Electric Cars in the Winter: The Best Driving Tips & Techniques

It’s no secret; most cars don’t perform well in the winter. Many factors, including cold temperatures, icy roads, and snow, all affect how well your vehicle will drive during the season. Electric cars generally handle and perform just as well, or even better than gas-powered cars during the winter. Plus -you’ll never need to worry about freezing your butt off at the gas station every week!

Still, even for electric vehicles (EVs), cold temperatures and harsh conditions present a few challenges.

Whether you currently own an EV or are considering alternative options like a car subscription to drive them, you must understand how to maximize your EVs overall performance during the cold season. We created this guide and are sharing with you some of the best tips and techniques to follow when driving your electric car this winter. We’ll cover the following: Precondition, Braking, Control, Traction, and Tires.

Before we give you the pro-tips, let’s breakdown the actual challenges electric cars face during the winter.

Challenges

Ultimately it all circles back to one thing, the battery. Battery performance is the biggest hurdle for EVs to overcome in the winter because power and range depletion is simply unavoidable during cold winters for electric cars. EV batteries will get fewer miles and operate less efficiently when it is cold. You will see anywhere between a 10-20% decrease in total range when temperatures drop. In a test study done by AAA, the Chevy Bolt, an EV that usually offers 238 miles per charge, significantly dropped its overall range and only gave 209 miles in cold temperatures. Lower temperatures also really slow down your EVs ability to fully charge. Of course, all of this will vary depending on the EV you’re driving and the exact weather conditions. Another factor to take into consideration is the use of the heater in your EV. Since the ability to control the temperature inside your electric car is entirely dependent on battery power, using your heater for an extended period while driving can significantly drain it. Other challenges to consider when driving your electric car in the winter include handling, traction, driving habits, etc. 

Now let’s see how we can solve these challenges…

Precondition 

 A great feature most EVs have today is preconditioning. The feature allows you to conserve energy and heat for both the interior and the battery with a scheduled “start” time from the car’s control/charging setting if you are plugged in. Preconditioning is good practice and beneficial for a few reasons. First, you will operate more efficiently, which means you’ll get back some of those miles. Also, nobody likes getting into their car during those cold winter mornings. So when you precondition your EV, you won’t have to heat the vehicle using your battery’s reserves, and it will be warm and ready whenever you decide to leave on your trip. In some situations, you don’t have the option to plug-in your EV and precondition, so it’s essential to check the total range before leaving and leave extra cushion for your trips.

Braking

The regenerative braking – that feeling of instantly slowing down when you remove your foot from the accelerator – is excellent for control and efficiency in EVs. However, during the winter, the cold battery limits this feature. Here is another reason preconditioning and warming up your battery is vital. Until the car is warm and the battery can better capture the excess energy created from braking friction, regenerative braking will feel less intense. Some EVs, like the Tesla Model S, don’t even use regenerative braking until the battery is warm. If you’re driving a short distance and your battery never gets warm, you’ll notice that feeling of instant slowdown when you remove your foot from the accelerator is much less than what you’re used to. If it’s a long trip, you’ll feel regen (regenerative braking) operate as usual once the battery warms up. In some EVs, like the Teslas and the Chevy Bolt, even the Nissan LEAF and BMW i3 to a lesser extent, the regen feature is really powerful that it offers many EV drivers the one-pedal driving experience. In this experience, EV drivers drive by only using the accelerator to speed up and slow down without ever touching the brake pedal. 

Control, Traction, and Tires

EVs do far better in the snow than traditional cars, mainly because of design and architecture. For all vehicles, the center of gravity is vital for control and handling. With this in mind, EV manufacturers design these cars by placing the heavy EV battery lower to the ground, which gives electric cars a lower-center of gravity. This design contributes significantly to the EVs traction and ability to handle in snowy conditions. Specific EV systems like stability control and anti-braking can further help your handling and traction by monitoring your speed, activating your brakes, reducing power, and preventing your wheels from over-spinning. It’s also essential to continually monitor your tire pressure, and in some cases, it may be necessary to invest in winter tires for your EV, but of course, this entirely depends on where you live. In cities like Washington, D.C. or NYC, where moderate winter weather and snow conditions exist, winter tires won’t be necessary.

Other Tips & Techniques

Here are some more tips & techniques to consider when driving your EV during the winter:

  • Eco-mode is an excellent feature that reduces power output in electric cars, and it’s hugely beneficial during the winter. It’ll help you maintain lower speeds, extend your battery range, and save you money. 
  • Try always to keep your electric vehicle garaged or in an enclosed parking space to ensure your battery doesn’t get even colder than it needs to be. 
  • It might be beneficial to download and use an app to know where charging stations are located before hopping in the car. This is a general rule of thumb for EV drivers any time of year, but extra important in the winter. The last thing you want to do is get stuck in freezing weather and run out of range with no charging station in sight.
  • As mentioned earlier, the use of the heater while driving can drain your battery significantly, so set temperatures appropriately and use some of the unique EV features like the heated steering wheel and seats to compensate. 
  • Finally, drive conservatively. Avoid sudden acceleration and braking, and don’t drive at excessive speeds. All these factors affect the range of your EV, but more importantly, this is just good practice when driving any car in inclement weather. Moderate driving will keep you and others safe on the road. 

Should I Lease An Electric Car? What To Know Before You Do

To lease, or not to lease. That is the question.

In fact, it’s an increasingly common question for people looking for cars today. Traditionally considered a financially preferred option to purchasing a vehicle, leasing is now becoming less and less ideal for those who want electric vehicles (EVs). But why?

There are many factors to consider when deciding to lease an EV in today’s economy. In this guide, we’ll explain all the major factors to think about when leasing an electric car. Also, we’ll reveal new, more flexible, and hassle-free options out there to consider.  

So let’s jump right in!

The Big Financial Picture

Perhaps the biggest factor you should take into consideration is the financial burden. 

The initial down payment is typically lower when leasing an electric car, or depending on how you negotiate, the down payment may not even be necessary. Also, month-to-month payments are typically lower when leasing but this depends on a number of different components including interest rate, length of the lease, mileage, and residual value.

It’s also important to consider tax credits when leasing an EV. Both federal and state tax credits are offered for electric vehicles, but this is not always available when leasing. Because the leasing company can choose to maintain entitlement to the credit, it’s essential to read the fine print of the contract to determine if this credit will be passed along to you. If not, the discount should be reflected in the cost of the lease. All this being said, incentives are changing and phasing out for many popular EVs in the year ahead.

Federal tax credits will be eliminated for Teslas as soon as January 2020; Chevy will not qualify after March 2020, and next up is Nissan. What’s happening? There is a significant stand-off between lawmakers and the Trump administration on tax credits for electric vehicles. Federal tax breaks for qualified electric vehicles first started back in 2008 and will phase out when at least 200,000 qualifying vehicles per manufacturer have been sold in the U.S. Many EV manufacturers have reached or are close to reaching this threshold. The Trump Administration has proposed eliminating the $7,500 EV tax credit completely, while other U.S. lawmakers are looking to extend tax credits for the electric car manufacturers with a new “Driving America Forward Act” bill. Be sure you’ve done your homework here as dealerships can be less-than-helpful in explaining the full picture of available incentives. 

Understanding Maintenance Costs

When leasing electric vehicles, just like with a gas car, maintenance costs are another factor to consider. However, there are some differences related to the maintenance of an EV. 

Unlike buying, when leasing an electric car, you’ll almost certainly have mileage restrictions. Standard leasing contracts offer annual mileage limits of 10,000 to 15,000 miles. For some drivers, this is sufficient, but for those road warriors or long-distance commuters, this can be a major burden. Exceeding mileage limits is costly and can set you back financially in a significant way. Dealers, on average, can charge anywhere between $0.10-$0.25 per additional mile.

It’s also important to consider the battery when leasing an EV. How far do you typically drive? Does the vehicle you’re leasing have enough range to get you everywhere you need to go? As with any battery, the lithium-ion battery pack that powers an electric vehicle will eventually become less powerful over time. However, this degradation is gradual, and EV batteries typically come with a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty. If you plan to lease a vehicle for a standard 3 or 5-year term, you don’t have to worry about the state of the battery life of your vehicle, but you do need to consider the overall battery range that you need.

When it comes to regular maintenance costs, there are some quick wins with electric cars. No more oil changes. No engine repairs or transmission fluids. But with continued use of any car, it inevitably goes through the standard wear-and-tear and will need to be maintained: tires, brakes, and increasingly in these tech-heavy cars, software upgrades. These types of repairs can add unforeseen costs and still take up valuable time. When leasing an electric car, most dealerships require you to pay out of pocket for maintenance costs, and it can undoubtedly add-up during the duration of your lease. Also, it’s possible when returning a leased car, for dealers to charge on anything they deem excessive, including tire traction, windshield wipers, front and back headlights, etc. 

