When you signed by the 'x' to take ownership of your shiny new hybrid or electric car, you may not have given much thought to whether your vehicle needed any special care during cold winter months. Especially if you drove off the showroom in the middle of July. But with winter winds howling for those living in northern climates, you may have noticed a significant dip in range after charging your vehicle.
Follow these tips to maximize the range of your hybrid or EV during those winter days:
Keep the Battery Toasty Warm
The biggest favor you can do for your hybrid or electric car during winter months is to provide it with a garage. A garage will almost always keep the vehicle's batteries and passenger compartment warmer than if it sits outside, exposed to frigid winds, ice and snow. Of course, if you have a heated garage already, then all the better. However, you may want to give a second thought to heating an existing garage simply to keep your car warmer because it probably isn't going to be the more energy efficient choice.
The next biggest favor you can do is to pre-warm or pre-condition your vehicle's passenger compartment while it is still plugged into your charging station, allowing the car to use direct electric power to get that cabin cozy warm rather than draining battery power to do it once you've headed down the street. The heater for the passenger compartment in most late model hybrids and EVs can be operated while the vehicle remains plugged in, allowing you to gain some warmth without depleting the charge from your car's battery pack. (Of course, the same principle can be applied during the heat of summer in cooling your vehicle via the air conditioning controls.)This sort of pre-driving conditioning during cold months will both warm up the vehicle cabin as well as warming up the battery to optimal temperature.
Other ways to improve your vehicle's range during winter months including the use of heat seaters if your car has them. Generally, they will keep you comfortably warm without the energy needed to reach the same comfort zone by heating the entire cabin. Your defroster can also be a big drain, so use it only as long as necessary and then rely on your heater to keep your windows clear. Finally, pay attention to how warm you let the passenger compartment become. Just as it is energy-wise to set your home thermostat on 67 rather than 72 in your house, you can improve energy efficiency of your EV or hybrid by not blasting the heat beyond what is truly necessary.
Jump Starting a Hybrid
If you live in Minnesota, North Dakota or other northern state vying with Alaska for the title of coldest winter temperatures, you probably haven't made it this far in life without either being asked to help someone jumpstart their car or needing a jumpstart yourself. But as a hybrid owner, you may be wondering if the rules have changed. The quick answer is, no. Because nearly all hybrids still use a conventional 12-volt battery within their system, jumpstarting your hybrid to get its gasoline engine started should be easy. Consult your operator's manual, but expect to follow the same procedure as with any other car. If you still feel unsure, call a professional. Don't just go poking around under the hood without heeding the warnings printed on some of your vehicle's parts. Also, the high-voltage battery pack should never become so depleted that the gasoline motor and generator can't charge it.
Monitoring Your Driving Habits
It's important to monitor your driving habits and style if you want to maximize your hybrid or electric vehicle's range regardless of the season. But during winter months, when keeping passengers comfy warm puts a drain on your car's battery, your driving style can help make up some of the energy lost. Your vehicle will reach its optimal range and fuel economy when you travel at posted speed limits and avoid stops and starts as much as possible. Sharp acceleration will add to the strain of winter on your car's battery. Most new models will have real time feedback on the control panel to assist you in bettering your driving for maximum efficiency.