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From the special cold weather package in the Nissan Leaf to the "sweater and gloves" Chevrolet Volt, it's no secret that battery-powered cars can have some trouble with non-equatorial winter temperatures. The good news is that some of that trouble is overblown fear mongering, as proved by a group of EV fans recently proved in Helsinki, Finland while the temperature was a wee bit chilly.

Called the "coolest experiment on planet," nine electric vehicles spent the day driving from the Helsinki Olympic Stadium to the Senate Square at the front of Helsinki Cathedral, making sure to hit some of the city's major streets and the shore of frozen Gulf of Finland. The drive was organized by the Electric Traffic Helsinki Test Bed project to coincide with the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 Design Weekend. The vehicles included two Peugeot iOns, a Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL, a Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, a Nissan Leaf, an ä-Corolla (a converted Toyota Corolla), a Tazzari Zero, the Electric RaceAbout (which didn't drive) and an Elcat, an "electric minivan that was manufactured in Finland during the 80s and 90s."

Joona Kallio, the group's creative director, told AutoblogGreen that, "It was sunny day, but -26.5 C [-15.7 F] in the morning and keeping temperature below -20 C [-4 F] all day, it was really tough condition for camera equipment and the video crew – but the EVs just kept running without any problems." Aside from the vehicles' ranges being diminished, of course. Check out a video of the event after the jump.



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WDC 2012 Helsinki EV Drivers take on freezing challenge

Electric Cars keep on rolling in -20 Centigrade

Electric Traffic Helsinki Test Bed project (www.electrictraffic.fi) organized a gathering of local EVs and their drivers as a part of World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 Design Weekend program on Sunday 5th of February. Vehicles drove in procession through downtown Helsinki and ended their trip at the historical centre of the city on Senate Square. Although the thermometer showed 20 degrees below freezing point – a temperature that could challenge even many older internal combustion engine vehicles – the participating EVs experienced no problem whatsoever.

Altogether nine different electric cars participated in the Sunday Drive. There were two Peugeot iOns from Helsingin Energia, one of which was heading the procession. Other participants included Finnish car importer and dealer Veho's Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL – the first mass-produced electric van available in Finnish market, energy company Fortum's Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Nissan Leaf that is Finland's first electric taxicab, ä-Corolla – Toyota Corolla that has been converted electric by technology from Aalto University, Tazzari Zero owned by Helsinki car sharing start-up Olive Cars and last, but by no means least privately-owned Elcat – electric minivan that was manufactured in Finland during the 80s and 90s.

None of the vehicles experienced any problems starting or driving in the freezing cold. Naturally the heaters in the cars took away generous portion of the driving range, but the temperature inside the vehicles was comparable to internal combustion engine cars during winter. Finnish charging equipment manufacturer, Ensto, had also erected a temporary charging pole on the Senate Square for the drivers to use.

The video about the event may be found at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lkuIbourTEo

The picture gallery of the event may be found at:
https://picasaweb.google.com/104534563626519963297/CoolestExperimentOnThePlanet

More information about the event and Electric Traffic Helsinki Test Bed Project may be found at our website www.electrictraffic.fi

Electric Traffic Helsinki Test Bed is an R&D and networking project that looks into the design of services within an electric traffic ecosystem of the future. Behind the project is a unique private- public partnership between 20 Finnish and international companies, 5 cities, 3 educational and research institutes and local and national authorities. It is the largest of Tekes (the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation) Electric Vehicle Systems (EVE) program projects and one of World Design Capital 2012 Helsinki projects.

The companies behind the project include energy companies like Siemens, Fortum and Helsingin Energia, infranet solutions provider Eltel Networks, charging equipment manufacturer Ensto, construction group Lemminkäinen, electrical components wholesaler SLO, vehicle importer Veho, HOK-Elanto – a retail, grocery store and restaurant operating co-operative and many others.

