The Polar Vortex has created a bit of a mathematical optical illusion when comparing the effect of cold weather on gas-powered cars and electric vehicles. Cold weather reduces EV range by a greater percentage than it reduces gasoline fuel economy, but because EVs cost so much less to "fuel," the savings for EV drivers actually increase as the temperature drops. Got all that? Here's the math.

According to FleetCarma, an EV's single-charge range at freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) drops 20 percent compared to what it is at 73 degrees, while the fuel economy of a gas engine declines just 12 percent. Drop the temperature to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and the difference is more pronounced, as EV range falls 29 percent while fuel economy decreases 19 percent. Heat up that cabin, and single-charge range drops further, by as much as 43 percent.

So that means some frost makes EV savings disappear, correct? No. Because of the disparity in fueling costs to begin with, EV payback rate speeds up as the temperature drops. Specifically, EV drivers save on average 12 cents a mile in fueling costs compared to conventional vehicles at 73 degrees, and 15 cents a mile when the temperature falls to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. So plug in, bundle up and check out FleetCarma's graphics on the subject below.


Cold Weather Fuel Efficiency Infographic: Electric Versus Gasoline Showdown

via fleetcarma.com



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 42 Comments
      Grendal
      • 10 Months Ago
      The thing about this is that different battery chemistries work different under adverse conditions. Are the batteries conditioned by the pack? I don't think you can make sweeping statements about EV's because of that.
        JakeY
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Grendal
        It does note that in the info-graphic (says HVAC and Heating impact varies heavily between EVs).
        2 wheeled menace
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Grendal
        No, you cannot. Some batteries do not require any heating or cooling at all, even in extreme temperatures. Like the 7 year old technology that i use to propel my electric bicycle down the road.. :)
          2 wheeled menace
          • 10 Months Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          You'd be surprised at what's legal in Utah.. ;)
          • 10 Months Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          I don't think you should use a 7 year old to propel anything. There are child labor laws you know :)
      raktmn
      • 10 Months Ago
      All this talk about running out of juice! This sort of thing is why Nissan originally had a questionnaire you had to fill out and pass before they would put you on their Leaf wait list. It was a way to weed out folks with unrealistic expectations, or were simply clueless about EV's. It was a sort of "You must be at least this smart in order to get on this ride" kind of test. Some folks failed that test, and Nissan let them know that the Leaf wasn't for them. It looks like some would still fail today if they took the test. If a tool isn't used correctly, don't blame the tool, blame the tool holding the tool. Like I've said many times before, YMMV goes triple for electric vehicles. If your personal needs for your personal driving habits in your personal location, with the weather you personally experience requires something with longer range, buy the right car for your personal needs. If weather or range is a concern, buy a PHEV or a longer range pure EV that will suit your needs. The hard reality is that the most EV's are sold in California, and that is no coincidence. It is because EV's fit so well with so many people's personal driving needs there. If a short range EV does not suit your personal driving needs, it is a buying mistake, not the fault of the car. It is no different than someone buying a Jeep Wrangler and expecting it to tow a 10,000+ pound trailer, when they really need a full size truck to do the job.
      EZEE2
      • 10 Months Ago
      So you will be happily smiling in the snow drift because you underestimated the range, but, you will be happy with the money you saved over the gas powered car, which has sadly driven its occupants home, who are now sitting by the fireplace, drinking hit chocolate, who are all sad because of the extra money they spent. Since you will all be angry at me for that, why not pile on? It made it up to 80 degrees inn Orlando today.
        CoolWaters
        • 10 Months Ago
        @EZEE2
        Always a troll. These cars have, get this: Gauges.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 10 Months Ago
        @EZEE2
        43% is a worst case scenario with a small EV, having a small battery pack, going very slow for a long distance at a verrrrrry cold temperature, because the electric heat would be pumping say, 2kW where the motor is cruisin' along at 1.8kW or so at something like 30mph.. A <$100 indoor liquid fuel heater remedies this. Pretty easy fix :)
        EZEE2
        • 10 Months Ago
        @EZEE2
        The gauges of which you speak. They have eliminated people from running out of gasoline in their ICE cars? And, laughing out loud at the absurdity of this, the article, and unfortunately, electric cars (yes I said it), I see this: Heat up that cabin, and single-charge range drops further, by as much as 43 percent. 43%? Forty-effing-three percent? Just wow. Get ready on the downvoted, because this figure means that current electric cars, in their current form, suck in the worst way. Forth three percent? You lose nearly half of your range due to cold weather and turning on the heat? Seriously? I can see why the divorce rate will rise if a spouse forgets to plug the car in. People could lose their job because they won't make it to work on a CLEAR DAY because at a 1/2 charge, the leaf might not make it over 25 miles! Your $30,000 car might not make 25 miles, if it want plugged in and the batteries were half full. Dear effing God. THINK about it. 2WM uses batteries that aren't affected. His bikes, that he builds himself IN HIS GARAGE would go further in the cold than a Nissan Leaf on a 1/2 charge! You. I might have to be rescued by 2WM on a bike! And he will be all like, 'no, hang onto the seat. I am not into that sort of thing. Not that there is anything wrong with that.' And you reply, 'no, of course not, if that is a way a person lives their life, who am I to say anything?' And (as you continue down the road), he says, 'certainly people are people, we must embrace all types of diversity.' Then you both would talk about sports and women until arriving at your destination. I will say it again, just in case anyone missed it. If electric cars truly lose up to 43% of their range due to cold and heat makes their batteries fail sooner (Nissan....), then they well and truly suck in their current form. Yes, a 43% drop in their range due to cold! means that they suck.
