Driving Your Electric Vehicle (EV) In Bad Weather

Driving any vehicle in bad weather, especially ice, snow or floods is not for the feint hearted. It goes without saying that you need to drive with extreme caution and above all reduce your speed.  Driving an EV in such conditions is no different except that there are a few extra factors to take into consideration.  The first of which is the instant power of an EV on start-up and the second is the effect bad weather conditions can have on the efficiency of the battery and therefore driving range of an EV.  Before we look at these two considerations however, regardless of the vehicle you drive, in the extreme weather we are now experiencing it is advisable to be prepared for all driving-related emergencies.

Prepare for Emergencies

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When bad weather needs to be taken into consideration any journey, long or short, should be planned in advance.  Be prepared for unforeseen circumstances such as traffic jams or road closures.  Throughout the winter months at least pack a de-icer and scraper, but a First Aid kit, water as well as warm clothes or blankets are also to be recommended.  They could be just as handy on a short journey as on a long one.  If you drive an EV then so too, could a non-tethered charging plug be handy in an emergency.

Instant Power on Start-up

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An EV delivers its torque at 0 rpm (revolutions per minute). In layman’s terms, this means that as soon as you put your foot down the power is there, whereas in diesel or petrol vehicles it is a more gradual process and you have to wait for the torque and rpm to build up before your speed does. This instant power of an EV might be an advantage on a racing track but not on icy roads. That it can increase the risk of wheelspin which in turn can increase the risk of skidding means that in icy conditions especially, you must accelerate slowly. 

Extreme Weather and EV Battery Efficiency

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Extreme weather can have a negative effect on the efficiency of an EV battery (as it does on any vehicle when heaters and the like are being used).  Cold weather reduces battery range by approximately 12% but add heaters into the equation and this increases to over 40% reduction in battery range.  On a long journey this could be a problem because whilst it is easy to stop at a petrol station to fill up on liquid fuel, not all possess EV charging units.  This means that you would have to plan your route more meticulously so that if you had to recharge earlier than expected, you know where there is a charging unit. It might also be helpful to know if the unit will be a rapid charger or not as this could also make a difference to your journey time.

To conserve the EV battery you need to drive at a steady speed, avoid sudden acceleration and braking if possible and do not use your heaters or speakers if you don’t need to.  If the battery charge starts to drop and your car has the eco-mode function, then use it as this will focus battery power on where it is most needed until you are able to recharge.  If your vehicle does not have eco-mode function, then turn off the heaters and speakers until you can recharge

EV’s in Snow

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In terms of driving in the snow, it is no different driving an EV than it is to drive a petrol or diesel vehicle.  All the necessary precautionary advice still stands; drive slowly, dim your lights so as not to blind others… etc.  However, driving an EV in the snow can have a distinct advantage over an ordinary petrol or diesel vehicle in that the battery is heavy and is situated underneath the car.  This gives better traction so these vehicles are better equipped to get through snow because they have a lower sense of gravity and can almost push their way through.

EV’s in Ice

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As I said earlier, it goes without saying that you should drive slowly and carefully in freezing, icy conditions.  This is even more true when driving an EV.  The weight and position of an EV battery helps in terms of driving in snow, but on ice, these two factors can have the driver at a disadvantage.  EVs are usually heavier than petrol or diesel vehicles so it is slightly easier for them to slide.  If you do slide, the weight and position of the battery may mean it is more difficult to regain control of the vehicle.  However, if you keep your speed to a minimum, then you reduce the possibility of skidding and having winter tyres fitted can also make a big difference.

Winter Tyres

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Being mindful of weather conditions and reducing your speed accordingly (a sensible option in any vehicle) will reduce the risk of skidding on ice.  Because of the weight and position of the battery, more strain is put on the EVs tyres so keeping them fully inflated is important and again will help with grip.  For extra safety and peace of mind during the cold and icy winter months, however, as I said earlier, it is highly recommended that you have winter tyres fitted.  Winter tyres will reduce the risk of skidding by improving the grip to the road. 

Driving Through a Flood

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In electric vehicles, as I said earlier, the drive units and batteries are situated underneath the car, which sounds a bit risky.  They are, however, sealed so protected and can easily cope with normal splashes and puddles.   In terms of deep water levels though, whilst it is possible to drive down a flooded road in an EV, only do so if absolutely necessary and only for as long as you have to.  Whilst EVs have the advantage over petrol or diesel vehicles in that they do not have air intakes or exhausts (so they do not lose propulsion), if you drive them through deep water, like all vehicles they are more in danger of being damaged the longer they are submerged.

The danger of driving an EV through floods is that the water can enter the cabin of the vehicle and damage the electronic controls.  As well as this, if the wheels are submerged the brakes might not function as well as they should.  So, if you do have to drive your EV through what looks like deep water, then do so slowly and steadily. 

Something to consider if you cannot avoid deep water and are contemplating the depth and whether it is safe to drive through is that usually, the bottom of a car door (any car) is a little higher than the pavement.  So, if the pavement is not submerged then it probably would be safe to drive through the flood. However, the best advice is to minimise your contact with deep water and flooding as much as possible.

In Summary

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Driving an EV in bad weather conditions is not that different to driving a petrol or diesel vehicle.  In icy conditions you do need to be mindful of the EVs pulling power on start-up.  If you accelerate too quickly it can cause wheelspin and skidding.  In the snow, an EV is good because the position and weight of the battery helps give the car better traction so it can almost push its way through.   You could drive an EV through deep water, but it is best to avoid doing so, if possible.  Prolonged submergence could damage the electronics and brakes.

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