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winter drawn in snow

Defrosting, preheating or preconditioning your EV while plugged in

As the mornings get cooler we also get closer to the dreaded frosty starts to our days. Luckily most EVs have a built in feature for defrosting the car before your morning commute.

Variously referred to as preheating or preconditioning the manufacturers have thought it through and it should just be a matter of pressing a button on your keyfob, configuring it on the dashboard or via the app.

But why is it so commonplace in Electric Vehicles when even some of the latest ICE cars still don’t have the feature?

Well, petrol and diesel vehicles generate heat from the engine and that can be used to warm up the vehicle. Some cars also have low-powered electric elements built into the windscreen. So using an otherwise wasteful by-product of the ICE engine means no other systems need to be installed.

Obviously EVs don’t generate this heat from burning petrol so need other solutions. Hence the pre-conditioning facilities.

Pre-heating while plugged in

Some EVs will only initiate the full preconditioning procedure while the vehicle is plugged in, that way it can use power directly from the grid rather than depleting the EV battery. As any long-time EV driver will tell you the range of an EV will drop as weather conditions get colder.

The optimum temperature range for maintaining maximum battery efficiency is around 15-30 degrees. As the weather gets cooler so the EV range is reduced, not just because of battery efficiency but also because the driver might be using the onboard heater while driving. The same thing goes for summer as the air-con is used more.

The benefit of defrosting while plugged in is that the entire car can be preheated and defrosted, not just the windscreen. Looking at different EV models the preconditioning process can take anything from one minute up to three minutes.

You don’t need to be sitting in the car shivering while it takes place, though. You can pre-set the process to happen at a set time of the day if you leave for work at the same time, or just press the relevant button on your keyfob, if fitted, or via the manufacturer’s smartphone app.

Cold batteries are less efficient

As mentioned above, a cold battery bank in an EV is less efficient once the temperature drops to below 15degrees. So if you can park your EV in a garage it will help maintain the ambient temperature and maximise the charging efficiency, plus you shouldn’t need to defrost it then either.

One other tip is to regularly check your tire pressure. Air contracts slightly when cold so the tyre pressure drops creating slightly more friction than is ideal.

These things are not going to massively increase your EV range but doing a few extra small things will certainly add to your winter range.

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