          EZEE2
          • 10 Months Ago
          @EZEE2
          Hey Rak You got my point essentially correct. The only caveat is I wouldn't blame the car for it to be running out of gas or a charge, I would blame the driver. with the electric car, the situation is a little bit different. If the car does lose 43%, your range is only going to be about 46 miles on the Nissan. Considering that this is a potentially deadly situation, where the temperature is extremely low, this strikes me, as an unacceptable problem. No you could just as easily die in the gasoline powered car the runs out of gas in the cold, but, you also have a 300 to 500 mile range. I am a right winger. I always endorse personal responsibility. Person in the Nissan that runs out of a charge is just as responsible as the person in the gasoline powered car. Having the range sliced nearly in half though could catch some people by surprise, as they might not be expecting their range to drop so drastically.
          raktmn
          • 10 Months Ago
          @EZEE2
          "The gauges of which you speak. They have eliminated people from running out of gasoline in their ICE cars?" I don't get your point. Are you saying that when somebody fails to pay attention to their gas gauge and run out of gas, then it isn't the car to blame, it's the inattentive driver? But if the same person is driving an EV and also fails to pay attention and runs out of electricity, it magically becomes the car's fault?
      NL
      • 10 Months Ago
      Cold comfort when you run out of juice a mile from home in freezing weather.
        ElectricAvenue
        • 10 Months Ago
        @NL
        And this is different from running out of fuel how? Yes, EVs have much more limited ranges, but it's not as if this sort of thing should take anyone by surprise. One could even argue that an EV has an advantage in this regard, because you can increase your range just by turning off the heat, whereas with the gas car you are pretty much hosed if you are such a poor planner that you don't have enough energy to get to your destination.
      Ryan
      • 10 Months Ago
      My bike doesn't go as far or as fast now since I am in the freezing cold Ohio either.
      Edge
      • 10 Months Ago
      Very interesting! Finally some numbers, and good explanation.
      • 10 Months Ago
      The math is perfectly correct (even if it looks a little tricky at first site). While the comparison is a general average “research data”, it still might be correct for one particular pair of cars. The data seems to suggest that no matter what, driving an electric car is extremely cheap. In many cases it is indeed true, but there are very surprising exceptions as well, like e.g. this: N.B.: The following comparison made by an ‘analytical’ real world Tesla Model S owner (published on teslamotors.com), who happens to own an Audi A8 as well. The comparison is his work, therefore I am not liable for any damages it might cause for you, and of course - if you are a Tesla + luxury sedan owner - your mileage may vary. “MODEL S ECONOMICS – SHOCK! ELECTRICITY COSTS AS MUCH AS GASOLINE” wolfpv | 13 MAI 2013 “I’ve had my model S – 85 “Regular” for a few days now, and love it – a joy to drive, and a toy par-excellance. Unfortunately, I’m absurdly analytical, and in looking at the economics of driving the Tesla, I’ve been surprised at the results. In a nutshell, the cost per mile for electricity is, for me (and I suspect many) as high, or higher than the cost of gas for most normal, non-hybrid, cars. My analysis follows. First and foremost, this is based on charging at home, in a normal upper-middle class single family home (mine). [here comes a long list of data about it, which I skip]… I started this exploration by looking at my electric bill, something which I’d never really done… Based on my analysis, my monthly driving rate of 1200 miles will require about 550 additional kWh. The other factor which isn’t generally mentioned is what I’ll call “Charging efficiency”. If you expend 20kWh of energy with your car, you can’t expect to pull 20kWh out of your wall to replace it. Batteries are certainly not 100% efficient, and there are additional losses in the charging circuit, wiring, transformers, etc. I found… an overall efficiency of about 70%. (Wow) The third factor is driving style. I have been driving the Tesla more conservatively than my Audi A8, but not ultra-conservatively… You can certainly do it – but it isn’t much fun. Driving in my more usual way results in an electricity use of 350-400 watts/mile. The evaluation below is based on 333 watts/mile, my careful commute. The results of my analysis (typical commute). I have included the cost, for comparison, of gasoline for my Audi A8 which is a comparable car in terms of size, weight, power, and luxury, and an alternate car which gets 28mpg and uses regular gas. Cost/mile for Electricity for the Tesla is $0.156, and for gas for the Audi A8 is $0.183, and for the alternate car is $0.139. http://www.teslamotors.com/fr_CA/forum/forums/model-s-economics-%E2%80%93-shock-electricity-costs-much-gasoline That’s the reality folks. And the solution by him: “These results came as a surprise – perhaps even a shock… There’s hope, however: Solar panel... I’m signing up for a 6kW system immediately..."
