ADOMANI Blog

Operating Commercial Electric Vehicles in Cold Weather Climates

Operating EV Trucks and Vans in Cold Weather

As with any emerging technology product, the incumbents and their supporters are quick to point out the downside of the new product. As electric vehicles (EVs) gained popularity, opponents, mainly manufacturers and fans of the internal combustion engine (ICEs), that includes gas and diesel-powered vehicles, began highlighting what they claim as the inefficiencies and challenges facing EVs. Specifically, opponents touted that range on an EV was not comparable to ICEs, or that it takes too long to charge, or that there were not enough charging stations to accommodate EV owners. As EVs, specifically all-electric trucks, vans, and school buses, like those powered by ADOMANI, began making their way to colder climates, opponents of electric vehicles began claiming that EVs do not do well in freezing temperatures and that their range diminishes in cold ambient weather.

EV Range and Fuel Efficiency in Cold Weather

There is some truth to range reduction with EVs as well as there is truth to the reduction in fuel economy with internal combustion engines. In a 2019 study conducted by AAA, results showed that EVs operating in 20-degree weather experienced a range reduction of 12% without using heat and 41% using heat. At higher ambient temperatures, EVs operating in 95-degree weather had a 4% decrease in range without the use of air conditioning and a 17% decrease in range with the use of air conditioning.

According to FuelEconomy.gov, gasoline-powered vehicles can suffer a 15% reduction in fuel economy in 20-degree weather and for shorter trips of 3 to 4 miles, the fuel economy can decrease as much as 24%. While hot weather can increase the fuel economy of gas-powered vehicles, those vehicles using air conditioning can see a reduction of up to 25%, especially on shorter trips and depending on ambient temperatures and humidity. Additionally, diesel engines do not do well in colder climates as well. They are prone to a gelling effect that thickens the diesel fuel making their engines tougher to start. Oftentimes diesel engines require additional time to start to warm their engines.

Technology Challenges

Each type of technology has its reason for performance challenges or range reduction in cold or hot weather. As an example, EVs operate on battery power and batteries in all devices from cars and trucks to laptops perform poorly in extreme cold to hotter climates. Gas-powered vehicles experience increased friction with fuel and other engine fluids as well as the time it takes the engine to heat for maximum fuel efficiency. Diesel has its challenges in cold weather with slower engine warming times and the risks of diesel gelling. There is no one perfect solution when it comes to extreme temperatures for vehicle operation. Yet, there are better alternatives and opportunities for improved performance, specifically with electric vehicles.

Short Range EV Truck and Van Operations Advantage

All-electric commercial stake bed truck powered by ADOMANI

Organizations such as last-mile logistic companies, businesses that make local deliveries, city municipalities, or utility companies that operate within a short range in colder climates may be the biggest benefactor of operating EVs. The main advantage is that they drive fewer miles and require less range, thus colder climates would have little impact on their daily operations and range. Their operational costs are greatly reduced for EVs over their ICE counterparts in terms of maintenance and fuel costs.

However, for businesses and organizations looking to maximize their electric truck or van efficiencies in cold weather regions, like New England, Washington, Ohio, Michigan, or Alaska, the ADOMANI team has a list of best practices for operating your electric vehicle in colder climates.

Maximizing EV Trucks and Vans in Cold Climates

  • If possible, park your commercial EV in a garage or warehouse to keep the vehicle warm.
  • If your EV is equipped with seat warmers, utilize them over cabin heating. It uses less energy.
  • Efficient planning may be required during colder months to reduce frequent trips. That is, plan routes that utilize the least number of stops.
  • Add wind resistant accessories to your EV truck or van, like a wind deflector, side aerodynamic panels or fairings.
  • Keep EV connected to an Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). Most EVs can keep their traction battery packs warm overnight if connected to an EVSE to avoid them becoming “cold soaked.” Once your vehicle is in operation, the batteries will maintain their temperature.
  • Some OEMs use something similar to an electric heating blanket in the battery pack boxes (a less expensive solution) or a water heater that circulates heated glycol mixture (the more expensive solution) though the battery packs. Either of these solutions can help keep your battery warm and reduce range degradation.
  • If your EV is equipped with the ability to automatically turn-on cabin or battery pack heating, make certain to program that function at a specific time prior to operation. But do so while the EV is plugged into the EVSE. If the vehicle cannot be programmed, turn on the power and heater while still plugged-in to the EVSE to pre-warm the vehicle before operation. Once the cabin reaches the desired temperature your system will only need to maintain cabin temperature and will use less energy than it would from a cold start.
  • In states other than California, commercial EVs have the ability to use fuel-fired heaters (such as those on school buses) for cabin and/or drivetrain heating.

While each type of commercial vehicle has advantages and disadvantages, the electric truck or van not only rivals their ICE counterparts in cold weather operations but offers added benefits to their owners. Benefits like reduced maintenance and fuel costs for starters. The EV truck also offers reduced impact on poor air quality. Additionally, most states offer incentives for the purchase of a commercial electric truck or van, greatly reducing their initial cost and in some instances, making them cheaper than their ICE competitors. Finally, the commercial EV helps government and private businesses meet government mandates, something the ICE vehicle cannot do in many states and countries.

THE ADOMANI SOLUTION

Partnering with us gives you access to a passionate and dedicated team of experts with the true belief that delivering quality ZEV solutions is the pathway to cleaner air, reduced dependency on fossil-fueled vehicles, and a lower total cost of vehicle ownership for businesses.

We work closely with our partners, providing EV education while helping them find viable ZEV solutions that work best for their specific needs.

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