The U.S. Department of Energy has researched and summarized the impact of cold weather and winter driving on a vehicle’s fuel economy.

Cold weather and winter driving conditions can reduce your fuel economy significantly.
Central Maine maples without leaves, MainelyEVs


It is no secret that weather impacts the efficiency of machinery and equipment of all types, especially in Maine winters!

Photo by David Bartus on

Conventional Cars

Department of Energy findings show that in city driving, an internal combustion engine vehicle loses 15% gas mileage when outside temperatures fall from 77 degrees Fahrenheit to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Up to 25%, fuel economy loss can occur when trips occur with under 5 miles of driving at a time, preventing the engine from warming fully. As a note, any car that is left at idle to warm up is achieving 0 m.p.g. fuel economy.

In summary, expect conventional gasoline vehicles to suffer a 10% to 20% fuel economy loss in city driving and a 15% to 33% loss on short trips. Extreme cold temperatures will exacerbate the diminished fuel economy.

Electric Vehicles and Hybrids

The impact on battery-assisted hybrids and fully electric vehicles is typically greater. Estimated fuel economy in similar weather conditions can drop about 30% to 34%.

Cold weather can affect the performance of electric vehicles (EVs) in a few ways. One of the main concerns is the impact of low temperatures on the battery. Lithium-ion batteries, which are commonly used in EVs, can lose some of their capacity to hold a charge in cold temperatures.

This means that an EV’s range may be reduced in cold weather, as the battery will not hold as much charge as it would at higher temperatures.

Overall, EV fuel economy can drop up to 39% in mixed city/highway driving, and range can drop by as much as 41%. Up to 2/3 of the additional energy used is directed to heat the vehicle cabin. The range of fuel economy loss is 20% to 40% in urban driving and 25% to 45% on short trips.

One bright spot is when the cabin heater is not in use, EV fuel economy is only 8% lower at 20°F than at 75°F. Similarly, the total driving range lowered by about 12%. Top EV questions answered:

Cold Weather Tips for EV Owners

To achieve maximum range and fuel economy, even during cold weather, it’s important to follow these driving tips:

  1. Plan ahead: Before setting out on a long trip, make sure to fully charge the battery and plan your route to include charging stops if necessary.
  2. Use the “preconditioning” feature: Many EVs have a feature that allows you to precondition the cabin temperature and battery temperature before you start driving. This can help to warm up the battery and ensure that it is at an optimal temperature for driving.
  3. Use seat and steering wheel heaters: If your EV has seat and steering wheel heaters, be sure to use them to stay warm while driving.
  4. Check tire pressure: Cold temperatures can cause a drop in tire pressure, so be sure to check and inflate your tires to the recommended pressure.
  5. Keep an eye on the battery level: Pay attention to the battery level and be prepared to stop and charge if necessary. It’s a good idea to have a backup plan in case you run out of charge.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your EV performs optimally in cold, Maine weather!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *