Home » Research Shows How Much Range Different Electric Cars Lose When The Weather Gets Cold

Research Shows How Much Range Different Electric Cars Lose When The Weather Gets Cold

Ev Range Drop Cold

It’s January, and you know what that means in the context of cars and the northern hemisphere — things get weird as the going gets cold. We’ve all heard the tales of fuel lines icing and doors being stuck due to ice, but what happens to electric vehicle range in winter? While charging can clearly be affected, as we saw during a recent Chicago deep-freeze that tested the limits of Tesla’s Supercharging network, what may have led to the long lines and dead cars in the first place? The analysts at Recurrent pulled data from more than 10,000 EVs to figure out what sort of range decline owners were looking at in freezing weather. The results are eye-opening if you live somewhere that gets cold and don’t have EV experience.

This isn’t Recurrent’s first time publishing data on winter EV range, but the analytics firm has recently updated its findings for 2024, and these efforts have some serious relevance given what we’ve seen recently. Extreme cold across Canada and the northern United States over the past week has put some serious strain on EV drivers, from an Alberta electrical grid alert advising drivers to “Delay charging electric vehicles” to Tesla DC fast charging pandemonium in Chicago.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Through forces outside their control, some drivers are being asked or forced to stretch their battery packs as far as practical, which begs the question: How far can they go when things get cold? The chart below from Recurrent shows range reduction across the board at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, although the amount of range reduction can vary wildly from model to model.

Recurrent Ev Range Chart

Of models without heat pumps, the real winner is the 2020 to 2021 Hyundai Kona Electric. Not only did it beat its EPA estimate under ideal conditions, it had the furthest winter range of any vehicle observed. Despite a range swing of 34 percent between ideal and freezing conditions, observed range at 32 degrees Fahrenheit fell to a reasonable 84 percent of the EPA range figure, or around 216 miles. By managing expectations, Hyundai set a fairly achievable target. Under-promising and over-delivering works, people.


Volkswagen Id4

In contrast, look at what the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 achieved. Recurrent found that observed range under ideal conditions worked out to 95 percent of the 260-mile EPA estimate. While that isn’t bad, drop ambient temperatures to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and a not-so-funny thing happens: Range drops by 45 percent over the EPA rating, or 46 percent over observed range in ideal weather. The result, according to this study, is a freezing weather range of 165 miles, which isn’t a brilliant number.

Across 4,576 Tesla Model 3 Long Range models, Recurrent found range at freezing to be half of EPA estimated range. Only doing half of advertised range due to what Minnesotans call a lovely January day just doesn’t seem acceptable. Mind you, range under ideal conditions isn’t great either, and if we compare the two, we’ll see a real-world range drop of 24 percent in winter. While it is worth noting that since the study came out, Tesla revised range estimates for its cars, a claim made to the public is a claim made to the public. Some buyers are likely pissed, just like the Chicagoans who recently experienced some serious Supercharging issues during a deep-freeze.

2023 Mustang Mach E Premium Front

If you’ve heard about EV performance in cool weather, you may be familiar with heat pumps, heat exchange systems that can heat or cool the battery pack or cabin without consuming an enormous amount of energy. Compared to resistive heating, they’re often considered a more efficient method of cabin thermal management. However, effectiveness in freezing conditions seems difficult to conclude from Recurrent’s study alone. Recurrent only had observed data on two vehicles with heat pumps across all observed examples, the 2021 to 2022 Audi E-Tron and the Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD. At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the Audi E-Tron managed 80 percent of its EPA range figure, while the Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD managed a mere 48 percent of its EPA range figure. Intriguingly, the Model Y saw the exact same percentage of real-world range drop as its heat pump-less Model 3 sibling, and if that doesn’t suggest inconclusive benefits of heat pumps in freezing weather, I don’t know what does.


Now, Recurrent isn’t the only organization to have a crack at figuring out EV range loss in winter. Consumer Reports did instrumented testing of a Ford Mustang Mach-E, a Tesla Model Y, a Volkswagen ID.4, and a Hyundai Ioniq 5, and found that all four vehicles lost around 25 percent of their range at 70 mph on the same drive loop in 16-to-17-degree Fahrenheit cold compared to balmy 65 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. As for methodology, here’s what Consumer Reports did:

The cars were taken on the road concurrently and driven on the same 142-mile round-trip route of Connecticut Route 2 and I-91. We used adaptive cruise control set to 70 mph and the widest gap to prevent any aerodynamic trailing effect or sudden decelerations and accelerations due to surrounding traffic. The regenerative braking mode was set to its lowest setting for each car to level the playing field. We paused for 10 minutes with the cars off at the midpoint.

