Cold weather can wreak havoc on EV range, but these electric cars do best

Electric cars like the
Tesla Model Y deliver less driving range when temperatures drop.
Tim Levin/Insider
  • Electric cars can lose lots of driving range in freezing temperatures.
  • Recurrent, a startup that tracks battery health, studied how 13 electric models perform in the cold. 
  • EVs can’t drive as far in cold weather because heating their cabins consumes electricity. 

Drivers have always had to grapple with extra problems in colder months like icy roads, snowed-in cars, and dead batteries. Owners of electric vehicles face an extra challenge when temperatures drop: less driving range

But some electric cars fare better in frigid conditions than others, according to a new study from Recurrent, a startup that tracks battery health in some 10,000 participating EVs.

The firm analyzed data from thousands of electric cars and determined the drop in range owners can expect between an optimal 70-degree day and a day when temperatures are between 20-30 degrees. For some models, it was able to provide a “verified winter range” based on real-world driving in different environments. For others, it came up with an estimated figure. 

Recurrent Auto Winter range for popular EV models.
Winter range for popular EV models.

All the models Recurrent studied experienced some range loss in cold temperatures. That’s mainly because an electric car relies on its battery pack to heat its cabin and passengers, using up energy that could go toward driving. Gas engines, on the other hand, create lots of heat as a byproduct. The chemical processes inside a battery also slow down in cold weather. 

But not all cars performed equally well. The Tesla Model Y and Model X SUVs, for instance, experienced only a 15% verified drop in range. For the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen ID.4, it was 30%. 

Previous studies have come to similar conclusions about the impact of cold weather on EV range. In an analysis of 20 models, the Norwegian Automobile Association found that cold temperatures dealt an 18.5% blow to range on average and stunted charging speeds. 

There are a few ways to make living with an EV a little easier during the winter months, Recurrent says. Owners can use the preconditioning feature in their cars to warm up the cabin and battery before driving and while plugged in. Seat and wheel heaters can keep passengers warm without wasting excess energy heating the rest of a car’s interior. 

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