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Dispelling the Myth: Will Extreme Heat Leave You Stranded in Your EV?

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Is it possible for intense heat to trap individuals in electric vehicles?

At what temperature do electric vehicles become inoperable, potentially leaving you helpless during a future heatwave?

The response is not as dramatic as the headlines that have been crafted this summer, nor is it as provocative as the ensuing questions suggest.

Similarly to how high temperatures can strain various parts of traditional petrol cars, periods of intense heat can also lead to increased degradation of batteries in electric vehicles. However, to clarify and dispel any false beliefs, it's important to note that for electric vehicles, this simply results in additional usage-related wear.

Batteries for electric vehicles may experience quicker deterioration in high temperatures. However, they typically don't just stop working abruptly, potentially stranding drivers. Nonetheless, it's worth noting that extreme heat could impact the stability of the power grid or the charging points that vehicle owners depend on.

Garberson, who leads growth and research at Recurrent, an EV battery health analysis company, mentioned that instances where a vehicle's range drops suddenly and without warning are rare, and he can recall very few such occurrences. Additionally, the team does not think that these incidents were caused by a singular heat event.

Repeated electric vehicle battery condition

According to data gathered by Recurrent from a sample of 20,000 electric vehicles, there isn't a specific temperature threshold that causes electric vehicle batteries to completely fail or experience a rapid increase in damage.

Plainly speaking, heat won't render your electric vehicle inoperable.

Garberson suggests considering the effect of heat on EV batteries as gradual contributors to wear, similar to how certain lifestyles can speed up human aging, such as smoking or frequenting tanning salons. Extended heat exposure can change the pace of the battery's electrochemical processes, which can result in a reduced lifespan. This is characterized by the moment the battery's capacity declines to a level where the electric vehicle can't travel the desired distance, recharge efficiently, or perform up to standard.

Therefore, it is not anticipated that battery replacements will be a necessary cost at a certain mileage, nor will they abruptly cause the vehicle to be inoperable. Recurrent's research, for example, indicates that while Tesla's battery range does decrease significantly within the initial three years, the decline notably levels off beyond that period.

Decline in the travel distance of the Tesla Model Y, as reported by

Decline in driving distance for the Tesla Model 3 as observed by Rec

Thanks to the sophisticated liquid-cooling mechanisms in place, the regular use of quick charging doesn't seem to pose a risk to the longevity of Teslas and many contemporary electric vehicles. Advances in these cooling systems and better chemical compositions have addressed earlier worries about hastened wear and tear.

Several initial electric vehicles struggled to cope with high temperatures, which led to quicker battery wear and tear. The Nissan Leaf's first editions were particularly affected by this issue. However, Nissan's introduction of an improved "lizard" battery formula in 2015 greatly mitigated these problems. Nissan has now confirmed that the battery packs in the Leaf are proving to be quite durable over time.

In the sweltering heat, it's crucial to ensure your electric vehicle's battery remains protected and chilled. Experts suggest that, much like regular maintenance, some strategies are even more critical during high temperatures. It's advised to avoid fully charging the battery to 100% unless absolutely necessary and to refrain from charging it to full capacity before leaving it parked.

When the weather is extremely warm and bright, opt for a shaded parking spot. If you leave your car over asphalt that's been baking under the noon sun, the battery pack located underneath your car will absorb heat excessively and detrimentally.

Additionally, it's advisable to maintain your battery's charge at around 50% when exposed to high temperatures, as this level of charge tends to ensure greater stability. Recurrent highlights the benefit of setting a charge cap, such as 70%, which allows you to keep the vehicle connected to a power source during periods of heat. This approach may prompt the activation of the car's thermal management system at a cooler temperature than it typically would.

Performance Variant of the Tesla Model

Expect a slight dip in EV battery performance during a heat wave

Electric vehicles typically maintain their range well in high temperatures. This is due to EV batteries operating optimally at temperatures similar to indoors, which means the car's air conditioning system doesn't have to labor excessively. Additionally, the temperature adjustment required inside the vehicle is minimal.

According to Recurrent's analysis, electric vehicles could see a reduction of just 5% in their effective range when the temperature is 90 degrees. However, this loss increases to 15% at 95 degrees and escalates to a total of 31% once the temperature hits 100 degrees. This percentage is somewhat lower than the drop in range some owners experience during winter conditions.

Comparing similar factors, when your electric vehicle is equipped with only resistive heating, similar to what's found in small appliances like toasters or hair dryers, it's more energy-efficient to cool your EV by 20 degrees rather than heat it by the same amount. This is partly because the cooling system in an EV doesn't have to counteract the additional heat produced by a traditional gasoline engine.

It's crucial to bear in mind that while freezing temperatures may lead to a temporary decrease in electric vehicle (EV) battery range, it's the heat that can cause lasting harm. Stay alert, keep an eye on your battery's charge levels, and keep in mind that the range prediction is just an estimate, not a tool to foresee upcoming heat conditions.

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