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Electric Vehicles in Ontario: How Do They Perform in Winter Weather?

Electric Vehicles in Ontario and How They Perform in Winter Weather

December, 22 2021

With environmental concerns mounting and charging stations becoming more plentiful, electric vehicles in Ontario are becoming a popular choice for many drivers.

Electric vehicles in Ontario are still fairly new to the market, but they are gaining in popularity. While consumers bought 54,353 electric vehicles in Canada in the third quarter of 2020, the track record for electric cars during the winter months has yet to be proven.

What are the unique challenges that come with electric vehicles during winter weather? To shed some light on the topic, we will explain how electric cars start, run, and perform in the cold and snow.

Do Electric Vehicles in Ontario Start in Cold Temperatures?


People and cars tend to move a bit slower when it is extremely cold outside. Much like people, electric cars function better when the outside temperature is at least above freezing. As you make your way to your car through the ice and snow, one of the many concerns you may have is whether your electric vehicle in Ontario will start.

While AA and AAA batteries are much smaller than an electric car battery, the characteristics are quite similar. Batteries are weaker when they get cold. Moreover, batteries need a bit of charge left in them to power anything, especially your car. There is always a chance that a cold, dead battery will not charge, even after connecting it to a power source.

The reason batteries lack charging power in the winter is the electrolyte fluid inside them starts to thicken, thereby causing them to be sluggish.

Modern car manufacturers build a battery thermal management system into the car’s design to prevent problems with warming and cooling the battery. Unlike a gas-powered battery where the engine helps to warm the battery, electric cars must find heat from another source, and that often leaves less power to move the car.

To compound matters more, the car may limit how it utilizes your battery’s charge when the temperature is extremely cold.

Nonetheless, there are a few steps you can take to ensure your electric car will start in the morning and get you where you need to go on time. Some tips include the following:

  1. Park your car in a garage whenever possible.
  2. Keep the car plugged in until you are ready to leave.
  3. Leave enough time to warm your car up before driving it.
  4. Keep your battery charged to at least 15-20%.
  5. Use the seat and steering wheel heat to warm yourself, rather than warming the whole car.
  6. Set the cabin preconditioning feature if you have it, which will set your departure time and desired temperature. It will warm the car interior and use the energy from the outlet rather than the battery when it is plugged in.
  7. Use eco-mode to reduce power consumption (Note: your car may accelerate more slowly).

Getting your electric car in Ontario started is one matter, and keeping it running efficiently is another consideration for electric car owners.

How Does the Charge on an Electric Vehicle in Ontario Hold Up in the Cold?

Regardless of the fuel or power source, all cars are less energy-efficient when it is cold outside. Gas-powered cars lose mileage by about 20% during winter months.

The voltage and power output of an electric car’s battery gets depleted when it is cold as well. According to a AAA study, the operating range of an electric car drops by 41% when the temperature falls below 20˚F and the heater is on. Cold temperatures also require a longer time to bring the car up to a complete charge.

The individual battery’s chemistry and construction have much to do with how quickly a car’s charge drops off. In all cases, the energy level decreases when temperatures fall below zero.

Beyond starting and running an electric car, accessories also drain your battery life. Front defoggers, rear defoggers, and heaters cause a drain on the battery, which can reduce your operating range.

The operating range is less for cars operating in colder climates. Jake Fisher, of Consumer Reports, recommends getting a car that has a range that is twice what the driver’s daily needs are. For example, drivers who commute 30 miles each way to work can ensure sufficient battery life if they get a car that gets at least 120 miles of range.

Be aware that sub-zero temperatures will also impact an electric car’s regenerative braking feature, which will limit one-pedal driving.


How To Drive an Electric Vehicle in Ontario in the Snow


One of the most challenging things about winter driving in any type of car is conditions can change unexpectedly and rapidly. In Ontario, the sun can be shining one minute, and there can be a blizzard the next. For that reason, drivers need to learn how to handle an electric vehicle in the snow, and navigate icy conditions.

Fortunately, the center of gravity for electric cars is low, making them more stable overall on slippery surfaces. The car battery is located on the undercarriage, which gives drivers better handling capability. It also means drivers and passengers get more cabin room, too. All-wheel-drive models of electric cars perform exceptionally well on slippery roads.

Regardless of how well you prepare, your car can spin out or get stuck in a snowbank. With an electric car, all the normal winter driving rules apply. Turn on your headlights, reduce your speed, and leave plenty of room between you and the car in front of you. Test your braking capability as needed. This is not the time to rely on your cruise control, as it will reduce your braking time.

Use special caution on bridges and overpasses, as these areas will freeze more quickly than the highways.

If you feel the brake vibrating when you come to a stop or the ABS light is flashing on your dashboard, the car has activated the anti-lock brakes feature. Keep your foot on the brake until your car stops.

If the stability control light begins to flash, it means your car is trying to counter a wheel spin, and that should prompt you to slow down. Whatever happens, try to remain calm. Just as you would in a gas-powered car, steer in the direction you want to go while keeping a slight pressure on the accelerator. Avoid slamming on the brakes, especially if you are sliding sideways.

What To Do If Your Electric Car Gets Stuck in the Snow

Ontario winters can be harsh! Even the best drivers can get stuck in snow or on ice. When you cannot move your car, find the traction control button, and disengage the system. Look for the button’s location in your car manual if you cannot find it.

Do not spin your tires, as it will sink your tires in deeper. Rock your car back and forth a bit to get a better grip on the terrain. If you do not have success with this method, throw some sand, gravel, or cat litter under your tires to give you enough traction to move the car forward. Alternatively, use cardboard sheets under your tires to increase traction. Your car’s floor mats might also do the trick.

When all else fails, call a tow truck!


Valuable Tips for Electric Cars During Winter

If you are an experienced winter driver, you know how important it is to be prepared. Keep your car charged as much as possible and prepare your car for safe driving.

The DC Fast Charging units can bring your car battery back up to an 80% charge within a half hour or so. Most electric cars have a GPS that highlights where the charging systems are. When your dashboard indicates you need to charge, go to the nearest charging station as soon as possible. Along those lines, become familiar with where the local charging stations are in your area.

Prepare your electric vehicle in Ontario for frigid temperatures by filling up your windshield washer receptacle with an anti-freezing washer solution. Equip a winter emergency box with an ice scraper, flashlight, small shovel, and sand or cat litter. Moreover, add a warm blanket and high-energy snacks in case you get stuck on the road.

Finally, be sure your auto insurance is up to date!


Final Thoughts

When it comes to winter driving, electric vehicles in Ontario are not too dissimilar from gas-powered cars in many ways. The main issues are having familiarity with your car and preserving the battery life as much as is practical. As electric vehicles in Ontario begin to dominate the highways, more charging stations will be accessible and available to meet the demand. Until then, charge up as often as possible.

Duliban offers the first electric vehicle group insurance plan in Ontario. To learn more about electric cars and how to insure them, contact one of our specialists at Duliban for more information and get an online quote today.


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