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Chevrolet Volt Cold Weather Range

As we enter the 1 year anniversary of the Volt, I’ve seen many “summertime” Volt buyers wondering if there is something wrong with their Volt when they see their expected ranges drop in the wintertime.  Well to answer your question, there isn’t anything wrong with YOUR Volt in particular, but lower range is a property of electric vehicles today.  The problem is that lithium ion batteries get much less efficient when they are cold. Today’s batteries store energy by means of chemical bonds, and breaking those bonds releases the electrical energy used to drive your car.  However, when it is colder out, it becomes much harder to break those bonds.

As such, you should expect to get lower range as temperatures drop.  How much lower?  Well I have a trusty graphic here to help demonstrate.

I use percentages because your electric range is dependent on much more than just temperature – for example how fast you drive and the types of driving you do (City / Highway /Hills etc)  But for comparison, if you are like me and you used to get 40 miles of range in the spring/summer, with the recent winter weather in California (40 degrees – yes i know it’s really not THAT cold)  You should expect your range to drop to about 34 miles, if you do the same type of driving.  This, however, does not take into account any heater use you have for the car’s cabin.  So if you decide you want to be toasty like I do, you can easily expect your range to drop another 10%.  (I’ve been getting about 30 miles of Electric Range in 40 degree weather with comfort mode electric heater usage)

So, unfortunate as it is, you may have to use some gas this winter.  Just keep in mind that you are not alone, and more than likely – nothing it wrong with your car when you see the range drop due to winter conditions.

Cold Weather Driving Tips

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your Winter EV Range.

1.)  Precondition your cabin while you are plugged into a 240v outlet.  (You’ll warm it up off the grid!)

2.)  Turn down your cabin temperature (from 72 to 68 degrees for example) or use eco-mode to limit heater power.

3.)  On longer drives (where you are going to use up all your ev range) turn on mountain mode early in the drive to get the engine heat to help warm the cabin, then turn it off later to deplete the rest of the battery energy.  (Warning:  If you turn on mountain mode after you have dropped below the mountain mode EV hold %, you will probably waste more gas as its less efficient to charge the battery and then use it again).  If you’re not sure how this works, you might be better off not doing this as it can actually reduce your overall efficiency.

4 Responses to “Chevrolet Volt Cold Weather Range”

  1. Mark says:

    I just don’t get it why they don’t install a gasoline heater for cold weather ops. Gasolines heat combustion is 47MJ/kg!

  2. Sylvia says:

    Have you seen the Tesla Owner’s blog http://teslaowner.wordpress.com/ ?

    The blog is very similar to yours covering the Tesla Roadster for a three year period.

  3. ben says:

    I don’t mean to sound like a northerner here but: Are there any charts that show the effect of cold weather on volt range? The absolute minimum temp this references would simply not occur (at least at morning commute time) for 4 consecutive months.

    If a chart were to speak to the question of “cold” it will need to go to -20. It gets to maybe -40 year now and a again but that’s rare. common temps in a winter will see maybe 15 -20 days/year beyond that temps are rare enough I don’t care. i would love to see a chart that shows that.

  4. Jeff O. says:

    Thanks for the chart. The reduced capacity is not or at least not primarily due to bonds being harder to break at low temperature. Otherwise it would keep getting better at higher temperature it also has to do with the transport and other aspects of the battery chemistry.

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