Cold-weather performance is still a concern for some electric-car shoppers, although the effect of cold on EV battery packs is better understood now than when the first modern electric cars went on sale almost a decade ago.
A recent group test of 20 electric cars in Norway (via InsideEVs) reiterates some of that knowledge, and showed that some models lost more range than others in cold conditions.
Electric cars have an average range loss of close to 20% in winter weather, according to the Norwegian Automobile Federation (NAF), which conducted the test.
The test compared range on a real-world driving loop to the cars' WLTP range ratings. The European WLTP testing cycle is a bit more optimistic than the United States EPA testing cycle.
WLTP testing is also typically carried out in summer temperatures, on a single, short stretch of road, NAF noted. Limited testing is why range ratings (or fuel economy ratings for gasoline cars) often don't align with real-world results. That can also be an issue for cars tested on the EPA cycle.
The best-performing electric car in the NAF group test was the Hyundai Kona Electric, which came just 9% short of its WLTP-rated range.
At the other end of the spectrum was the Opel Ampera-e, which could only achieve 70% of its WLTP range in the test. The Ampera-e is a rebadged Chevrolet Bolt EV, a leftover from when Opel was owned by General Motors.
NAF also noted that electric cars also give plenty of warnings when they are down to their last few miles of range. Most cars in the test could be driven at reduced speed for a short distance even after their range meters hit zero, according to NAF.
Norwegian Automobile Federation EV winter test
Electric cars also generally charge slower in cold weather, although having a powerful onboard charger seemed to counteract that.
The Audi E-Tron had the highest charging rate in the test (150 kilowatts), and was able to recharge from 10% to 80% in 27 minutes during January in Norway.
Conversely, testers knocked the Ampera-e and Renault Zoe for only supporting charging at 50 kw.
Electric cars are very popular in Norway, with some models outselling gasoline cars on a monthly basis. Which in itself shows that it's possible to live with an electric car in colder climates.
After all, gasoline cars can also experience range loss in winter. It's just that they still have enough excess range that drivers are unlikely to notice.
With an electric car, range loss may be noticeable, especially on longer commutes or road trips. But that doesn't make it an impossible obstacle. Adding extra time to account for range loss may be necessary in the coldest climates, according to AAA. Another option that automakers have is to install a heat pump to help save energy on longer trips.