Cars

Gas prices are making electric cars more attractive, but how much of a problem is winter?

Gas prices are making electric cars more attractive, but how much of a problem is winter?

When my wife and I bought a Prius half a dozen years ago, we became these boring people who pay very close attention to their gas mileage, and we quickly realized that New Hampshire winters make a number of MPGs.

On average, January’s mileage for our gas-electric hybrid is about 10% lower than July’s due to warm-up idling and lower efficiency of the internal combustion engine.

Given that we plan to make our next vehicle an all-electric car and that smart phones die quickly in the cold, we wondered how much more inconvenient winters are when traveling with batteries rather than electricity. gasoline.

The answer seems to be: Twice the inconvenience, more or less. Which isn’t great – but it’s not twice as much of a problem either because of the difference between electric cars and gas cars.

This estimate comes from several studies and surveys of owners in various places, including Norway, the world leader in electric vehicles by far. They indicate that the average EV loses about 20% of its maximum range when the temperature drops below freezing, all other things being equal. The range loss, however, can be up to 40% (egad!) if you do things like keep the heater on full blast, but it can be mitigated if you do things like preheat the battery and depend on the seats heating.

A loss of 20% in autonomy is not insignificant. That means a summer day trip to hike up north from home is plausible in many EVs without filling up along the way, but a winter ski trip maybe it isn’t. Given that New Hampshire lags behind in public EV charging stations — run out of electrons north of Concord and you’re in trouble — that’s a problem.

However, I don’t go skiing very often (alas!) so what about the rest of the time? Does this range limit make electric vehicles almost useless in cold weather?

This is where electric vehicles and fossil fuel cars diverge.

I got the info from Jessica Wilcox, a transportation specialist with the state Department of Environmental Services, and friends who own a Chevy Bolt, which they love despite its battery reputation.

They said I thought it all wrong. I’m stuck in an outdated mentality of having to visit the gas station to fill up.

“The beauty of an electric vehicle is that you can leave your house in the morning with a full tank, every morning,” Wilcox said.

Just plug in a Level 1 (wall outlet) or Level 2 (dryer outlet) charger when you get home, or a Level 3 high-speed charger if you’ve increased your home wiring, and you’ll be fine. Indeed, my Bolt owner friends have never used a public charger in four years of ownership.

Imagine never having to stop at a gas station again! No more pumping gas in the cold and rain – woo hoo!

In other words, public charging stations don’t need to be as common as gas stations for EVs to succeed, because there will be a slew of private charging stations in people’s garages.

However, that won’t help most apartment dwellers, who often don’t have a place to hook up every night. They will need more public charging stations, which poses a related problem: where should the EV chargers be located?

Tesla, which is light years ahead of everyone else, started installing chargers on highways, often at rest stops – the Hooksett Plaza is a classic example – and spread them in places like supermarkets and bed and breakfasts. As New Hampshire decides how to use money from the VW Dieselgate fund or the infrastructure bill to install chargers, they will likely go the road route for fast chargers and then switch to this staple of local control of the New Hampshire.

“We think cities will know better where to cite Level 2 chargers to help residents and visitors,” Wilcox said, pointing to places like municipal parking lots, park-and-ride lots and main street shopping corridors.

She also thinks that companies will install more and more of them to attract employees.

Which leads to an analogy I heard from Chris Skoglund, director of energy transition at Clean Energy New Hampshire. The historical parallel for electric vehicle chargers isn’t gas pumps, he said, it’s horse troughs.

These troughs were ubiquitous in pre-automotive times, supplying water or even power to local transportation systems. Every time you park your buggy or wagon, your horse can take a bite or chew until business is done, then move on. They didn’t have to refuel at every stop because you knew there would be other opportunities to do so.

“Expect chargers to be everywhere,” he wrote on Twitter. You can add a few kilometers by shopping at the pharmacy, a few more kilometers at the taqueria (his example!), etc. “The ‘tank’ doesn’t need to be full. He just needs to take you home.

And, of course, there is the issue of cost. The price of electricity has risen dramatically, but even so, the cost of charging an electric vehicle is equivalent to paying $1-2 a gallon for gas, depending on what car you own and how you drive. That looks damn good as the global turmoil sends gasoline prices soaring.