The Case for Electric Car Range Extenders
By Bill Moore
Electric cars are great, but Winter can take its toil, especially if you live above the 35th parallel, as cold temperatures throw their batteries into a stupor, while cabin heat and lights 'suck amps'. Premium subscriber feature.
Photo: Cutaway view of BMW i3 REx range extender engine.
Let's face it. Not everyone lives in California. At the moment here in Omaha, Nebraska, it's 20 F (-7C); and it has been colder than that already this month.
I bring this up because there's a rash (is that a good word? Yes, I think that's apt) of news stories about how cold weather is affecting the performance of electric-drive cars. Here's one example entitled, "Why do electric cars suck in cold weather?" In it, Bill Howard laments how the range on a Mitsubishi i-MiEV he was driving "barely [made] it to 50 miles rather than its... 62 miles (100km)."
The problem was the temperature and the time of day. It was after dark on a 'chilly' December evening. He writes, "As temperatures dip below freezing, you could lose 25% of your electric vehicle’s precious range. Batteries are less efficient in cold weather, they don’t regenerate as well, and electric heating for the cabin, seats, and windows drains your range, too."
Apparently even Tesla Model S owners from New York to Norway are discovering that their vaunted EV is similarly affected by the power sapping cold.
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Originally published: 21 Dec 2013
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