        ElectricAvenue
        • 10 Months Ago
        He's paying triple what I pay for electricity (actually 5 times the rate if I compare with the first tier rate here), and I'm not sure I buy the 30% loss suggestion. That is hard to believe - if 30% of 9.5 kW is being lost, then please tell me where that 2.85 kW of heat is going? You can blame some loss on the systems that stay on inside the Model S, but there's a setting you can choose to minimize that (at the cost of slower wakeup response when getting into the car).
        JP
        • 10 Months Ago
        First, that was written before Tesla took care of the "vampire drain", second, his rates are much higher than normal, and third, I think CA has special EV charging rates. So no, that's not the reality folks, it was a reality that basically no longer exists.
      Thomas Earle Moore
      • 10 Months Ago
      @EZEE2: Let's try a different perspective: EV cabin heating seems big (to you as an ICE driver) because the energy needed to move the EV is so small. ICE cabin heat seems small (to you as an ICE driver) because you are continuously wasting 4/5 of the energy used to move the car, as heat. Cold weather provides a use for using all that waste energy. But an EV doesn't waste all that energy when it isn't needed for cabin heat, and thus achieves much lower transportation cost overall. Do you want to play numbers games, or do you want to save energy while moving your car?
        2 wheeled menace
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Thomas Earle Moore
        Like i said. A $80 portable propane, kerosine, or other heater instead of using the battery as your heat source restores your range and allays your worries. I have one in my garage because the electrical circuit will not provide the heat level i am looking for. Problem solved.
          JP
          • 10 Months Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Buy an EV with enough range, and preheat it when plugged in. Problem solved.
        EZEE2
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Thomas Earle Moore
        I could talk about your various arguments, or I might agree or disagree, but there's one simple fact. 43% I will happily pay more money for this energy, then the guy a horrible frozen dad the frozen tundra of the north. And yes, I understand the cars have gauges, but I'm also losing up to 43%. Most of these cars only go 80 miles to begin with. And I'm going to lose 43% of that. What if there is a charger waiting on the other side of my trip, and my trip is more than 43% of the capacity of the battery? I might work at a business that has a charger for me. Well guess what? Unless I have another car, once it gets cold, my electric vehicle is useless. 43%
      2 wheeled menace
      • 10 Months Ago
      I haven't calculated everything here, but there is some major fuzzy math going on. I'll say this... i don't believe it. But what shocks me is that Danny posted something that is positive about EVs. By the way, if your range is truly a problem, you can use a propane heater in the winter to regain some of it. Yes, there exist some small, clean cycle propane heaters that are suitable for indoors. I use one for my garage, and it does not put off a smell or produce enough toxic particulates to make you woozy. Older electric cars came with integrated kerosene heaters. For EVs with smaller range, some kind of liquid fuel heater should come standard. Perhaps ethanol could be used.
        raktmn
        • 10 Months Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        If you are having a hard time with the math, let me try to explain it in the native terms of the internet. Let's say it normally costs you $10 bucks to download porn from a premium website, and the cost goes up 15% due to a snowstorm clogging the tubes of the internetz with snow. That same porn would cost you $11.50, or $1.50 more if the price went up just 15%. But you can also download that exact same porn from a cheap download site for just $1 dollar. Now even if the prices at that download site goes up 50% due to the storm, the price only goes up by .50 cents. Even with a much higher percent premium for the snow storm, you are still much better off downloading from the cheaper porn site. The storm premium costs you a dollar more for the same porn from the premium site, even though the percent difference is way higher on the cheap porn site. This is exactly how the price of driving a gas car around in winter will cost you more in the end than an EV, even if the percent increase in gas burned per mile is less than for EV's. Because of the much higher cost of gasoline, the ICE car is the $10 dollar porn download site in this example, and EV's are the $1 dollar download site. Claro?
