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Cold weather sends EV batteries into a freezing frenzy 

Cold weather sends EV batteries into a freezing frenzy
Cold weather sends EV batteries into a freezing frenzy

The short operating time of electric vehicle (EV) batteries is in the spotlight again as icy temperatures grip the US this winter. 

A report by the American Automobile Association (AAA) in 2019 revealed shocking facts about the battery life of EVs dropping by nearly half (41%) when the mercury dips to 20°F. Four years later (January 2024), the same problem persists, with EV drivers raising the alarm. 

The AAA says the “HVAC system is used to heat the inside of the vehicle,” and it drains the batteries fast when it gets freezing. 

If a motorist or delivery driver finds themself out on a delivery, planning the trip with the amount of battery left, this could be confusing. “When colder temperatures hit, AAA urges electric vehicle owners to be aware of a reduction in range and the need to charge more often to minimize the chance of being stranded by a dead battery,” states the AAA report. 

Uber driver panics

An Uber driver in Chicago, Marcus Campbell, has told NBC he has “already found the frigid weather buffeting the Windy City can make for a longer workday and fewer fares.” He says to navigate this, he spends several hours waiting his turn at a charging station and powering up.

Queuing to charge up the EV means less time on the road, fetching customers and making money. He told NBC: “When I should be asleep, I’m outside charging my vehicle, falling asleep in my car.” 

Car towing companies are having a field day in the snow, towing customers stuck along the freeway due to depleted batteries. 

Adapting EVs to extreme weather conditions

There are now calls from the public urging EV manufacturers to relook at this problem to avoid further damage to cars and the associated financial burden. 

Energy5 is an energy management software that intuitively helps customers manage their energy demands. It recognizes that EVs offer numerous benefits but are not “entirely impervious to the effects of harsh weather conditions.”

Challenges faced by EVs during cold months: 

Reduced battery efficiency: Shortens driving range and increases charging times. 

Snow and ice buildup: Charging points accumulate ice, making connecting or disconnecting the cable difficult. It could damage equipment if not cautious. 

Frozen charging stations: Icy weather can freeze charging stations, making them inaccessible to EV owners. 

An ice-cold wakeup call 

Despite the challenges listed above, Energy5 says engineers and researchers are working on innovation to overcome these difficulties. 

A process is underway to develop batteries specifically designed to withstand freezing temperatures. Integrated heating systems within charging stations are what Energy5 suggests can prevent electrical components from freezing. 

Another solution could be thermal insulation around the charging infrastructure and cables. This is to help protect them from freezing. “Insulation reduces the risk of malfunctions and increases the lifespan of the charging stations,” says Energy5.

Regular maintenance of charging points is vital. This could also include routine inspections, cleaning, and repair work to prevent buildup. 

For now, manufacturers have yet to release improved cold-weather resistant batteries; EV owners must ensure the batteries are enough to get them to their next destination safely. 

About the author

Mia is a multi-award-winning journalist. She has more than 14 years of experience in mainstream media. She's covered many historic moments that happened in Africa and internationally. She has a strong focus on human interest stories, to bring her readers and viewers closer to the topics at hand.

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