Misleading claims about weather and electric vehicles spread online

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Social media posts claim electric vehicle (EV) batteries would “completely die” in cold or hot weather. It is misleading; although extreme temperatures negatively affect the performance of electric cars, they still perform well – and tests show battery life lasts for hours.

“Electric cars – the biggest scam the world has ever seen?” says a Facebook post from July 28, 2022. “Has anyone thought of this? If all cars were electric… What if we were stuck in a three-hour traffic jam in the cold of a snowstorm , the batteries would completely die.”

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken on August 2, 2022

The photo featured in the posts was taken by The Associated Press nearly 18 months earlier — on Feb. 2, 2021 — during a snowstorm in Chicago, reverse image search shows. It is not known if any of the vehicles were powered by electricity.

As for the text of the messages, the same words have been shared hundreds of times on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The assertion comes more than a year after Canada announced it would require 100% of new passenger cars and trucks to be zero emissions by 2035.

Cold and hot temperatures affect the performance of an electric car, but experts told AFP it is misleading to claim extreme weather conditions will instantly drain a battery.

Heating takes hours to drain electric vehicle batteries

A 2019 Renault guide to optimizing electric vehicles in winter states that “extreme conditions can lead to reduced range or increased charging time”. This is partly due to the use of car heating systems.

“In the same way that we quickly run out of fuel with the air conditioning or the heating of a thermal car, these accessories also consume the energy of the battery in continuous use”, explains Alexis Grimaud, associate researcher at Solid -State Chemistry and Energy Lab in Paris, AFP said in an email dated July 4, 2022.

Julia Poliscanova, senior director of the European Federation for Transport and the Environment, based in Brussels, agrees.

“A lot depends on the quality of the heating technology used by the battery, i.e. the presence of a heat pump and the overall heating strategy,” she said. to AFP in an email dated July 19, 2022.

Poliscanova pointed to studies by the General German Automobile Club (ADAC) which she said “proved that an electric car consumes relatively little energy when stationary, even in winter.”

The organization tested the performance of a Renault Zoe ZE50 and a Volkswagen e-Up in a traffic jam at temperatures ranging from -7 degrees Celsius (19.4 degrees Fahrenheit) to -14C (6.6F). The heat of the cars has been set at 22C (71.6F).

After 12 hours, the Zoe had used around 70% of its battery, while the e-Up had used 80%.

“That means a 3-hour traffic jam would only lead to 18-20% battery drain,” Poliscanova said.

She also pointed to reports of a January 2022 test by YouTube channel Dirty Tesla, which measured the battery performance of a Tesla X and Tesla Y in freezing temperatures. The test follows reports of people being stranded on a highway in the US state of Virginia.

After 12 hours in sub-zero temperatures with seat heating on, the Model Y’s battery dropped from 91 to 58 percent. Model X, on the other hand, dropped from 90% to 47%.

“So, based on known evidence, depending on the model and heating technology, 8-20% of the battery could be used in a 3-hour traffic jam,” Poliscanova concluded.

The impact of cold temperatures on batteries has also been studied in Norway, where government subsidies have encouraged drivers to buy electric vehicles.

In January 2021, an industry group announced that Norway had become the first country where electric cars accounted for more than half of new registrations.

Lars Lund Godboltan adviser to the Norwegian Association of Electric Vehicles (Elbil), told AFP that the country has not encountered any problems with electric vehicles in winter, when temperatures drop to -6.8 ° C (19 .76°F) on average.

“(Battery management systems) protect the battery and a battery works well when it’s cold – it’s just that less power is available until the battery is warm enough,” he said. he stated in an email dated July 22, 2022.

“Below -20C (-4F) we see a range reduction of about 35-45%,” Godbolt said. “Part of that is due to the snow on the roads and the fact that there is more resistance in the cold air.”

With temperatures closer to 0C (32F), “we see a 20-30% reduction depending on EV, amount of snow, etc,” Godbolt said. However, he noted that electric vehicles heat up much faster than cars with internal combustion engines, which need to reach a certain temperature before they start heating the cabin.

For electric vehicles, “an average heating system uses 6-7kW if you put it on the absolute maximum (30C or 86F). For 20C (68F) about 2-3kW,” Godbolt said. “And with heat pumps, the already heated cabin then reuses the heat and keeps it at 1kW.”

“With modern electric vehicles (most of them have batteries between 50 and 80 kWh), you can get stuck in a blizzard and be there for many, many hours,” he concluded.

The Quebec section of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) advises motorists to plug in their car before using it to preheat the battery, which will improve performance.

Electric vehicles can also run for hours in hot weather

The claim that “batteries would die in a second” during summer traffic jams due to air conditioning is also misleading.

British magazine Which one? conducted a test in which a Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV sat in traffic for an extended period of time with the AC on.

“In just over an hour and 15 minutes: we only lost 2% of the battery from a 77 kWh battery,” says the magazine’s report, published in August 2021.

Poliscanova, from the European Federation for Transport and the Environment, told AFP that while the heating of petrol cars comes from waste heat in the engine, “the energy needed for the air conditioner is additional consumption” .

“An air conditioning system can increase fuel consumption by up to 20% due to the additional load on the engine,” she said. “In a nutshell, whether a battery electric vehicle (BEV) is less efficient than an internal combustion engine when stuck in traffic depends on the efficiency/quality of the vehicle’s heating system. battery used in this model.”

AFP has reviewed other false and misleading claims about electric cars here.

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