Our friend Dr. Lyle Dennis of GM-Volt.com is one of the 450-odd privateers in the New York and Southern California areas that managed to get on the list of lessees for the battery-powered Mini E. Dennis has been driving his Mini mostly pretty happily for the past six months although it has not been ideal. This past week, in particular, it's been a bit trying as the northeastern part of the United States got slammed by heavy winter weather and cold temperatures.
As we learned recently from the guys at Consumer Reports with the Mitsubishi i MiEV, winter and battery cars are a less than ideal mix. All cars lose efficiency for a number of reasons when the mercury drops, but EVs seem to be particularly problematic. When outside of their optimum temperature range, batteries become reluctant to release their electrons. Dennis has a commute into Manhattan that consists of about 27 miles each way, not an unusual circumstance in the U.S. As the thermometer read 23 degrees Fahrenheit last week, the battery level gauge was on 0 after a 55-mile round trip to the office that included two hours on the plug while there.
The temperature affects not only the battery directly but also adds load to the electrical system. The car's heater is also driven directly off the battery, so using it cuts range as well. In warmer weather, Dennis has been getting about 75-80 miles out of the same car. Perhaps GM really is onto something with the extended range Volt.