AAA study confirms cold weather can sap electric car ranges

A new study by AAA has confirmed what Tesla, BMW and Nissan electric car owners have long suspected — cold weather can dramatically sap their range.

The data released Thursday found 20-degree weather can temporarily reduce electric car batteries range by more than 40 percent when interior car heaters are used.

However, if the car’s cabin heater is not on, it only fell by 12 percent.

The study coincidences with many electric car owners’ complaints on social media about reduced range and frozen door handles when much of the country was in the grips of a polar vortex last week.

AAA’s director of automotive engineering, Greg Brannon, said in a statement, “As long as drivers understand that there are limitations when operating electric vehicles in more extreme climates, they are less likely to be caught off guard by an unexpected drop in driving range.”

The motor club association tested five electric vehicles, including the 2018 model year BMWi3s, Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf and 2017 model year Tesla Model S75D and Volkswagen e-Golf.

The tests also found that in addition to temperature drops during a cold snap, high temperatures can also cut into the battery range.

At 95 degrees, electric car ranges fell by 17 percent when the cabin’s air conditioning was used and by 4 percent when it was not used.

In a statement to The Associated Press, Tesla disputed the findings. The company said that based on its data the average Model S customer doesn’t experience anywhere near that decrease in range. According to its test, the range only dropped by roughly 1 percent at 95 degrees and it would not disclose its findings for cold weather cases.


To avoid the problem, AAA recommends that drivers heat or cool their cars while still being plugged in to a charging station.

The Associated Press contributed to this report