Illuminate Home
Electric vehicle driving on a snowy road lined with snow-covered pine trees.

Electric vehicles and winter weather: What you should know

Winter brings shorter days, holidays and cold, snowy weather. As Midwesterners, we’re no strangers to thick blankets of heavy, wet snow coating our roads making winter driving dangerous. Whether you drive a gas-powered car or an electric vehicle (EV), snow and frigid temperatures affect your driving routine.  

All cars, including gas-powered vehicles, use more energy in winter to get you safely to your destination. The top concern of many EV drivers is charging efficiency and lower driving range in colder temperatures, but the cold itself doesn’t influence driving range. It’s the energy demand on the battery to keep you warm that has an impact.  

Research from AAA found outdoor temperatures around 20 F can cut a battery EV’s average driving range up to 41%. Not all EVs are the same and some handle cold better than others. Newer models often have bigger batteries that perform better in the cold.  

Fuel efficiency in gas-powered cars also reduces in winter. Colder temperatures mean fluids are thicker and parts take more effort to move, so fuel efficiency takes a hit. This could also affect how well your engine responds to braking, accelerating and the vehicle’s traction control system.   

You can increase efficiency, whether fuel or battery, with a couple smart winter driving practices. For example, brake and accelerate gently, use seat warmers instead of cranking the heat and keep an eye on tire pressure.  

For EVs, there are a few extra things to know about driving in winter weather:  

  • Many EV models are built with battery preconditioning, a warmup routine that gets the battery ready for an efficient charge, boosts range and extends battery life.  
  • With battery and plug-in hybrids, whenever possible, warm up the car with the vehicle plugged in so the power comes from the grid rather than stealing driving range from the battery.  
  • Battery EVs are typically heavier and have a lower center of gravity than their gas-powered counterparts which helps stabilize the vehicle on slick surfaces.  

Just like driving a gas-powered vehicle in the winter, EVs require additional steps in your routine, and efforts are underway to make driving EVs easier – no matter the season. Learn more about how EV infrastructure is expanding here

Grant Barton is a Communications Partner with a passion for sustainability and eco-friendly city planning. He has a diverse background in engineering, politics and international communications and hopes to apply this experience when writing and breaking down complex topics related to Alliant Energy's Clean Energy Future plans.

Recent Stories