Electric Car Winter Care Guide
Winter weather can have quite a big impact on the performance of your electric car. How you drive, the accessories you use and general maintenance of the vehicle can help you get the most out of your EV during the colder months.
There are also a few things you shouldn’t do to your electric car in the winter, to keep it in tip-top condition.
Before You Drive
Storage & Charging
Electric cars will function all year round but they prefer warmer temperatures generally between 10 and 35 degrees. Sub-zero temperatures, in particular, can reduce range and sometimes affect the battery’s ability to accept charge. (To be even-handed, it’s worth pointing out that ICE cars can also be dramatically affected by the cold!).
Here are a couple of handy tips to reduce the impact of the cold:
- Try to keep the car charged between 40% and 80% while it’s not being used. It’s important not to let the battery drop too low in the cold.
- If you can store the car in a garage, then do so. Otherwise, try to park it in the sun to keep it as warm as possible when not in use.
Look after your car and it will look after you. General maintenance is always a good idea, and during winter one of the most important things to monitor closely is tyre pressure.
Regularly checking tyre pressure is recommended all year round. You should keep your cars tyre pressure at the PSI level recommended by manufacturers during the summer months. In icy road conditions, you could consider letting it drop marginally as this can help to improve grip – but only do so if you think the roads require it, and don’t forget to pump the tyres back up to optimum pressure when the bad weather clears.
The recommended tyre pressure varies from car-to-car and can usually be found in the car’s manual, or on a label inside the driver (or passenger) front door. There are several handy online tools that will let you know the optimum tyre pressure when you enter your reg number.
Remember to check your tyre pressure when the tyres are cold (i.e. the car hasn’t been driven for a few hours) to get an accurate reading.
Windscreens & wipers
One of the obvious things that colder temperatures affect are the windows, windscreen and wipers on your car.
For the rear window, you should use your cars defrost function. This is usually a button on the dashboard which activates the thin wires in the rear window to help melt snow and ice, or clear condensation. Some new cars will also have a front windscreen defrost system which does the same.
If your car doesn’t have the front defrost feature, you should use your cars air conditioning by turning the heat up and directing the air to the windscreen. This could take 5-10 minutes depending on how thick the ice is, so do plan extra time into your journey.
Something you should never do if there is ice on your vehicle is pour hot (boiling) water onto the glass. This is dangerous and can damage/crack the windscreen. You should get an ice scraper and use that to clear the ice (don’t forget gloves to stop your fingers getting frostbite!).
Wipers can also get stuck to the windscreen. If that happens, do not switch them on straight away. This could rip the wiper blades from the wiper arm, rendering them unusable. You should use your cars front defrost/air conditioning until the wipers are free enough to gently lift from the windscreen, then scrape the ice from underneath. After that, you can use the wipers as normal.
Keeping yourself safe in colder weathers is really important and not something to overlook. Before you leave, you should:
- Make sure you’re wrapped up warm – colder temperatures can affect your decision-making ability if you’re too cold. But, don’t let your winter clothing affect your ability to drive; you could face fines of up to (and in some cases over!) £1000 if you’re found to cause an incident due to wearing clothing that impacts your ability to control the vehicle (i.e. chunky footwear or gloves).
- If you live rurally, pack a blanket with you in the car just in case you breakdown and you need to wait for assistance.
- Prepare a first-aid kit, especially if you’ll have children with you. Some cars come with them from new now, but you can order small kits on the internet.
- Bring sunglasses and leave them within easy reach (bear with us on this). Low sun in winter months can hurt your eyes when driving and affect visibility.
- Check your vehicle’s reflective warning signs are stored/intact. Most new cars come with reflective triangles that sit under the boot floor, so check yours is there in case you breakdown/get stuck.
On The Road
As an EV driver, you may think about battery efficiency quite a bit. During winter there a few things you can do to maximise performance and range.
You’ll also be familiar with the copious amounts of tech in your electric car, but you should be weary to rely on them completely when road surfaces aren’t clear. For example, your EV’s ‘lane departure warning’ system may not detect when you’re veering out of lane if the road is icy/snowy, so take extra care when travelling at speed.
Regenerative braking converts the kinetic (movement) energy of the car into energy for the battery. You’ll want to tweak the settings on this depending on the road conditions.
If it’s very cold, but the roads are not icy, then you should maximise the regeneration setting to help increase the range of the car. Using one pedal driving here, if your car is capable, is fine.
If road conditions are really slippery however, you may want to turn off one pedal driving or reduce regenerative braking in case the poorer road conditions affect the system’s ability to function correctly.
You can check your cars user manual online to find out how to adjust this setting.
Accelerating harshly uses more power and will eat up your range. In winter conditions, it’s especially important to drive smoothly not only to conserve range when it’s cold, but also in case the road conditions are dangerous. This will also reduce the chances of your tyres spinning before the traction control system(s) kicks in.
Because with an electric motor you get all the vehicle’s power instantly, you’re more likely to spin the drive wheels on ice if you’re a bit eager on the throttle. Switching to your EV’s “eco” mode may help, as that usually reduces power a little to save the battery.
Heating and Air Con
Having the heating on full blast uses a lot of power. If you’re able to, pre-condition your car using your vehicle app before you leave (ideally while the car is charging, so you don’t waste energy). If you do need the heating on, then try keeping it on a lower level to help maximise your range. And, if possible, use the heated seats and steering wheel rather than the air conditioning, as these will use up less energy. Of course, if your windscreen needs clearing from ice or snow, this can’t be helped and you should ensure that it’s clear using your cars air conditioning/an ice scraper before you set off.
Winter Safety Checklist
As you can see there are few things to be mindful of to get the most out of your electric car in the winter months.
To keep things simple, we’ve created the checklist below to help you drive as safely as possibly:
- Ask a friend to check while you test all the lights including your fog lights
- Clean the windows (with an ice scraper if needed) and test the wipers before setting out
- Check your tyre pressure using the guide above
- Contact us if you notice any windscreen chips or damage
- Swing by your local garage to check the tyre tread depth – we recommend changing the tyre if the tread reaches 2mm (we cover this for our subscribers as part of their subscription)
- Check for any punctures or sidewall damage on the tyres