Electric vehicles have battery heating problems

Electromobility : E-cars have problems with the cold

Freezing cold in the morning. Without a bobble hat, your ears hurt on the way to the car. But the car had to withstand the whole night at minus 12 degrees Celsius. At the same temperature as a few days ago, the battery of a conventional vehicle can also run out. And what happens to an electric vehicle? You notice that it is bitterly cold as soon as the electronics come to life. The range of the BMW i3 decreased by 10 kilometers overnight while standing because the cold crept into the battery. But that's it - the lithium-ion battery wakes up from its cold sleep without any problems and pushes the car into the morning rush hour.

Electric vehicles in winter, is that possible? In the past there have been reports that could worry potential buyers of e-mobiles. Up to 50 percent loss of range in severe frost has been reported in some cases. The technology has become even more sophisticated at all manufacturers, but hardly anything has changed. Winter remains a particular challenge for electricity-dependent automobiles. As with a car with an internal combustion engine, there is increased friction between all parts when it is cold and thus higher energy consumption. In addition, the battery not only has to provide a drive, but in addition to the lighting system, it also has to supply the rear window heater and the windshield blower with energy in the darker months of the year - and above all bring the heater to a cozy temperature.

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The BMWi3 creates a pleasant interior temperature in as short a time as one can expect from Bavarian car manufacturers. After a few kilometers, the minus degrees in front of the window are forgotten. The use of all additional electricity consumers has a noticeable effect on the range; the display sinks faster than the kilometers traveled. But not so quickly that beginners panic in electric winter operation. On the other hand, one remembers with horror how the power-guzzling air conditioning in the electric Nissan Leaf has proven to be an absolute kilometer killer in tropical weather in summer.

Problems in winter

However, winter operation is still not entirely unproblematic. It should be noted that an electric vehicle always delivers the full torque to the road. In summer this helps to get an impressive traffic light start, but in winter it can be a problem on icy roads. Above all, however, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the battery to collect fresh energy when it is bitterly cold outside. Arriving at the workplace in the morning with a worried view of the small remaining range, there is an unpleasant surprise at the end of the day. The 7.5 hours on a normal socket only brought an additional 45 kilometers of range. The result at an official charging station is no better: the result of two hours of charging time is five kilometers more in the display - but at minus eight degrees. There is already a shortage of electric vehicles even in the Berlin urban area; You don't want to imagine a huge traffic jam on the Berlin city ring. Just as you turn off the air conditioning in the Nissan Leaf in the summer and prefer to sweat so as not to stand still, you would have to turn off the heating in a traffic jam when it's cold. One should refrain from taking weekend excursions into the vast winter world.

Despite the winter restrictions on the range, the ADAC speaks very positively of the current electric vehicles. Bernhard Tschenscher currently has three types in the long-term test: In addition to the BMWi3, there is also an Opel Ampera and the Nissan Leaf. "The three vehicles work perfectly down to minus 20 degrees," he says: "There were no temperature-related breakdowns." After all, the three vehicles have already covered 200,000 kilometers. Nevertheless, experts say that the range is partially halved in severe cold. Because of the smaller "usage radius" in winter, Tschenscher recommends that you inquire about charging options at your destination before you start your journey.

However, all three manufacturers have responded to the range problem with different techniques. The BMWi3 has a “range extender”: a small combustion engine starts up by itself in an emergency and recharges the battery via a generator. With this technique you can then make it another 50 kilometers. The Opel Ampera also has an auxiliary drive that starts at minus 16 degrees.

Preheat the car with the timer

But the heating remains the biggest problem. An enormous amount of electricity is consumed, especially in the warm-up phase after starting up, says ADAC employee Tschenscher. If you only drive a short distance in the city and it doesn't get really warm in the car anyway, you could turn off the heating right away and save energy. Basically driving without heating, he advises against it because of a possible hazard. Then the windows can mist up from the inside and prevent the driver from looking through.

You can of course also have a gasoline-powered auxiliary heater installed. But then you give up that goal, which is why most people buy an e-car: driving with zero emissions. For ADAC specialist Tschenscher there is a better solution offered by manufacturers. Preheating the car with a timer shortly before departure, as long as it is still attached to the charging station. Then you have it warm as soon as you get in - and additional range.

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