It’s well established that cold weather takes a toll on the range for electric vehicles, because the car must manage both battery and cabin temperatures, causing a significant drain. But by how much? And what about warm weather? Over the past year, Consumer Reports sought to answer these questions by conducting seasonal testing on popular new all-wheel-drive EVs: the Ford Mustang Mach-E extended range, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Tesla Model Y Long Range, and Volkswagen ID.4 Pro S.
According to the CR Consumer Reports, each car was tested in the exact same manner, by the same drivers, driven in a caravan on three different days: a frigid one, a mild one, and a warm one. They found that cold weather saps about 25 percent of range when cruising at 70 mph compared with the same conditions in mild weather. In the past, They found that short trips in the cold with frequent stops and the need to reheat the cabin saps 50 percent of the range.
Unlike a gas car, where the heat is free, coming from the engine, an EV has to produce cabin heat and manage an optimal battery temperature with energy that comes from the battery, in turn reducing range. (It’s worth noting that gasoline engines are typically less efficient in cold temperatures, as well.)
They had an expectation that mild weather in the low 60s would provide the greatest range, but actually, the warm 80° F temps provided the longest range of the three tested conditions.
This test shows that EV range isn’t an absolute metric. Weather, hills, speed, traffic, cargo, passengers, and climate settings can have an impact. That said, this ongoing experiment provides key insights into the role weather plays with range.
This test series underscores the importance of taking range claims as general guides and being mindful of the “moving target” nature of EV range. Another difference between ICE (internal combustion engine) cars and EVs is that during constant cruising, an ICE car attains its best fuel economy. An EV, on the other hand, isn’t at its optimal efficiency when cruising on the highway, with limited opportunity to benefit from regenerative braking—energy that’s recouped from braking and coasting that gets directed back into the battery. Because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) range is based on a mix of city and highway driving, the expectation for a test like this is that the vehicles should slightly underperform their rated range age at a constant highway speed.
They found a clear trend among these models showing that under different seasonal temperatures, winter cold results in the shortest range, followed by mild temperatures. It was on a typical summer day of sunny, humid, mid-80-degree weather that we saw the longest range, despite using air conditioning.
Other findings showed that the Mustang Mach-E stood out for having the most accurate range prediction—the indicated range used vs. the actual miles driven. Its real-world range also came within 1 or 2 miles of the Model Y on every run, even though the Model Y has a higher official EPA range. Note that the Mach-E has the largest battery of the bunch, at 88 kWh of usable capacity. And the Model Y is the lightest vehicle of the quartet, differing by more than 500 pounds from the ID.4, which is the heaviest. Of the two runs we performed with the Ioniq 5, it came the closest to its EPA rating.
“We began testing in frigid February 2022, repeating the procedure in balmy April and in August heat. Of these four models, we have results from only two seasons for the Ioniq 5 because of when we purchased our tested car. We will follow up with the Ioniq 5 in the winter’’.
The EVs were fully charged overnight before each of the runs and were allowed to precondition the cabin to 72° F while still plugged in outdoors. At the same time, we checked and verified the tire pressure. Heated and cooled seats weren’t used.
On the cold day, the temperature averaged 16° F (-8° C), meaning that considerable energy was needed to keep the cabin comfy and the battery pack in its ideal operating condition. The mild spring day was 65° F (18° C) during most of the drive, and the warm summer day was 85° F (29° C) during the drive. Each test day was clear and sunny.
The cars were taken on the road concurrently and driven on the same 142-mile round trip route of Connecticut Route 2 and I-91. We used adaptive cruise control set to 70 mph and the widest gap to prevent any aerodynamic trailing effect or sudden decelerations and accelerations due to surrounding traffic. The regenerative braking mode was set to its lowest setting for each car. We paused for 10 minutes with the cars off at the midpoint.
Once back at our Auto Test Center, our engineers didn’t just record the remaining range indicated in the cars. We applied the ratio of miles of range used vs. miles driven throughout the trip to extrapolate what would be the total range for that specific trip. We also checked that ratio against the miles driven per each percent of state of charge (SOC) as extra validation of our methodology.
They intentionally didn’t drain the batteries until totally empty in order to reflect the typical owner experience. They don’t drive regular gasoline cars until they are bone dry, either.
For reference, the EPA tests EV range using a dynamometer in a laboratory with driving cycles that simulate both highway and city driving. A slight weight is given to the city range when calculating the combined rating, and a correction factor is applied in an attempt to account for temperature, climate control use, and driving habits.
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