Valuing the Intangibles: Flexibility 

Last but not least: we need to talk about flexibility. Ultimately when you lease a vehicle, one of the major benefits is the opportunity to exchange cars every 3 to 5 years. Lifestyles change all the time, your car should too. The two-seat convertible that you were driving for the last three years may no longer be viable in your current situation, and having this flexibility allows you to change cars based on the circumstances of your life. Or maybe you just love variety!

When it comes to leasing an EV, the motivation to have more flexibility and vehicle options is not drastically different. What is different, however, is the pace at which technology is advancing electric vehicles. Not surprisingly, this is happening much more rapidly for electric cars than conventional vehicles. What may be considered the breakthrough technology of the century for one automaker can quickly become yesterday’s news. Consider the Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-PACE, or Hyundai Kona, here are three great, all-electric SUV options that offer over 200 miles of range. Just a few years ago, the Nissan LEAF was one of the few on the market, with only an 85-mile range and a starting MSRP that was higher than the current, refreshed LEAF with a 150-mile range. New and exciting models are being announced by auto manufacturers every day, like the mid-sized Tesla Model Y, an SUV with a 300-mile range that will be available in 2020, according to Tesla. For tech-savvy consumers or those still suffering from range anxiety (the fear that you won’t have enough battery range to make all your driving trips) leasing an EV can be ideal because they can turn in their ‘outdated’ vehicle at the end of a lease-term and opt-in for the newest EV on the market. The longest-range electric vehicles available on the market today far exceed anything we’ve seen in the last few years.

Leasing is Not Your Only Option

Ultimately, it’s important to consider all your options before committing to a multi-year lease. In recent years, alternative options to leasing and purchasing vehicles have gained popularity. Car subscriptions are one of these options, which offers you a wide variety of cars, services, and flexibility for a month-to-month fee. We’ve already covered how subscriptions work, so now let’s look at how a car subscription is different from leasing by comparing it to what we’ve mentioned about leasing above.

Financial: The biggest cost difference with a subscription is that the monthly fee covers the total cost of owning a car. The membership fee is fixed and transparent, with no down payment, registration, or titling fees. This can be beneficial if you want to reduce the financial burden that comes along with leasing a car. With everything included in one easy payment, there are never any expensive surprises. Car subscriptions typically come with insurance, maintenance, and repair costs, included and give you access to a variety of different vehicles to drive, not just one.  

Maintenance: Like many other subscriptions – clothing, movies, groceries – which are all about that VIP service experience, car subscriptions are no different. Compared to a lease, a car subscription covers not only the cost of maintenance, but also handles any service issues, accidents, or insurance claims. This eliminates the usual headaches of car ownership and gives you back valuable time in your day. Subscriptions also come with 24/7 roadside support and, perhaps, the most significant difference compared to a lease, there are no mileage restrictions. 

Flexibility:  Let’s be honest. People want the latest technology, and they want options. Perhaps this is what makes leasing a car so appealing. However, car subscriptions take this to the next level. When you lease a car, you’re still committed for a minimum of three years, and breaking this contract can be expensive. But with a car subscription, there are no commitments – some offer as short as 30-day, month-to-month memberships. You are also not locked into a single car. Imagine having a garage that is continually being filled with the latest EVs, and all you have to do is use the app to drive something different the next day. That is what you get with car subscriptions. Total freedom and flexibility are at the heart of what makes a car subscription valuable and different from leasing.  

Still Set on a Lease? 

Leasing a vehicle can be considered a sensible option for customers who want to pay a lower monthly payment and avoid taking out a loan or putting down the recommended 20% when purchasing a vehicle. 

Drivers who choose to lease an electric car will have additional considerations such as mileage restrictions, wear-and-tear, and fees that may be associated with ending a contract before it is set to expire. Leasing companies will impose additional charges for mileage overages and damage to the vehicle upon lease expiration.

After reading this post, you have already done more research on leasing an electric vehicle than most and are well on your way to making an informed decision on if you should lease an electric car. Consider all the factors and then make the best decision for you.

 

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