Winter is gearing up. For users of e-mobility and those who think about switching, it’s supposedly not the best time of the year, but why? Many myths and misunderstandings surrounding electric cars have their cold grip on people’s views. Alphabet International and BMW e-mobility expert Wieland Brúch challenge these claims, to see how they hold up in reality.
“Rumours about e-mobility are a big concern for many people, mostly because they lack first-hand experience with e-mobility,” says Wieland Brúch. In most cases though the so-called facts about e-mobility, especially concerning the use in winter, simply aren’t true anymore. They might have been 5 or 10 years ago, but the technology is continuously evolving. “We observe that the energy density of batteries actually doubles about every five years,” Brúch notes about the leaps in performance.
Myth #1: Reach is halved
True for some of the early electric models, but long since fixed – battery heating systems, which are the standard for most newer models, effectively prevent them from consuming too much energy by protecting the battery from getting too cold.
Myth #2: You mustn’t heat the car during the winter
“Conventional cars use wasted heat to warm the interior. For e-cars, heating has to be produced purposefully.” The solution to this is not to keep gloves and hat handy, but to preheat the car while it’s charging. Whilst driving, it’s best to use the seat heaters. “The seat heating utilises power very efficiently. You get a good level of warmth inside the car with a comparatively low use of energy. With a practical reach of about 260 km, the initial heating up generally eats up about 6–8 km, so only 3 % of the total reach, depending on the car model.”
Myth #3: Loading time drastically extends in winter
“Modern electric cars can take in the 11 kWh from the wall-box at home or public power stations up to temperatures of -10°/-15° C without any problems or delay. Cold weather only plays a role with quick charging stations, because the battery needs to have a certain temperature to charge effectively. But as soon as you plug the car in, the battery will acclimatise itself,” Brúch remarks. To ensure optimal energy intake, it is recommended to charge the car after driving or keep it in a garage.
Myth #4: E-cars brake less effectively in winter
Modern e-cars use a system called regenerative braking, an energy recovery mechanism which converts the energy required to decelerate a car. This also means that taking your foot off the accelerator immediately decelerates the vehicles, a factor which is affected by the cold. This, however, has no effect whatsoever on the performance of the actual brakes. It simply means that there might not be the same amount of energy gained from the braking process as under normal circumstances.
In the end, it’s about attitude.
With some of the most common myths busted there is not actually much, that separates e-cars from conventional ones when it comes to performance in winter – not to forget that any car might experiences difficulties in dire weather.
As technology evolves, the winterhardiness of e-cars is going to improve even further, making them more attractive to a wider range of people. “Heating is always going to influence the battery as it’s a fixed energy consumer, but with growing reach and battery capacity it is going to be of less and less importance for the overall performance,” Wieland Brúch states.