Electric Vehicles in Winter Conditions
Where would you go if you wanted to put today’s snow-ready all-electric vehicles through their paces to discover which are best for winter driving? Maybe you’d consider Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania in the heart of the Pocono mountains, or how about Rapid City, South Dakota where winter winds howl from October to March? GreenCars decided to go to not only one of the coldest places on earth, but also a country that has embraced EVs in a big way. Norway!
The good people of the Norwegian Automobile Federation (NAF) recently decided to put all-electric vehicles to the test to find out how cold temperatures affect EV range in real world conditions. They discovered that while all electric vehicles lose range in the cold, some suffer less than others. The Federation tested 20 EVs, starting off in Oslo and ending up in Hafjell, a 124-mile journey. For this evaluation, the NAF extended the route to take in 300 miles in order to give cars with greater range a fair shake.
The test route took the EVs through city and highway driving conditions as well as mountain passes. Speeds ranged from 37 mile per hour to 68 mph. The idea here was to run the EVs until the battery pack was completely discharged. They also performed a charging test to take the EV battery from 10 to 80 percent of charge. The ambitious test was conducted in 28 degrees and all cars were driving for at least two hours to make sure their batteries were warm.
Final Test Results: Range
The first thing the NAF concluded was that typical range represents around 18.5 percent less range than the automakers advertise. For instance, in real-world winter conditions, the Nissan Leaf with a 62-kWh battery will take you 184 miles. Nissan says you’ll get 226 miles. Out of the20 EVs tested, the vehicle that came closest to offering range as advertised is the Hyundai Kona. Of the declared 279 miles of range, the clever Kona was able to run for 251 miles, only 9.91 percent less than Hyundai’s official claim.
Final Test Results: Charging
The ultimate winner of NAF’s charging test went to the Audi E-Tron 55 Quattro which took only 27 minutes to go from 10 to 80 percent of charge. That could certainly be one of the reasons it is the best-selling EV in Norway. By comparison, the Nissan Leaf, which lacks a battery management system, took 75 minutes to charge up to 80 percent.
The NAF says that these tests helped them to debunk certain EV Myths such as that electric cars stop suddenly when they run out of electricity. What actually happens is that the vehicle gives signs that it will stop, such as loss of acceleration, a limit on top speed, and it will even stop heating. Nils Sødal, the senior communications advisor for NAF tells us, “A fun fact worth knowing is that, if you run completely out of power, you can still drive a few more miles. Just shut the car down and leave it for a short while, maybe half an hour to an hour, and you’ll have enough power to drive a few more miles. This is extremely practical if you happen to stop short of a charging station or your home.”
Top-Rated EV Winter Warriors
For GreenCars' list of the best EVs for winter driving, we have chosen all-electric crossover vehicles that can take on serious winter road conditions. All of them offer all-wheel drive for better traction in the white stuff, just keep in mind that a set of winter tires are essential to get better grip.
These are premium crossover SUVs with plenty to offer. Please note that the prices listed do not include any rebates such as the federal tax credit for EVs or any state or local incentives.
Audi E-Tron Quattro SUV
Changes for 2022 include revised option packages such as new 21-inch wheels. The premium E-Tron SUV five-seater offers two electric motors, one at each axle, with a combined 355 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque. Driving range is 222 miles and its impressive 150-kW fast charger will get you from 10 to 80 percent of a charge in just 30 minutes. The new E-Tron S performance trim adds a third motor with a combined output of 429-horsepower, taking you from zero to 60 mph in a neck-cracking 4.3 seconds.
MSRP starts at $70,800
Ford Mustang Mach-E
The Mach-E is the first Ford to wear the Mustang badge that can hold its own in winter weather, even while shod in its all-season Michelin tires. Traction on the white stuff is very good with no wheel spin whatsoever thanks to its dual motor traction control. Just don’t try racing around in snow while engaged in “Unbridled” mode. However, even in the car’s sportiest setting, you’ll find rear end slides quick to control. The Mustang’s regenerative braking helps to dig in when decelerating down a snowy hill.
MSRP starts at $45,995
Much like the Audi E-Tron, Jaguar’s excellent I-Pace SUV has a dual-motor, all-wheel drive system. The adjustable suspension can give you 7.8-inches of clearance for winter driving. The dual motors make 394-horsepower and 512 pound-feet of torque for zero to a brisk 60 mph time of just 4.5 seconds. Its 90-kWh battery pack will take you 234 miles and charging is quick thanks to a new 11-kW onboard charger. Jaguar’s Pivi Pro infotainment system includes over-the-air updates and new driver assist tech includes a 3D surround camera system.
MSRP starts at $71,300
New for 2023, the Solterra is Subaru’s first all-electric vehicle, and like all Subaru vehicles, it is primed to be an excellent adventure wagon in all sorts of weather conditions, including snow. It is the most technologically advanced Subaru yet, built on the same platform as the new Toyota bZ4X with 8.3-inches of ground clearance. It offers Subaru’s legendary Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and X Mode to plow through nasty blizzards with the greatest of ease.
MSRP starts at $44,995
Want to see more EV options? Visit our Buyer's Guide to explore additional makes and models.