Real-world test shows electric car range can drop by over 30% in cold weather

According to a real-world test of electric car range, certain popular models can have their driving capacity reduced by more than 30% in cold weather.

The investigation came from WhatCar? Magazine, as part of their annual ‘drive ‘em until they die’ electric car range test. In the test they investigated how far 12 electric cars could really go on a full charge.

Extreme temperatures are known to impair the driving range of electric cars, therefore the magazine conducts this test twice a year—in the sweltering summer and the icy winter.

All of the evaluated vehicles, which ranged in price from £32,000 to £85,000, performed far below their stated maximum driving range.

The analysis emphasises how crucial it is for electric vehicle manufacturers to improve the technology in order to fulfil its claimed potential. This is crucial for minimising range anxiety and boosting the use of electrified transportation.

How did they test electric car range?

The electric cars tested in the study included the Tesla Model Y Long Range, Nissan Ariya 87kWh Evolve, BMW i4 eDrive40 M Sport, Genesis GV60 Premium, Jaguar I-Pace EV400 R-Dynamic HSE Black, MG 4 Long Range Trophy, Volkswagen ID Buzz Style, Renault Megane E-Tech Techno, Renault Megane E-Tech Equilibre, Cupra Born 58kWh V3, Ora Funky Cat First Edition, and Mini Electric Resolute.

In Bedfordshire, on a test track, the vehicles were put through their paces. Although this is a realistic test, it would not be appropriate to evaluate the vehicles on public roads because it would be very hard to maintain a 12-car convoy due to other drivers, traffic signals, and roundabouts, which would affect the outcomes. Driving an electric car till the battery dies would also be unsafe.

As an alternative, the vehicles drove 15 miles on the test track, including 2.6 miles of simulated stop-start city driving, four miles at 50 miles per hour, and eight miles at a continuous 70 miles per hour.

All the cars were fully charged, and their tyre pressures were corrected before sitting overnight in 0-2°C temperatures.

The cars were plugged in once more the morning of the test to make sure their batteries were fully charged. As air conditioning in electric cars may deplete the battery and reduce their range, the team also utilised a digital thermometer to match the temperatures inside the cars as closely as possible.

The day’s weather was cloudy, with temperatures between 3-6°C. The internal heaters were therefore running nonstop as a result. The electric cars subsequently drove around the test route in convoy.

Cold weather drastically reduces range capacity

Unsurprisingly, the smallest battery-powered electric vehicle to run out of charge first was the Mini Electric, which only managed 113 miles. Yet, with an average of 3.9 miles per kWh of battery capacity, it did turn out to be the most effective of the 12.

Next to run out of charge was the Ora Funky Cat, tapping out at 130 miles (2.9 miles/kWh), followed by the Cupra Born at 182 miles (3.1 miles/kWh) and the two Meganes at 187 (3.1 miles/kWh) and 189 (3.2 miles/kWh) miles, respectively.

Dropping out at 192 miles was the ID Buzz (2.5 miles/kWh), with the MG 4 coming to a stop just four miles later (3.2 miles/kWh), which was closely followed by the I-Pace at 197 miles (2.3 miles/kWh). The I-Pace was the least efficient of all the tested electric cars.

The final four electric cars all exceeded the 250-mile mark, with the GV60 stopping at 251 miles (3.2 miles/kWh) and the i4 at 261 miles (3.2 miles/kWh). The Nissan Ariya died at 269 miles (3.1 miles/kWh), with the Tesla Model Y leading the way with an impressive 272 miles (3.6 miles/kWh), showing why it’s Britain’s best-selling electric car.

Overall, there was an average shortfall of around 27% in electric car range performance, demonstrating just how significantly cold weather can affect the technology and its areas for improvement as electric cars continue to evolve.

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