Whether you’re heading into winter now or simply planning for next year, you may be wondering can electric cars drive in the snow? This guide will compare the handling of an EV with that of a regular car. It will also let you know some simple techniques you can use to make snow driving in an electric car as good as possible.
You’ll be pleased to know that an electric car can absolutely drive in the snow. In fact, in many ways, it’s actually better during the winter months than a normal car.
Based on the way they’re built, there are a few structural features that allow the handling of an EV to outperform that of a normal car, especially in the snow.
If you’re worried about your EVs range during the cold months, we’ve also got some tips you can use to keep your electric car driving longer during winter.
How do They Handle?
If you live in an area of the world that experiences winter (and I mean a real winter) you’ll know that driving in the cold seasons can be a challenge. Not only is it simply no fun to go outside in sub-zero temperatures, but when you drive, you have to deal with added obstacles like snow, ice, less sunlight, and poor drivers.
Snow, ice, and slush all present unique challenges for drivers during the winter months. You’ll be pleased to know, however, that some EV owners report that electric cars are “fun to drive in the winter.”
When it comes to handling, the batteries in electric cars make them a bit heavier than their petrol-powered counterparts. A little added weight helps them with traction, especially during winter. Additionally, since an electric drivetrain can produce full torque from a standstill, it makes it much easier to control the car—even in icy, slippery conditions.
Are They Better in Snow Than Normal Cars?
Most cars don’t perform so well in the winter. It’s as simple as that. Faced with icy roads, freezing temperatures and snowdrifts many vehicles struggle in the winter season. However, electric cars handle as well—if not better—than gas-powered cars.
One of the main differences between electric cars and normal cars is how they drive. When you first get behind the wheel of an electric car, you’ll notice that not only is there no noise (although some manufacturers are changing this), but that you also won’t feel the engine vibration.
You’ll also notice that even while driving at low speeds, your electric car will deliver excellent performance. You’ll experience quick responses—something that certainly comes in handy when driving in snow.
As we already mentioned, the battery adds some added weight to electric cars. Not only that, but the battery is typically packaged as part of the vehicle’s floor. This helps to lower the center of gravity, which makes the handling in an electric car better than a normal car and is another way EVs perform better in snow.
Many electric vehicle manufacturers include additional features that help them with control and traction in cold temperatures. These include stability control and anti-braking. Both help to monitor speed and activate the brakes in such a way that helps handling in snowy conditions.
When it comes to winter driving, battery performance is one of the biggest concerns with electric cars. Because of additional energy burdens (namely, heat) EV batteries will get fewer miles during the winter. Also, due to the cold temperatures, the performance of the batteries will suffer a little and, as such, they’ll operate less efficiently.
Batteries operate best at the same temperatures we do. Going below 40℉ (4℃) could spell trouble for the battery’s performance. Batteries depend on the fluid contained within them for their functionality, and when these become cold, they also become sluggish. While an internal combustion engine creates heat, the battery actually needs heat to operate optimally.
When you drive your electric car in the winter, this will be your biggest concern. You’ll want to keep your battery charged at at least 20%—as that reserve might be needed to warm the battery itself to get you running.
Fortunately, there are many other (easy) things you can do to make winter driving easier.
Tips for Driving Electric Cars in the Snow
Watch Your Braking
When we’re talking about the performance of an electric car in the snow, it’s also important to mention braking. Electric cars use what’s called regenerative braking. This means that once your foot is taken off the accelerator, the car will instantly begin to slow down. This feature is designed to improve efficiency.
However, in colder temperatures, this feature will be limited. If you’re driving short distances or driving shortly after turning the car on, the car may not be warm enough for regenerative braking to fully kick in. You may notice a difference when you remove your foot from the accelerator, so keep this in mind when you’re driving in the winter.
If you’ve got the eco-mode function, use it. It will help you reduce the power output of your EV, which is very beneficial in the winter. Using it will help you maintain lower speeds and extend your battery range. Ultimately, it’ll help you save money, too.
Keep Your Car as Warm as Possible
If you can park in a garage, do it. You want to keep your car as warm as possible during the winter months. Every little bit helps, and a higher temperature will not only keep you comfortable when you hop behind the wheel, but it will also keep your battery working better, too. If parking in a garage is impossible, do your best to park in direct sunlight.
Many EVs come with preconditioning features. What exactly is this? Preconditioning allows drivers to cool and heat the battery and the cabin as needed. In the winter, this comes in handy as it allows drivers to heat up the cabin and the battery while connected to a charging source. Because the battery is warm before you go for a drive, you’ll use less energy heating the battery and yourself and more for the important stuff—driving.
When driving a petrol-powered car, you’ll have some of the leftover heat from the engine warming you up inside of the passenger cabin. When you’re in an EV, however, you’ll be getting warm from an onboard heating system. In the winter, these heating systems are second to only the motor in terms of their energy requirements.
Staying warm in the winter will require more energy and will be one of the biggest factors of a reduced driving range. If you have heated seats and a heated steering wheel, use them instead of blasting the cabin heat. Also, bundling up and dressing warmer (hat, gloves, winter coat) can go a long way and help you get the most out of your range.
Inflate Your Tires
This goes for any vehicle, but keeping your tires properly inflated throughout the winter will help with driving in the snow. As the temperature drops, so does the pressure in your tires. If you’ve got nitrogen-filled tires, these will also be affected by cold temperatures. If you’ve got tires that are underinflated, more road friction will mean reduced efficiency—which will mean a lower winter range.
Electric cars can indeed drive in the snow—and they can do so better than regular cars. If you’re heading into the winter months with an electric car, congratulations. You’ll benefit from easier handling and, if you use some of these cold-weather tips, will enjoy all-around better winter driving.