          bluepongo1
          • 10 Months Ago
          @raktmn
          @ raktmn So. much. win. :-)
          EZEE2
          • 10 Months Ago
          @raktmn
          @rak (Tears in my eyes) I will have you know that I only watch FREE porn on the Internet! Xnxx and tnaflix are free and have a wide range of subject material for any taste or need! (People at Starbucks starting to look in my direction) You made my entire morning. And as a thank you...lets see.....Ahhh: Barack Obama seems to be a good father. Both of his children are adorable, and will undoubtably lead good lives by his, and his wife's example. You need to use that analogy for everything: "We need to stop global warming!" "But why Mr. Rak?" "Well assume for a moment you are downloading porn. A warmer earth slows down the flow of electrons. You will either have to wait longer, or watch in low def." "Oh no! What can we do to stop that Mr. Rak?' "Think globally, and act locally. Buy locally produced food, and ride a bike when you can. Riding a bike will allow you to save more for quality high def porn." "That we will be able to download fast because the earth isn't warming." "There, now you've got it! Free samples of Jergens at the door!" I bow....I bow to you excellence. (Bowing)
          EZEE2
          • 10 Months Ago
          @raktmn
          Hey rak Speaking of solar panels, I just had a neighbor install an entire rooftop array house. Last time I had done the math, it wasn't really economical for me. That was a few years ago, and ask him what he was charged for the system. Everyone here keeps screaming about how the prices have fallen so it doesn't hurt to look!
          2 wheeled menace
          • 10 Months Ago
          @raktmn
          I'm glad someone finally came around who could help me understand it. Thanks so much :P
          raktmn
          • 10 Months Ago
          @raktmn
          2EZEE -- Free porn in this example, is when your EV charging is offset by electricity produced from your solar panels, once you've had the solar panels for enough years that they've already produced enough electricity to recoup their initial installation costs. I'm all for free porn, metaphorically speaking (and otherwise). =) 2WM -- Glad I could help!!
          EZEE2
          • 10 Months Ago
          @raktmn
          Sorry, I still have tears in my eyes....I reread it. My side hurts.
        Brian H
        • 10 Months Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        The EV percentage loss is higher, but the base cost is so much lower that the impact is less. E.g., 10% of $100 > 50% of $10.
      cmcilroy35
      • 10 Months Ago
      Perhaps the math is correct, but my Prius sucks when it's cold out. The small engine takes forever and can hardly keep the inside warm and the small narrow low resistance eco tires suck on anything but dry pavement. On that note, the A/C isn't all that great in really hot weather either.
        CoolWaters
        • 10 Months Ago
        @cmcilroy35
        I have no problems in winter snow, with the Honda Insight. The skinny tires have more weight on them and they cut into the snow well. Secondly, the battery weight means the back end is not light, no fish tailing. It's much better in the snow then you'd think. I do take it out of Econ mode in snow sometimes, as both front tires pull better, whereas in Econ mode it seems only the right front does the work.
        CoolWaters
        • 10 Months Ago
        @cmcilroy35
        I've had good luck with the Bridgestone Ecopia. Maybe you should look into the Bridgestone Blizzak for winter driving.
          CoolWaters
          • 10 Months Ago
          @CoolWaters
          http://www.bridgestonetire.com/tire/blizzak-ws70/195-65r15?year=2013&make=Toyota&model=Prius&trim=/content/fst/vehicles/2013/toyota/prius/base0
        GoodCheer
        • 10 Months Ago
        @cmcilroy35
        That's why winter tires exist. We have them on our Prius, and between that and the traction control, find it practically unstopable. (We just drove 650 miles through Maine and New Brunswick this weekend, on fresh snow, wet pavement, ice, and just a little dry pavement, all without any problems).
          richard
          • 10 Months Ago
          @GoodCheer
          Shoulda bought a Volt.
        oollyoumn
        • 10 Months Ago
        @cmcilroy35
        I'm guessing you are just looking for reaction as this article is about EVs and not Hybrids. From what you say about the Prius it sound like you've never even been in one. The AC on a Prius is electric. That means it runs full blast even when the car is parked. It is far better than most cars where you must get up to speed to get full AC. Most people notice just the opposite, that the AC is better than other cars. I've driven a Prius for nearly 5 years now, and never had any problem with heading as far north in the winter as Chicago. I've been to Canada with it, but not in winter. On another note, the mileage is exceptional. I no longer have the low rolling resistance tires, I use the ethanol blend fuel and I don't even try for good mileage, yet my average for the last 5,000 miles is 49mpg. That includes driving in snow, rain and every other condition. The reason it is that low is because I only drive 3 miles to work, so the engine just gets to full temperature then is shut down. That has the biggest impact from my experience. When I drove 10 miles one way, had good weather, and put in a little effort, I could get 70mpg for full tanks that lasted for an entire month. Not bad for a car that has seen more work than some trucks. I've hauled a wheelbarrow (inside), landscape materials, even a king size bed all fitting inside. Beyond the complimentary service, It's only been back to the dealer once, for a reprogramming of the ABS.
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