A publication which must not be named (simply linked to) has published an opinion piece which is the latest in a series of false narratives around electric vehicles. This opinion (I mean act of subterfuge) presents electric vehicles as a luxury item in cold countries, since the batteries do not perform as well as on the mild coasts of California. Please join me on this debunking tour. Of course, many electric vehicles are actually luxury vehicles; you’d be hard-pressed to find an electric vehicle under $40,000. But the state of luxury is not due to their ability to operate in a light dusting of snow and with a pinch of frost in the air.
Simply put, all mechanical objects that contain liquids hate the cold. Metals contract, liquids go gooey or freeze completely, and none of that is practical. This includes cars. I grew up in Norway, and in cold weather cars have to be plugged into a block heater. Yes, this especially includes diesel cars (because they don’t have a spark plug, only a glow plug to start the cycle) and petrol cars. So humans live in places where machines are not satisfied, but we have found workarounds since we have machines to drive.
Indeed, the batteries do not like the cold either; their range can drop by 10% to 15% due to temperature, and if you’re driving with your heater on full blast so you don’t turn yourself into an ice cube, that drop in range can be much greater. Not ideal, of course, but in a world where average journeys are well below the average range of a modern electric vehicle, that’s not as important as one might think.
Also, many modern EVs (including Teslas) have the ability to precondition the battery before driving off. This effectively means that the car is warming up the batteries before driving off. Yes, it does take power, but guess watt, most of the time your car will be plugged in and charged when the scheduled preconditioning occurs. It uses a bit of power (much like that block heater I mentioned), but your car can charge while it does, so it takes power from the grid rather than the car’s batteries .
The main point I have a problem with in the original article is whether electric vehicles are a luxury in cold climates. We are in a nascent but rapidly evolving world of electric vehicles. Like all emerging technologies, there will be people whose use cases are compatible with the limitations of the new technology and there will be people who cannot live with the drawbacks. Yes, it takes longer to charge an EV than to fill a gas tank. You can probably make a longer trip in a gas-powered car than in an electric vehicle. For hauling heavy loads, diesel is probably a more manageable fuel source than a truck full of batteries. For most drivers, however, now is the time to seriously consider an electric vehicle.
The biggest challenge is infrastructure recharge, and the United States is lagging on this front; available chargers are not growing as fast as the number of electric vehicles on the road. Home chargers are tricky in areas where people don’t have dedicated parking spots, but that’s changing too. London’s plan to build on-street infrastructure, for example, looks promising. Some companies are even using excess power from streetlights to enable load-balanced charging infrastructure, greatly reducing the need for new cables. Workplaces are also increasingly implementing electric vehicle charging infrastructure, which cuts range anxiety in half; if you can get to work, you can go home.
But here’s an important statistic: when you think “cold-climate country,” you probably think of Scandinavia. Take Norway. The most recent figures available suggest that more than 91% of all cars sold are electric vehicles. In Oslo (where most people live, and which isn’t even that far north, given the overall geography of the country), in December, January and February it’s freezing most nights, but people s are doing very well with their electric cars.
Of course, Norway is not the same (economically or in terms of infrastructure) as the United States, but electrifying our personal transportation options will be a crucial part of ensuring we have a fighting chance. against climate change. Let’s be aware of the shortcomings and limitations of electric cars, but most of the arguments against them in cold weather are quite surmountable.