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Getting more of a charge out of your battery electric vehicle in the winter

One expert says he expects to see improvements in electric vehicle batteries to address efficiency in cold weather.  (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)
One expert says he expects to see improvements in electric vehicle batteries to address efficiency in cold weather. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)

Battery electric vehicles don't go as far on a charge in winter as they do in summer. The cold temperatures reduce efficiency by about 30 to 40 per cent, one expert says.

John Komar, the executive director of  Automotive Centre for Excellence at Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, also says it can take longer to charge the battery too.

"On a wonderful normal summer's day, it might have only taken you 2 1/2 hours to get to 80 per cent and now it's going to take you maybe 3 or 3 1/2 hours," said Komar.

Mike Siska of Thunder Bay stands next to his Tesla.
Mike Siska of Thunder Bay stands next to his Tesla.

Mike Siska of Thunder Bay stands next to his Tesla. (Mike Siska)

But Tesla driver Mike Siska of Thunder Bay, Ont., charges up every two hours anyway, so he just keeps an eye on the percentage gauge and he says even long trips aren't a problem.

"So actually it's just shifting that paradigm of how you drive," said Siska, who recently drove to Toronto in the cold.

Windsor doctor Tim Callahan drives an electric Ford F-150 pickup truck. He says he usually just drives 40 to 50 kilometres, so the cold has no impact, but it does affect longer drives.

"My usual range when it's normal temperatures is about 500 kilometres. It's dropped down to a little less than 400 kilometres per charge," said Callahan.

Komar said if drivers don't try to heat the entire cabin, they can also get more mileage out of a charge.

"You can get a significant reduction in the energy use by going to the driver side only and using like heated seats and heating heated steering wheel," he said.

Komar said the older the battery gets, the more susceptible they are to the cold.

He says newer batteries are more efficient and he says with the technology changing all the time, the batteries in the future will improve even more.

"So for light duty vehicles, we're seeing the development of a new industry now and it's only going to get better."