure Times. Turn on Departure times and push the Add Departure Time button. Then you can set Time, Days of the Week and Cabin Temperature (Cool, Medium, Warm or Off). You can add as many Departure Times as you need. I also have Departure Times for coming home from work, M-F at 5pm.

Note, you can also do these settings in the car, too.
 

Pibbman

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You can program the car to have the car ready by a certain time of day. I choose 7:30am, M-F, as that is time I usually leave. What the car does is pre-condition the battery and interior based on how you set your heating or cooling. You can also set a time you leave work, too.

In the FordPass app, go to the Vehicle page, Charging menu, Charge Settings and select Departure Times. Turn on Departure times and push the Add Departure Time button. Then you can set Time, Days of the Week and Cabin Temperature (Cool, Medium, Warm or Off). You can add as many Departure Times as you need. I also have Departure Times for coming home from work, M-F at 5pm.

Note, you can also do these settings in the car, too.
What if during the week you have these settings enabled for, that you end up not needing to use the car a given morning - let's say there is a snow day so you don't need to drive kids to school - but at the same time your car hasn't start up the preconditioning process yet. Is there a way to skip it or do you have to go in app (or car) and turn it off when it gets to that point?
 

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I set my charge to start at 7:00 pm and it usually charges to 90% by midnight. Then departure at 6:00 am and the car is toasty warm and usually at 90% though occasionally at 89%. As the car warms, the power pulls from battery 1st, then charging kicks in to get it to 90%.

Our winter weather is moderate temps of mid 40’s to high 50’s with lots of rain & wind. While I tend to drive slower in rain/wind I also use E-Heat with windshield defrost to keep fogging down as the humidity can be really high in winter. Setting temp at say 73-74 then switching the fan on and off at “1” is more than enough to keep fogging neutralized.

With tires at say 41 psi, slightly slower speeds I’m still at 3.5-3.7 M/KWH. When temps drop to mid 30’s or lower that all changes and energy use can drop from 93% route to 81% route with 3.0 M/KWh.

Preheating the car really helps on my hour long commute but eventually I’ll use cabin heat on below 40’s/freezing days as I’m not interested in fogged windows icing up or a cold window/freezing slush/wet snow causing havoc. In my Adrenalin, high defrost heat could keep the window free of ice. Not sure that’ll be possible with E-Heat and that’ll pull serious juice from the battery.
 
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HuntingPudel

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My Fusion’s battery is so tiny that I already do all of this stuff other than garage the car. I don’t over-inflate my tires as most tire shops do. The pressures are set for most even wear. I also almost never run the HVAC while I am driving, regardless of outside temperature.
 

RickMachE

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Big difference is that with a Fusion Energi, an its 120v charger, pre-conditioning is poor with the 120v charger, and it draws down the battery.
 

HuntingPudel

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It’s not a DC charger, but it’s still a 32A 240V charger, just like I will be using on my MME.
 

RickMachE

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It’s not a DC charger, but it’s still a 32A 240V charger, just like I will be using on my MME.
Ah. I never justified one for my Fusion Energi since it charged on 120v just fine overnight.
 

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What if during the week you have these settings enabled for, that you end up not needing to use the car a given morning - let's say there is a snow day so you don't need to drive kids to school - but at the same time your car hasn't start up the preconditioning process yet. Is there a way to skip it or do you have to go in app (or car) and turn it off when it gets to that point?
You'd have to turn it off in the App or Car. In the App, it's easy to do so. Just remember to turn it back on. ;)
 

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Our first cold front of the season is approaching and should be here by this weekend. We averaged 3.5 miles per kWh during the summer months with constant running of the AC. It wont be cold enough for heat but I plan on shutting down the AC for awhile to see if that might improve the range?
 
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