Can Electric Cars Handle Ontario Winters?

The Facts About How Electric Cars Handle Ontario Winters

More and more all-electric cars are on Ontario roads as more drivers buy environment-friendly vehicles. Green vehicles are a good choice as we try to do our part to address climate change. Electric vehicles (EVs) are an excellent choice for driving in any season, including winter. An often-asked question of those thinking of buying an EV is how well electric cars can handle Ontario winters. These and other similar questions are valid concerns when purchasing an electric vehicle in Ontario.

Are Electric Cars Good For Winter?

Yes. Electric cars operate well in winter. Like any vehicle - gas or electric-powered - engines strain more in cold temperatures. Cold weather reduces efficiency in all vehicles, no matter the vehicle's power source. Overall, however, electric cars can handle cold weather. There are no odd sounds upon starting in super-cold temperatures, which you may have with gasoline vehicles. EVs flip on like a light switch. Knowing how to get maximum performance from your electric car in winter will enhance your enjoyment, use, and performance of your electric car, so there is no need for anxiety. 

Is It Safe To Drive An Electric Car In Cold Conditions?

Yes, driving an electric car in cold and even freezing conditions is safe. As with any vehicle, driving safely in the winter is essential. Clear your vehicles of snow and ice before you get behind the wheel. Take your time. Slow down and ensure lots of space between you and other vehicles. If you live where there is often lots of snow - northern Ontario, for example - consider buying an EV model that rides higher from the ground for greater clearance. 

How Exactly are Electric Vehicles Affected by the Colder Temperatures?

How electric vehicles are affected really depends on how cold temperatures are outside. In colder temperatures, your vehicle may be impacted more, but the range varies depending on the make, model and specific part of the vehicle.

Battery

In cold temperatures, the electrolyte fluid in electric car batteries is more sticky, slowing chemical reactions that transfer electrons. Electric batteries can take longer to charge, and there will be a range reduction during our Canadian winters. Experts have studied the impact of cold weather on EVs and found that some electric cars tolerate cold weather better than others. For example, ranges for an electric Ford Mustang dropped about 30% in freezing temperatures compared with a performance at 21C (70F). The website notes that Jaguar I-Pace had a 3% performance drop under the same conditions, and the Tesla Model S had a 19% drop under the same conditions.

The batteries in electric vehicles lose their charge more quickly in cold temperatures. Drivers of electric cars in winter can expect electric vehicle battery life to generally drop. Ranges of battery depletion in cold weather vary, but battery life may generally drop 10 to 40%.

If you have a charger in your garage, plugging it in to recharge your car when you get home becomes a habit, similar to charging mobile devices such as phones or tablets. Charging is done while you're in your home - making dinner, relaxing, or sleeping. This definitely beats standing in frigid temperatures while pumping gas at a station. Also, when your vehicle is plugged in, the batteries stay warm. This will allow for the best performance, as driving an electric car in winter is best when the batteries are warm.

Overall, the owner's best option is to keep your vehicle plugged in, batteries warm, and in a garage, until you use it.

Heating Systems

We all want to be warm when driving in winter months, and electric car drivers may initially be concerned about how using a vehicle cabin heater will deplete the battery's life. Electric cars have efficient heating systems. That said, an EV's heating system requires energy that will impact the driving range.

EVs, such as Tesla, Audi, Nissan, and others, have heat pumps for climate control to heat the car's interior. Heat pumps are efficient and supply heat to the interior quickly. Along with cabin heat, heated seats and heated steering wheels are extra features that may come with some models. EV drivers may want to use a heated steering wheel and seat heaters to keep warm instead of continually operating the interior heating system.

Pop-up Door Handles

Some EVs have pop-up door handles that may become frozen in snowy or icy conditions. Tapping the handles gently may help to free them in a freeze-up. 

Are There Benefits to Driving an Electric Car in Winter?

Yes, there are benefits to driving an electric car in winter. Electric car batteries operate well in cold weather. They turn on quickly in winter, so there is no need to wait to warm up the engine. 

Also, heavy batteries in electric cars can provide added stability and traction. 

Lastly, like in all other seasons, an electric car doesn't harm the environment like a gas-powered engine.

Is Charging an Electric Car in Winter a Problem?

Charging an electric car in winter is not a problem, but there are some factors to be aware of.

You will have to recharge your electric car battery more frequently. The electric range is reduced, which means drivers of electric cars in winter will not be able to drive as many kilometres in sub-zero temperatures as in warmer months. Keep your battery power from getting too low if you get stuck on winter roads longer than expected.

Some experts also suggest driving in energy-saving mode to help reduce battery charge usage.

Additional Considerations for Driving an Electric Car in Winter

Insurance

Do you have electric car insurance? Let your insurance broker know you are driving an electric vehicle, and you can save some money on your insurance premium. Insurance companies offer green discounts to electric car drivers. For example, you may qualify for a 20% electric vehicle discount. Our expert insurance brokers can help with this.

An example of how much a discount would impact your insurance would be the annual cost to insure a Tesla Model 3. This vehicle often ranges from $2,176 to $4,200. A 20% electric car discount means saving about $434 to $840 each year off the insurance premiums noted above.

Winter Tires

When you buy winter tires for your EV, you can also save on your insurance. Our Morison Insurance brokers can help you get a winter tire insurance discount. Many companies offer savings of about 5%. On a $1,500 car insurance policy, that's a saving of $75. Save and improve your winter driving safety when you use winter tires.

Proper Charging

Knowing the basics of charging your vehicle is essential. Levels 1, 2, and 3 are different charging levels, and charge times will vary depending on the level you use. Level 1 is the slowest, with the lowest voltage at 120V. It involves plugging in a standard cord. Generally, it takes overnight or longer to charge a vehicle on Level 1. Level 2 charging is 240V. This provides about 35 km of range per hour of charging. Level 3 is the fastest, with 400 volts. Expect this level to charge about 250 km per hour of charging. 

Ontario has more than 2,500 charger locations with more than 6,000 public ports for charging. The Ontario government has provided a details map of all Ontario electric vehicle charging stations to plan your route accordingly.

Winter Emergency Kit

Winter driving can be dangerous whether you are driving an electric car in winter or a gas-powered or hybrid vehicle. A winter emergency kit in your vehicle ensures you are prepared if you get stuck on winter roads in snowy conditions and colder weather longer than expected. Accidents, engine problems, winter road closures, or other mishaps may mean you are in your car for hours. Having snacks, water, a charged portable charging bank to power your phone, blankets, and extra winter gear can improve your safety while waiting for help.

Take Proper Care Of Your Electric Car in Winter

Driving an electric car in winter requires awareness of the impact of colder temperatures on charging and the life of batteries between charges. Beyond this, the concerns about driving an electric car in winter are similar to those of drivers of gas-powered or hybrid vehicles in winter weather. Practicing safe winter driving techniques is always advised, no matter what type of vehicle you drive. Enjoy driving your electric car in winter and all seasons.

This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.

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