Winter EV Driving – Guest post #2

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Hi folks this is Laura again. I keep telling Walter he ought to write in his blog about our recent winter driving adventures but he never gets around to it. But there is stuff you all really need to know. Winter EV driving is harder than you think. Take today’s trip: St. Louis to Fairfield is about 250 miles and should be doable on one full up battery but we both already knew it wouldn’t be. So we stopped at a state park about half way along for a top up charge in an empty campground. Nav system said we had about 100 miles to go so we thought we would stay there an hour and make sure we had at least 120 miles on the battery. Usually I like to exercise or at least go for a walk while the car charges but it was so cold and windy that all we wanted to do was sit on our heated seats. Walter did a bit of telephoning and I felt he was taking too long and it was past time to get going. So we got 138 miles on that battery. 27 degrees and with a fierce headwind. We drafted on the big rigs pretty much the whole way and when we got to Fairfield there were only 15 miles left. We left the car charging at the Kum and Go and nearly froze to death on the walk over to the motel. Seriously windy.

Take home message: in some cold and windy conditions you need 40 percent more energy on your battery than the same trip would take in the summer. Not really an issue when driving on the supercharger highway but it does add complexity when you are far from superchargers. You have to draft on the trucks or go slow or both. If it is raining you can’t draft because of the spray. (other drafting rules: no cruise control. Concentrate! You don’t have to be super close. The energy screen will help show the advantage). And here is another problem: we have been using RV parks as our plan B system of where to charge if plan A does not work out. But many RV parks in northern places are closed for the winter, so you can’t necessarily count on them. And camping in winter is not so much fun.

Another winter challenge is traction. We got winter snow tires and the car handles pretty good in snow We did have a few spooky moments on black ice where the highway is bare and wet and then you go around a curve where the road was in shade not sunshine and the surface looks exactly the same but it is glaze ice not water on the road. That’ll take away your confidence in a hurry. Also we are finding that full regenerative braking can be a problem on glaze ice. There is a setting you can change to reduce regen to half strength and sometimes you gotta use it. Winter snow tires (Michelin Xice 3) make the car a little less perfect when driving on bare pavement. Takes away some of the fun of showing off.

We are loving the Tesla superchargers. There are several in Montana which is so excellent but we could use a few more. One in Sheridan WY would be a big help. likewise Kansas City. We were able to get all the way from our home base in Kalispell MT to the east side of Kansas City on power from the superchargers (plus a range charge at our second home base in Pocatello, ID, where we have our HPWC (High Power Wall Charger). But then we showed up at Tom’s place in Blue Springs to use his welding outlet to charge up and discovered that we had left our charge cable back home in the garage in Kalispell. Oh what a mistaka’ to maka’! Not all was lost because we still had the J17 adapter in the glove box so we were able limp on in to St Louis and the wonderful guys at the Tesla service center there set us up with a loaner charge cord. I wonder if the lingering shame from this episode has anything to do with why Walter won’t write his own blog.

Oh yes I nearly forgot there is also some question in cold weather about do you charge up at night just after arriving while the battery is warm or in the morning before you get on the road (I am talking about superchargers here). If you charge in the morning it will take a lot longer than usual because it takes a while to just warm up the battery before it starts to charge but if you fill up the battery the night before you will not have any regen for a while the next day, not until the battery warms up. Often it makes sense to charge most of the way up at night and then top up in the morning before you get going.

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2 thoughts on “Winter EV Driving – Guest post #2

  1. Laura,

    That was a really great account! It is very interesting to hear about the intricacies of driving an all electric car in winter conditions and when to charge it and how to make it last longer etc. Sounds like there just needs to be more of those superchargers in key locations so that you don’t feel fearful to drive a distance across the country. Keep up the good work.

    Hugs to both of you,

    Sara

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