Winters can be especially challenging for EV owners, and though summer is known for easy livin’, it presents challenges for EV drivers, too. Do you know how to get the best performance out of your EV when the mercury goes way into the red?
The global community has easily spent more money developing the systems and components of EVs than it has on going into space. Think about that. There are thousands of engineers and scientists at your manufacturer's factories and labs; they've not only thought about driving your car in high ambient temperatures, they actually drove the cars in those temperatures. So listen to them first. They really do know what they're talking about.
If you have questions, though? Well, there's no 800 number to talk to an engineer, but your car has this crazy little booklet called an owner’s manual in the glove box, digitally in your center console touchscreen, or online somewhere. And it's like you're talking to an engineer. Flip to the index and look up “hot weather” or something like it: you'll find a lot of answers there. We'll try to go over some more general stuff in this article, but as the engineers say, you should definitely RTFM (we’ll let you Google that yourself, if you don’t already know what it means).
As our planet's temperatures continue to rise and weather becomes more unpredictable, more and more of the country is exposed to heat for larger parts of the year. Your EV, just like you, is susceptible to high temperatures, especially if the exposure is prolonged. The chemical processes in the batteries are the most reliable and easy to predict in a certain temperature range, and electronics—which your car has a lot of—are stressed when temperatures get into triple digits. This can lead to failures, shortened range, software errors and other weird stuff happening.
Luckily, the aforementioned engineers know all this and design everything to work in just about any place you can imagine (outside of Death Valley or Antarctica). One of our staff members even personally participated in road tests in the vast deserts outside of Dubai! That's why you should pay attention to your manual and other official information from the people who made your car (they truly know a lot more than the average Gen Z-er on TikTok).
Spoiler alert: this has nothing to do with hair-care products. It's the function of your car making sure the battery is at the optimal temperature for the most efficient charging. Some cars, like the Tesla Model 3, do it automatically when you head to a charging location; others you have to set manually.
If you're on a road trip (more on road trippin' in an EV here) there's not much you can do about this, but avoid charging in the hottest parts of the day. Not only will you be paying peak rates (while everybody is indoors with the A/C cranked), but your car will put a heavy load on your battery while you're charging.
That's because the car's cooling systems will have to work extra hard, not only carrying heat away from the charging equipment, but also managing the battery's temperature so it can charge most effectively—high temps slow battery charge times. That means it'll likely take longer to charge as the battery management system reacts to heat buildup in the cells, possibly even stopping the charge process altogether. This is why Tesla's Superchargers and other charge networks often have shade built over the chargers; try to find one of those.
If your range is limited by heat, and charging is limited by heat, then you’re right if you’re guessing you should try to drive more efficiently in hot temperatures.
All the regular efficient driving stuff here applies, but maybe more so. Set the temperature in your car as high as you can stand it and use the “recirc” function. Later-model and higher-end cars equipped with heat-pump heating/cooling systems are more efficient—learn if your car has one and keep it in mind.
When driving, avoid hard acceleration and stops, and drive as slowly as safety and your schedule will allow. Hot tip: use your car's watt-meter (it tells you if the car is charging or discharging; every EV since the invention of EVs has some kind of meter like this, no matter how crude) to see if you're accelerating too hard or braking too early/late.
Temperatures inside your car can soar to as high as 140 degrees, especially if you have a panoramic roof like all the cool kids are getting. That's going to affect battery range, as you may have a setting to cool the interior that automatically runs the A/C. Also, the heat can affect components even if they're under the car; that means more energy to keep them and the battery cool.
So consider an underground or otherwise shady parking garage, or at least some trees (fingers crossed it's too hot for the birds to perch in said trees, so they won't bomb your fresh wash-n-wax); it can make a big difference. And if you’re at home, keep your car plugged in, even if it’s fully charged (you can use the charge timer to avoid paying peak-time rates).
Check that owner's manual to see what the maintenance schedule says about hot weather or extreme conditions. How's your battery coolant? How about the cabin air filter? Tires are important, too: underinflated tires get really hot and (at best) will wear a lot faster. At worst, well, just think about that pavement being as hot as 158 degrees on a stressed set of tires barreling down the road at 70 mph. Yikes! Monitor your tire pressure.
A final note: if you're planning a road trip in extreme conditions, please take a few precautions. Read our article on planning a road trip in an electric car. There are lots of other online resources on this as well, but the gist is you want to be sure you have appropriate clothing, as well as shelter and water for emergencies (read: the same things you’ll want on any road trip).
Hot weather is here to stay, but EVs are still going to be more efficient, more fun to drive and of course, more economical—not to mention easier on the environment. After all, the reason it's so hot, at such weird times and places is because of burning hydrocarbons for transportation; if we have to learn some new things in order to drive electric in the heat, we’d say it’s worth it!