Nissan Leaf in snow

nissan leaf cold weather range averagePlug-in electric vehicle drivers can potentially drive their EVs long distances under extreme weather conditions. The catch is that they have to drastically change their driver behavior.

Over the past year, FleetCarma has been collecting data from 7,375 Nissan Leaf trips and 4,043 Chevrolet Volt trips. The best that a Leaf driver was able to get was 106 miles from the lithium ion batteries in freezing conditions. A Volt driver managed 38 miles on battery only when the temperature was 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

There has been a huge gap between those top performing numbers and what drivers do more often. While the aforementioned numbers – called "best range" – make cold weather driving look manageable, the "average range" was far different: Leaf drivers in the FleetCarma study were at 64 miles at 32° F, while for the Volt it was 26 miles.

So how can EV drivers close the gap and get best range? Megan Allen, vehicle technology analyst at FleetCarma, made some pointers that Ford might agree with: "These trips could have been taken by gentle drivers taking care to utilize regenerative braking as much as possible, on clear roads. These drivers also could have seen their range extended by preheating or cooling the cabin while the vehicle was still plugged in," Allen wrote in a company blog post. To do well in freezing temperatures, drivers need to heat up their car while plugged into the grid and maybe wear thermal clothing and caps to drive without the heater turned on to get more range.

Trip data on the Volt was limited since the internal combustion engine kicks in intermittently at temperatures below 25° F. FleetCarma will have a follow-up post to discuss the Volt's overall performance under various weather conditions including logged trips in temperatures down to -13° F.

FleetCarma is based up in Waterloo, Ontario, so they're used to the cold. FleetCarma's EV monitoring system is available on a wide range of EVs sold in Canada and used by fleets. This list includes the Citroen C-Zero, Ford Transit Connect EV, Ford Fusion Energi, Navistar eStar, Opel Ampera and Renault Kangoo.