BEV Range Freeze: The Cold Realities of BEV Winter Driving, Summer is Only Half as Bad

This is about the tale of the tinier battery pack or the lower ranged battery electric vehicle, and how to cope with it through the now longer winter seasons. The BEVs that are either commuter cars like Bolt and Leaf, or bigger but only have 230+ miles of range like Jaguar i-Pace , will make great California, Florida, or in reverse snowbird cars, but negotiating winter with them in colder climes won’t be impossible, but you just have to expect, be prepared, or reorientate, either your expectations or for options or contingencies. If you have any vehicle that fits the above, I’ve been hearing from some of you to bite my lip and feel your pain with your BEV in this cold weather. This is where I could say I told you so with the tinier battery packs or lower ranges if you have an SUV, but right now we’re facing a weather crisis: it’s more important to be aware of this situation of the battery pack and range dynamic and what options you have before purchase with new customers and for current ones, what we can do now through extreme temps, and later when we’re at the end of hot weather at Autumn’s beginning: Range Freeze is a phenomena, that’s science really, of the battery pack freezing up to compromise the energy storage in the cells.

But the reverse can also happen at 95° F, but to less a degree due to very efficient battery cooling systems in most of these cars.

BEV Range Freeze usually happens below freezing temperatures.

If the sweet spot for present BEV range is about 230-240 miles, the sweet spot for BEV operation really is 70° F.

New BEV drivers: If your battery pack gives you average 240 miles or less range typical, you’re going to be shockingly (excuse the pun) surprised how little is left after charge and startup in this cold weather if not already.

Beware you sunshine people who’ll be driving north to experience range freeze.

BEVs like humans and convertibles don’t like and/or aren’t at optimal to enjoy the full benefits of themselves or itself, in extreme weather.

BEVs like humans don’t like anything outside of the outdoor 70° F range.

If the weather gets below the 20° expect to lose 40%- 60% or about half your range due to the cold, not so with their cars, according to Tesla.

Jaguar i-Pace, Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt owners, and others either in this sweet spot of 240 miles of range, or have less, ARE SPEAKING LOUDLY.

As your BEV ages, and for you BEV SUV owners when hauling heavy or towing (sadly the i-Pace with 512 lb/ft of torque isn’t tow rated , gee, I wonder Why) you need to take these factors into consideration when extreme weather driving.

The bigger the battery, the longer the energy will last, the longer life it’ll have, the harder it’ll be to freeze, the harder it’ll be to boil. And most likely you can supercharge it too!

The tinier the battery pack, the hotter it’ll always get and stay there, so the much easier it’ll be for it to boil, since it’s smaller the faster it will get to freezing, and this is science not opinion folks, the shorter life expectancy it will have. The dealer was hoping you’d trade it in by now anyway. Between Leaf and the PHEVs, that was the whole dynamic of those cars to start.

Expect a tiny battery replacement to be cheaper but still several thousands. I tell people brace for the same cost of a rebuilt auto transmission.

This is where my advocacy of ending PHEV production, and making bigger batteries or longer ranges for bigger vehicles like mid or full size SUVs and CUVs becomes quite clear.

Now that ionization is much cheaper, all makers really should be installing larger batteries or at least offering them as an option.

This should not turn anyone off to BEVs; ICE (the gas car kind, not just water obviously) still freeze up in winter, overheat in summer, gives us all still plethoras of problems in extreme weather driving, if not more.

You can argue BEVs will give us less problems in extreme winter driving than ICEVs if we know what size battery pack to have and use in what locale.

This is about reorientation: in the BEV world forget about the gasoline refueling dynamic, warming up the car to go, making sure antifreeze is in the radiator.

New Dynamic: we have to know how to use and be prepared for options for a completely different machine that’s an entirely different invention, that looks like the invention we’re already used to, but we make the electric one look like the one we grew up with.

This is really about dealing with a tinier battery pack or a bigger vehicle that should have a longer range.

There’s a reason other than price point why a Rivian has a 400 mile range. SUVs should really not be made with 234 mile ranges, I’m sorry. You need a CUV instead.

There’s a reason why other than a Porsche in a few weeks also having one, why a Tesla Model S now has a 310 mile range for its Base Model.

This should be a wake up call to all auto makers: keep the tinier packs in commuter cars and small car fleets only, and just get rid of them elsewhere, too much trouble!

For everyone else there’s nothing wrong with having a smaller pack for a more appropriate vehicle. Be aware of its virtues and limitations, and be able to work around it in the extremes.

If you regularly live in colder climates and do lots of long distance driving under time restrained situations having a tiny battery BEV is not the way to go about it.

At least you paltry ranged hybriders have your smoggy gas engines to back you up once they’re warmed up: “Al, I should’ve listened to you. My [ BEV SUV with the 234 mile range, guess which one it is] isn’t cutting it for me in this cold weather. I feel like I’m in a plug-in hybrid that I need to charge up everywhere I go! I cringe every time I start the thing to wonder how much of half the range will be left from overnight. Can’t headlights, heating, and radio be optional for use? I’d disconnect the brake lights if I could! Next time it’s a longer range battery pack for me!” Hmmm. And my advice is still for free . . . sometimes less isn’t more.

Purchasing With A Bigger Picture

I’d say a few of you are regretting your BEV purchase because of this battery issue, I get the feeling elsewhere that if you had a bigger pack as an option you would’ve taken it. But I’d say whoa hold on, this isn’t as bad as you think, this is more about reorientation, something I’m trying to get most on the same page about. This is the same page with the same people who are stuck in their PHEVs waiting for the gas stations to start installing superchargers. To them I say you’ll get what you want but don’t expect any more: Shell surprised us all by going against that dynamic recently, but I’m super grateful they’re setting up charging stations. (Note that Shell is a Netherlands company, they are NOT American, so do NOT expect American Big Oil to give up pumps for chargers anytime soon). Like you have to do about not ever being able to refuel your BEV at a nearby gas station , you have to change your expectations and be prepared for extra steps and contingencies when driving an electric car with a smaller battery pack and/or lower range.

Sometimes when we make a purchase like a coat, or outdoor furniture, or a convertible, we don’t take other things under consideration for the times we don’t normally need those things, or when we do for the times when their use isn’t as optimal. When was the last time you purchased a swimming pool or outdoor furniture or a convertible in the dead of winter? Christmas decorations in July? We find ourselves having outdoor gatherings on the patio well into October nowadays, the top down either earlier into March or later into October, sometimes even into November, that we find ourselves taking our jackets more often with us through the spring and autumn seasons because we just don’t know what to expect with this crazy weather! (Oh, don’t forget to take your jacket!)

The same is true about electric car batteries. I get a lot of blowback from readers about my advocacy of getting rid of PHEVs from production, and for longer ranges on bigger vehicles. I come from the North to experience its extreme weather, and I’ve driven SUVs to know how thirsty they are in their gas variants, and […]

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