The project companies are building a fully-functionin EV ecosystem – including a test fleet of several hundred EVs – to Helsinki Capital Region complete with business model that allows an EV driver to take advantage of all the charging points of different electricity providers without the need of becoming a direct client of them all.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 25 Comments
      goodoldgorr
      • 1 Month Ago
      Range is already an issue even when it's hot so this experiment just confirm that it's even worse in winter. These drivers put themself at risk and stay into the town and they don't say how much miles their drive was and probably they transported the cars with tow trucks before beginning the ride. They confirmed themself that they cannot leave the town so they didn't debunked any naysayers, quite the opposite because as soon as they reached their destination they already beginned to recharge the cars in a usually no parking place for hours and hours. Someone doing the same thing without special permission will endup getting a no parking ticket or being tow by a towing.
        Chris M
        • 1 Month Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        Range in all vehicles goes down in cold weather, even in old fashioned gassers. But even that "shortened range" for EVs is still sufficient for most daily commutes around town.
      • 1 Month Ago
      @2 Wheeled Menace Most production EVs have heaters in the 4kW range. The Roadster's is 3kW (and people still complain it's not enough. I think the Leaf's is 4-6kW.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 1 Month Ago
      Dave, where are your numbers for the heat generation wattage? 1kW of heat is more than enough for the batteries and interior, < 1kW heating is usually what's installed in most conversions ... And there is no way in hell that the car uses 1kW to cruise at 30-35mph. That's what my 60lb ebike uses.. I think you need to find a source for your numbers.
      • 1 Month Ago
      Just how much was the range decreased? and did they use or even have a heater? have you ever tried to drive in cold weather without defroster and how did they do in the summer heat much of the US can experience 100 plus heat for many days in the summer
      • 1 Month Ago
      @2 Wheeled Menace The Roadster efficiency graph shows it takes ~5kW to go 30-35mph (flat ground, no headwind, etc). http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/roadster-efficiency-and-range People say the Leaf heater peaks at about 4.5kW: http://blogs.cars.com/kickingtires/2011/06/2012-nissan-leaf-battery-warmer-more-details.html So he's not far off on that claim.
      DaveMart
      • 1 Month Ago
      At a 4-5kw draw it is no wonder Renault are looking at things like insulated panels. That's a shocking amount for a small space.
      • 1 Month Ago
      That's where Linux was born right? Please, just put a proper kernel in Nissan LEAF's infotainment computer!!!
      DaveMart
      • 1 Month Ago
      Keeping the battery warm whilst it is still being charged also makes quite a difference to capacity.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 1 Month Ago
      A heated battery pack can provide 100% of it's capacity, no problem. A non-heated battery pack on the other hand, look out.. the cells i've tested double in internal resistance for every 20 deg. below 60f!. Add the internal resistance rise of cycling and the calendar life degradation of a couple years worth of use and you've got something that either won't run in the winter, or slog along for a few miles before pooping out. The bonus is that EVs with a heated pack kick butt in the winter. No block heaters or crappy starts in the winter, just stick the key in and it goes. When it was in the negatives out here in Colorado, i just took my electric bike out since the ICE cars wouldn't start... :)
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 1 Month Ago
      lithium batteries do have a temperature limit and it's often thereabout but the fix seems to be to insulate the pack a bit and keep it from going below say -5 and when driving let it heat itself to above 0. that should cover most issues. if left to freeze to -30 it could have a startup mode where it slowly heats the pack first to a minimum usable temperature and then come to life with full range. I imagine Nissan has implemented something along those lines.
      throwback
      • 1 Month Ago
      I never thought the issue with EVs and cold weather is how they run, but for how far. For example, if I drive to work and park for 10 hours (unplugged) at 10 degress F how much range do I lose? That to me is a more important metric, I know the car will run in cold weather.
        Dan Frederiksen
        • 1 Month Ago
        @throwback
        throwback, there will eventually be another video for that ignorance as well : )
        Dave R
        • 1 Month Ago
        @throwback
        You will only "lose" range after an EV cold soaks because the battery does not readily relieve it self of electrons when cold. The LEAF's battery will lose somewhere around 15% capacity if cold soaked to 10F compared to 70F. The major cause of range loss in EVs is the large amount of energy required to heat up the interior. The amount of energy drawn by the HVAC system on a LEAF at full heat is similar to driving at a speed of 30-35 mph on flat ground. If you can avoid using HVAC and rely on seat/steering wheel warmers you can avoid losing too much range. Bundle up!
        EZEE
        • 1 Month Ago
        @throwback
        Yea, another article lacking in an important detail. Sigh. On the other hand, this is Toyota, Nissan, and GM. I have been to Ford and GM test centers, and they brutalize cars in the test phase. Even some of the cars you buy may have been pulled out for various tests for quality control. Although I suppose range might be affected, I would have full confidence they all did their homework. Besides (here is some red meat for the regulars), anyone ever tried to start a big diesel on a cold morning? In some cases, big rig drivers will leave the engines running at night due to problems starting in the morning,
          fred schumacher
          • 1 Month Ago
          @EZEE
          Number 2 diesel gels easily; number 1 diesel stays fluid to extreme temperatures but doesn't have as many BTUs per gallon as number 2, so fuel stations blend the two based on expected temperatures. If a truck comes from the south and runs into colder weather, the fuel can gel unless additional anti-gel is added as a precaution. I always keep number 1 diesel in my tractor year-round, since I use it mostly in winter. Even so, it takes a shot of ether to get a diesel to start when it's cold. In far northern Minnesota where I live, logging is done primarily in the winter, when the swamps are frozen; All the equipment is diesel: trucks, feller-bunchers, skidders, slashers. You tend to stop working when the temperature is under 45 below, not because the diesels won't run, but because steel gets so brittle it breaks easily, making for expensive repairs.
          throwback
          • 1 Month Ago
          @EZEE
          Or plug in their trucks (engine heater) to keep the diesel from jelling up.
          Chris M
          • 1 Month Ago
          @EZEE
          Diesels really do not like cold weather. I remember the problems starting a VW diesel Rabbit on cold days in Idaho, sometimes having to put a charger on the battery depleted by the glow plugs, and jam a hair dryer into the air intake so the hot air would help it start. Power ******* block heaters helped, but even they weren't always enough. I dare say a diesel is even less suited to cold climates than BEVs are.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Month Ago
          @EZEE
          It would be nice if Nissan would issue their performance graphs against temperature, then those who are so inclined could work out the range at any given temperature and for different assumptions on running the heating etc. Still, they have come close with reasonably extensive performance data under different conditions.
          paulwesterberg
          • 1 Month Ago
          @EZEE
          As a child I remember driving between Duluth and Minneapolis during a particularly brutal cold day with Temps below -30F and there were many diesel trucks stranded on the side of the road because their fuel had gelled while they were driving. I am not sure if winter fuel blends are less susceptible to gelling or if today's trucks insulate/heat the fuel line better or if global warming has made this less of an issue.
        Ryan
        • 1 Month Ago
        @throwback
        My garage isn't too cold where I would be parking and charging it. So for at least the first half of the trip it should be somewhat warm, (assuming that discharging batteries produce some heat, and there is some insulation). The other thing is that it isn't always that cold here. We might get down to 10F two or three times a year.
      Timo
      • 1 Month Ago
      Helsinki is at south border of Finland next to Gulf of Finland. That makes it quite a few degrees warmer than inland and northern parts, and it rarely gets any colder than -25C. At that time when this happening was there were over -40 degree temperatures in some places inland. I would like to see what kind of problems electric vehicles have there.
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