Once back at our Auto Test Center, our engineers didn’t just record the remaining range indicated in the cars. They applied the ratio of miles of range used vs. miles driven throughout the trip to extrapolate what would be the total range for that specific trip. We also checked that ratio against the miles driven per each percent of state of charge (SOC) as extra validation of our methodology.

That’s a solid comparison test, so to find similar range deficiencies across all vehicles involved suggests a wider technological limitation. It’s also worth noting that this cold weather range drop may be improving over time. In 2019, the Associated Press reported that AAA tested several older electric cars and found a 41 percent drop in driving range at 20 degrees Fahrenheit on a chassis dynamometer. We’re talking laboratory conditions here.

Hyundai Kona Electric

You’re probably thinking “But Thomas, combustion-powered cars aren’t as fuel-efficient in the winter as they are in the summer.” You’re absolutely right. Winter driving negatively affects fuel economy. However, in the greater context, partly because of the inefficiency of combustion engines and partly due to more than a century of infrastructure build-out, this isn’t a massive problem.

Combustion engines lose a ton of energy in the form of heat, which is why water-cooled engines use coolant to keep things, um, cool. This hot coolant gets looped into the cabin through a radiator called a heater core, and the air blown over that heat exchanger warms the cabin. Meanwhile, electric cars rely heavily on electric resistance heaters, which consume a considerable amount of electricity on top of drivetrain needs. According to the EPA, “Fuel economy tests show that, in city driving, a conventional gasoline car’s gas mileage is roughly 15% lower at 20°F than it would be at 77°F.” That’s a substantially smaller percentage drop at a substantially lower temperature than Recurrent’s EV data shows.


Then there’s the matter of infrastructure. Unless you’re driving in the absolute middle of nowhere, you can count on fuel stations every few miles to reliably fill the tanks of combustion-powered cars. The EPA claims there are a whopping 168,000 gas stations across America, and they have refueling down to an absolute science. In contrast, Axios reports that 32,000 individual DC fast chargers existed across America as of July 2023. Considering each charger is largely analogous to a fuel pump, that’s not a huge number. Plus, DC fast charging is fraught with unreliability. A 2022 University of California study of public Bay Area DC fast charger found 22.7 percent total downtime. Imagine if 22.7 percent of gas stations in the Bay Area simply didn’t work. That would be a problem, right?

While current chemistry can’t fix EV range drop in winter, more robust charging infrastructure can make things easier for drivers. It’s generally true that we’ve generally graduated from range anxiety to charging anxiety, but cold weather performance still has a ways to go. If you live in a place that gets cold, take winter range into account before road-tripping an electric vehicle. Speaking from experience, hitting turtle mode just a few hundred yards from a charging station is more effective than coffee.

(Photo credits: Tesla, Volkswagen, Ford, Hyundai)

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3 months ago

Do people really get 325 miles in a Kona EV? I have a Kia Niro EV (essentially a long wheelbase Kona EV), and in ordinary conditions I get roughly the EPA-claimed 239 mile range. I think I would have to really hypermile it to get 325.

No complaints, though! It is a good car.

Last edited 3 months ago by Forrest
3 months ago

Still the range is likey enough for most people’s daily driving needs. Even if we just get everyone who has a garage or a place at home to charge to transition to BEV its a win. There are challenges still but I am optimistic that the technology will advance sufficiently enough to diminish more of the issues.

Many of these cars are first generation.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
3 months ago

My friend just bought a Model Y and had to sit in 6 hours of traffic in 0F weather at 9-10,000 ft, in the middle of a snow storm. The battery pack wasn’t the issue, the heating wasn’t the issue…. the issue was the horrible factory tires, lack of regen adjustment, and no “snow” mode. He said he would have rather been in a honda civic with all-seasons during that drive, and it’s a drive he’s done his entire life in other vehicles.

3 months ago

I haven’t tried it myself yet, but I’ve read on the forums that Tesla Model Y’s “Off-Road Assist” mode is pretty good for snow driving as it functions like a center locking diff and a more linear torque curve. The owner’s manual recommends using it while “driving in deep snow, sand, or mud. Rocking out of a hole or deep rut. Or driving off-road”

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
3 months ago
Reply to  StalePhish

He did say that off road mode helped, he tried it on the way back on roads that were just as bad.

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