Are electric cars reliable in the winter?

AAA says not to believe the bad reputation that electric cars get when it comes to winter.

Have you ever wondered how reliable electric cars are in the winter when frigid temperatures linger for days?

Maybe you have thought about going the environmental route, but this bitter blast of arctic air that's charging its way across almost the entire nation this week, dropping wind chills to as low as negative 70 degrees in some parts and triggering rare Hard Freeze Warnings, might have you second guessing your purchase.

AAA says not to believe the bad reputation that electric cars get when it comes to winter. 

"The bad rap might come from the fact that range is decreased with an electric car as it gets colder," said Robert Sinclair Jr., a spokesman with AAA Northeast. "In fact, we did a test and found that at 20 degrees, the range of an electric vehicle might fall by 41%. But the Norway Automobile Association did a test and found that range fell by 20%."

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And while that may seem like a lot, Sinclair said to keep in mind that non-electric car batteries are affected by the cold too.

"The cold affects the chemical reaction in the lithium-ion battery that powers an electric car, the same as it affects a lead-acid battery that starts the engine in a gasoline-powered car," Sinclair said. 

The cold weather slows down both batteries, but it leads to a decreased range in electric vehicles. 

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Even though the battery may be negatively affected during cold temperatures, the battery serves important for how electric vehicles handle snow.

"Generally, the batteries are under the floor, and they're big, and they're heavy," Sinclair said. "And when you've got a lot of weight in the vehicle down low like that, that lowers the center of gravity and helps to improve handling."

The extra weight also helps to improve traction.

"If you throw in a set of dedicated winter tires, which are designed and manufactured to be better handling in cold conditions, that will improve the situation," Sinclair said.

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