March 16, 2023

How to Charge Your EV in Cold Weather


6 Min. Read

Range anxiety can be one of the greatest worries a new EV driver faces as they learn to adapt to charging practices and become more familiar with a different kind of vehicle. One question frequently asked is: does cold weather affect EV charging? The answer is that extremely cold temperatures can have a significant impact on battery charging and range for all vehicle types, including traditional gas-powered vehicles. 

Charging an EV in hot weather also has negative effects, with excessive heat affecting both charging and range, but with proper planning, EV owners can reduce temperature issues and keep reliability at the forefront with some planning. In this article, we’ll explore how temperatures can impact your electric driving experience and how various methods can be utilized to minimize these challenges. 

How to Charge Your EV in Cold Weather

Does cold weather reduce EV driving range?

Yes. A Consumer Reports study concluded that range could decrease by as much as 25% at -10°F, compared to milder weather. Thus, an EV that is factory-rated with a 250-mile range may have that figure drop to only 188 miles in extreme temperatures. The range-loss data varies by specific EV, but it is also important to note that internal-combustion vehicles also suffer from a reduced range at those temperatures, with an approximate 20% loss at 20°F. 

Why does cold weather affect EV charging?

Cold temperatures slow down the chemical process of battery charging and cause deposits of lithium to build upon key battery components, reducing the efficiency of the battery over time. A study by the Idaho National Laboratory showed that at 36°F, an EV battery took on 36% less power than it did at 77°F. 

How does cold weather affect EV charging?

Cold weather causes longer EV charging times. Additionally, exceptionally high temperatures (over 86°F) speed up the chemical charging process, generating too much power for the charger. As a result, short-term charging performance and long-term battery health suffer when the vehicle is exposed to high temperatures as well. 

To maximize your EV battery life, you’ll want to learn the battery’s features and functions. Read more about EV Battery Charging Best Practices on our blog.

The Energy Cost of Heating Your Car and Battery 

Warming your car’s interior in extremely cold weather draws power from your battery, further cutting your range by depleting your battery charge. This is a short-term problem with no major long-run negative effects. 

Overall, the American Auto Association (AAA) estimates that charging your EV at 20°F with the heater running will cost an average of $25 more per 1,000 miles driven than if the EV was charged at 75°F. Note that this is an average and will vary based on the local cost per kWh of electricity. 

Optimizing Your Range and EV Charging in Cold Weather

Extreme temperatures impact EV charging, but the good news is that being proactive can mitigate or even eliminate those effects. Here are a few easy steps to consider: 

  1. Condition (preheat) your EV battery and car cabin 
  2. Look into models that offer heat pumps 
  3. Park inside to avoid weather exposure 
  4. Track your charging times vs. temperature 
  5. Adjust durations accordingly 

Battery conditioning refers to the practice of warming your battery after an overnight charge. While it does consume some energy, it improves the charging time by warming the battery, and the shorter charging time offsets that cost by using less total energy. 

Conditioning your car cabin means warming it up before you sit down to drive away, which is also an issue with ICE vehicles. But driving a cold EV with the heater on will draw more energy from the battery under load. The result is reduced battery range. 

EVs that come with heat pumps extract heat from the outside air and pump it into your car. They reduce the load on your EV battery and protect your range, and an increasing number of EV models now offer this feature, whose main advantage is that heat from the outside air is free. 

Garage parking offers a distinct advantage in keeping your vehicle’s ambient temperature up. Your battery will charge more efficiently, and your car interior will be less frigid. 

Keeping your vehicle in an area as close to 70°F as possible is optimal for charging. It will help charge the battery faster and reduce the energy cost of heating the battery and EV. 

It’s also wise to gauge your charging time against the outside temperature and allow for increased charging time in colder temperatures. 

Types of EV Charging Stations 

Level 1 EV charging stations are the simplest but also the slowest type. 

They can take 40-50 hours to charge from empty. They require only a common household 120V AC receptacle. The installation cost is the lowest since they require no major electrical panel or service changes. If time is not an issue, they may work for you, especially if you do not want to spend additional funds on electrical work 

Level 2 EV charging stations are the most practical application for homeowners. 

They require a dedicated 208/240V circuit, requiring panel work, and typically take 4-10 hours to charge a battery electric vehicle from empty in temperate weather. Because of that duration, they work well for overnight charging at off-peak (night-time) hours. 

As mentioned, by tracking your cold-weather charge times, you can adjust your planned charging times for seasonal variations as needed, longer for cold temperatures and shorter for warmer ones. 

Learn more about the differences between Level 1 and Level 2 EV chargers.

Level 3 EV charging stations are the fastest option with a charge in 20 minutes to 1 hour, but they are relatively expensive and require more complicated infrastructure, notably a 480V direct current (DC) power source. 

As a result, they are more common as commercial applications (public charging stations). Their relative speed comes from the fact that they completely bypass the EV’s internal charger and send DC directly to the battery. Frequent use of Level 3 EV charging can also lead to battery degradation over time, so it is not recommended to utilize this method of charging more than three times a month. 

An interesting note is that EV charging stations do not charge EV batteries. They supply power at the correct settings to the EV’s internal charger, which charge the EV batteries. The exception, as mentioned, is Level 3 charging stations. 

A Real-Life Example of Managing EV Range in Cold Weather 

EV authority Tom Moloughney offers a real-life account of dealing with EV charging in cold climate climates in his series State Of Charge. His detailed travel reports and thorough reviews will give you a practical perspective on managing long-distance travel with EVs. 

Graphic with EV and charging station, sign up for free quote with Qmerit

Qmerit Can Help You Charge Your EV in Cold Weather

Now that you are looking to buy an EV, you’ve likely determined that you want to avoid the risk and hassle of depending on commercial charging facilities especially when it comes to avoiding extreme weather. 

How do you start the process of installing a home EV charger? 

As the largest network of certified EV charger installers in North America, Qmerit is the most trusted EV charger installation partner recommended by automakers, EV charger manufacturers, utilities, businesses, and homeowners alike.

But don’t just take our word for it. Rated #1 in customer satisfaction, Qmerit’s experienced network of certified electricians has installed more than 450,000 EV charging stations in homes and businesses across the U.S. and Canada!

Give us a call at (888) 272-0090 or complete our online EV assessment to find out why we’re North America’s most trusted EV charger installation service provider today!

Author: Greg Sowder

Greg Sowder

President, Qmerit Network