Do Electric Cars Work In Cold Weather?

tesla electric car snow

Electric Cars: The Basics

For those of you new to zero-emission electric driving, we recommend a read of the following articles:

Sign up to the e-zoomed Electric Living newsletter

Extreme Temperatures Impact The Performance Of All Types Of Vehicles, To Include All-Electric Cars.  Yes Electric Cars Work In The Winter!

We at e-zoomed are often asked by potential EV buyers, if an electric car will work in cold temperatures.  The short answer is yes! 

The United Kingdom does get cold, but not quite as cold as Norway, Sweden, Finland or even Russia.  In 2019, January was the coldest month in the UK, with an average temperature of 4.2 degrees Celsius.  July was the hottest month, with an average UK wide temperature of 17.6 degrees Celsius.  

If we go back to 2015, the average UK temperature in January was 4.8 degrees Celsius and in July 2015, 15.7 degrees Celsius.  Yes it is true that these are average temperatures and the northern regions of the United Kingdom, in particular, the highlands experience lower temperatures in the winter, in particular at night.  However, it is fair to say that the UK has a mild climate compared to the above mentioned countries.   

Interestingly, Norway, the most matured EV market has an average January temperature of minus 7 degrees Celsius.  But that has certainly not reduced the enthusiasm of the country to migrate to zero-emission road transportation.  

electric cars cold weather
Electric Cars And Cold Weather

When it comes to temperature, all types of vehicles are impacted at varying degrees.  These include both, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles (petrol and diesel) and electric vehicles.  

In the case of pure electric cars or all-electric vans, the key temperature threshold is sub-zero (below freezing) temperatures, as this is when the temperature most impacts the performance of a plug-in electric car like an all-electric Nissan Leaf.  Having said that, the performance of an EV can be reduced from below 5 degrees Celsius.  Manufacturers continue to find optimal thermal management solutions to better regulate EV battery temperature and reduce any negative impact from lowering temperatures. 

 In general, key areas impacted in electric driving are:

Though they have been some commentators that have suggested that in sub-zero temperatures, the range of a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) is impacted as much as 40%, the majority of the findings suggest an average drop in mileage of 12% (without the use of any services like heating) and up to 25% with the use of services like heating.

In general, an EV battery (lithium-ion) performs best in an ideal range, also known as peak performance.  This is no different to any other type of vehicle.  When an electric car is out of its ideal temperature range, the EV battery performance is lower because the cold temperatures (sub-zero) or the extreme heat, slows down the performance of the electrolyte fluid within the EV battery cells.  

Put another way, in cold weather, the frosty conditions impact the mobility of the electrons within the EV battery.   The performance of an EV battery in sub-zero conditions will depend on the type of battery i.e. not all EV batteries are the same.  However, in general EV batteries perform their best between 15 degrees Celsius and 25 degrees Celsius.  

Electric Cars And Cold Weather
Electric Cars And Cold Weather

Apart from the above, in sub-zero or colder driving conditions, it is but obvious to take advantage of heating within the cabin, to include features like heated car seats etc.  These services are also powered by the EV battery and therefore an increase in the use of such services will reduce the battery charge available for electric driving.  

Cold temperatures also reduce the speed of charging, and depending on the exact conditions, charging speeds can be reduced by 30%.  It is also the case that regenerative braking does get impacted in colder conditions i.e. it is not as efficient at recouping energy lost as heat during braking. 

evbox home charger
EVBox Electric Car Home Charging Station Available Via e-zoomed (credit: EVBox)

In other respects, sub-zero driving conditions impact an EV the same way it impacts an internal combustion engine (ICE) petrol or diesel car i.e. the road surface becomes slippery, and in general driving conditions are more hazardous.  Always best to drive with caution and with an appropriate set of winter tyres

So, if you do live in sub-zero temperatures, we would recommend you to always make sure you have adequately charged the EV battery, and planned your trip to include the potential reduction in performance in emission-free range.  Also worth taking advantage of any preconditioning feature to heat the EV cabin while still connected to your home charging point.   

Of course, before buying a plug-in electric car, we would encourage you to research in detail the range of the EV, impact of the cold on the specific EV and the overall fit of a potential EV  for your needs.  The bottom-line is that most of the latest all-electric cars like to award-winning Tesla Model 3 have a zero-emission range adequate for most commuters between 150 miles to 300 miles (WLTP).  Moreover, the performance of the EV batteries has vastly improved since the launch of the first generation of electric vehicles (EVs). 

tesla model 3
The All-Electric Tesla Model 3 Battery-Electric Vehicle Available To Lease Via e-zoomed

We also hope to see new EV battery technology develop further, to include solid-state batteries, which has the potential to perform better than lithium-ion batteries in extreme cold environments.  But as mentioned above, we in the UK are fortunate to live in relatively mild temperatures through the year, so for many of us, the issue of sub-zero driving is not as pertinent! 

Featured Articles

Featured Products


Ashvin Suri

Ashvin has been involved with the renewables, energy efficiency and infrastructure sectors since 2006. He is passionate about the transition to a low-carbon economy and electric transportation. Ashvin commenced his career in 1994, working with US investment banks in New York. Post his MBA from the London Business School (1996-1998), he continued to work in investment banking at Flemings (London) and JPMorgan (London). His roles included corporate finance advisory, M&A and capital raising. He has been involved across diverse industry sectors, to include engineering, aerospace, oil & gas, airports and automotive across Asia and Europe. In 2010, he co-founded a solar development platform, for large scale ground and roof solar projects to include the UK, Italy, Germany and France. He has also advised on various renewable energy (wind and solar) utility scale projects working with global institutional investors and independent power producers (IPP’s) in the renewable energy sector. He has also advised in key international markets like India, to include advising the TVS Group, a multi-billion dollar industrial and automotive group in India. Ashvin has also advised Indian Energy, an IPP backed by Guggenheim (a US$ 165 billion fund). He has also advised AMIH, a US$ 2 billion, Singapore based group. Ashvin has also worked in the real estate and infrastructure sector, to including working with the Matrix Group (a US$ 4 billion property group in the UK) to launch one of the first few institutional real estate funds for the Indian real estate market. The fund was successfully launched with significant institutional support from the UK/ European markets. He has also advised on water infrastructure, to include advising a Swedish clean technology company in the water sector. He is also a member of the Forbury Investment Network advisory committee. He has also been involved with a number of early stage ventures.

Buy Electric Driving Products

Sign up for e-zoomed news and offers

This site uses technical cookies to guarantee an optimal and fast navigation, and analysis cookies to elaborate statistics.
You can visit the Cookie Policy to get more insights or to block the use of all or some cookies, by selecting the Cookie Settings.
By choosing Accept, you give your permission to use the abovementioned cookies.

Privacy Settings saved!
Privacy Settings

When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Control your personal Cookie Services here.

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

In order to use this website we use the following technically required cookies
  • wordpress_test_cookie
  • wordpress_logged_in_
  • wordpress_sec

Decline all Services
Accept all Services