What to do when winter travel cools your electric vehicle battery

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Christmas is coming. It’s time to go out and buy a luxury car without the intervention of your partner and put this beast in the driveway with a big red bow on it. “Merry Christmas honey! It was only 30% APR, and I didn’t have to deposit any money at signing! And because you’re such a discerning, forward-thinking consumer, you’re going to get yourself an EV. You’re plugged in! You’ve read dot.LA! And while I’m 1000% behind you, I have to warn you, dear reader: be careful with that EV battery in the cold.

Sure, it probably won’t be cold in Los Angeles this Christmas, but maybe you’re traveling for the holidays. Possibly the nearest dealership with electric vehicles in stock that would deliver one on one AirBnB with three days notice was in Tahoe! I do not know.

What I mean is that EV batteries are no good in the cold. And today’s bulletin explains why this is so and what can be done. Let’s go.

Are EVs really worse in the cold?

Yes, considerably. Depending on the car, temperature and driving conditions, you can expect to lose between 20-50% of your range if you drive in sub-zero temperatures. This experiment carried out by Consumer Reports found that the Volkswagen ID.4 got 256 miles from a full charge in 80°F conditions, compared to just 170 miles of range at 16°F, a reduction of 44%. The other electric vehicles included in the experiment behaved similarly.

Why are EV batteries so bad in the cold?

Use of electric vehicles lithium ion batteries which are based on a liquid electrolyte. The electrolyte is a solution that carries the positively charged lithium ions from one end of the battery to the other. When the battery discharges while the car is driving, the flow of lithium ions drives electrons between the electrodes in the opposite direction, and voila, electricity is produced.

Because the electrolyte is liquid in today’s batteries, it has a narrow temperature range for optimum performance, typically around 60 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Almost all modern electric vehicles have a thermal management system for their on-board batteries that keeps them operating within the optimum temperature range. The problem is that this system consumes energy that must come from the battery.

Driving in the cold also means you’ll likely turn on the heater in the cabin, which creates the same problem. The heat has to come from somewhere. In vehicles with internal combustion engines, this wasn’t a big deal because the engine works by blowing gasoline, which, as you can imagine, generates a lot of heat. But in an electric vehicle, all that interior heat uses battery power.

What can be done about this problem?

There actually aren’t many good engineering solutions to the cold weather EV battery problem yet. The temperature sensitivity of lithium-ion battery chemistries is not a new problem and is inherent in the underlying physics of the configuration.

The real “solution” to the problem is to stop making the electrolyte from liquid. “Solid State” batteries have been in development for what seems like forever and the technology works, but the challenge is to build one that can withstand thousands of cycles and can be cost effective and scalable. Most experts agree commercialization of the technology is probably at least 5-10 years away, but solid state pioneers have been over-promising and under-delivered for years now, so liquid electrolytes are the best we have. let’s have for now.

Safe to say then that solid state batteries will be not be here in time for the holidays this year. So what can you do to make sure your big vacation surprise doesn’t end up dead on arrival?

If you’re going on a trip where you need the full range, let the battery and interior warm up while you’re still connected to power. Also, make sure you’re parked in a warm garage so the battery doesn’t have to do the work of warming up. More importantly, understand that you will lose range and may need to stop to recharge sooner than usual.

If all else fails, you might be able to capture some of your partner’s furious rage at your irresponsible spending habits to heat up the battery a bit. Good luck! – David Shultz

What we read…

– Kevin Smith has teamed up with Sophie Coppola’s Decentralized Films for a new initiative to fund Future NFT Filmmakers.

– Amazon went down for several hours today…that’s exactly the excuse we needed after forgetting about this year’s Secret Santa. A Christmas wonder!

– Meta sent a note that employees can no longer talk about vaccines, weapons or abortions while he is in the office. Also: legs.

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