e-Golf Electric Car Diaries

Electric Car Diaries Volume 4: Winter City Driving Range

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Over the last three months, we have posted three times about adventures and education switching over to a fully electric car from a gasoline one. All of the experiences can be summarized in a positive light aside from the nagging curiosity of range anxiety that everyone wonders about when electric cars come into conversation. In Electric Car Diaries Volume 4, we talk about our first experiences with the e-Golf in cold Canadian winter weather and the impacts of cold on the car’s available range.

Electric Car Diaries Volume 4: Average Range in Warm Weather

Volkswagen says the average range of the e-Golf is around 201 km. During warmer weather, I experienced up to about 250 km range. Of course, depending on the situation, it varied a bit from charge to charge. The range we experienced in warm weather was plenty for us to get by day to day and even take a couple of successful 400 km day trips. Since ordering the car in August 2017, I have been haunted by one nagging thought. What if the range drop in winter months is too steep for my lifestyle to handle? Well, the time to find out is here. My fears will either be realized or calmed.

Electric Car Diaries Volume 4: Temperature Drop

As expected at this time of year in up here in Canada, temperatures have fallen. We have had a fairly steady two weeks with temperatures hovering around 0 degrees Celsius in the day time and dropping below 0 overnight. With a responsible bit of fear, we ensured the car was on charge after use daily so that there was no risk of running out of range. We would prefer not to become stranded in this weather. However, inevitably we wondered, “How far can the e-Golf actually make it at this temperature?” and decided to put it to a test during a regular week of city driving.

Electric Car Diaries Volume 4: Average Range Since the Drop

My daily drive, is usually approximately 30 km, 20 of which are on the 401, at speeds which I mentioned in Electric Car Diaries 3: Switching Back mean an automatic significant range drop. Even in warm weather, the range fell significantly as soon as we hit the 400 series highways. It is the only situation in which I have watched the range drop quickly. The highway gets up to speeds that cause the car’s predicted range to just not quite be accurate.

During this city driving test, the e-Golf twice waited patiently outside the house with temperatures as low as -9 degrees Celsius overnight between drives. It would be surprising if the battery was not at all affected by the long stretches in cold weather. Aside from this, each time I got in the car to drive over the course of those three days, the car used up battery power to warm up and defrost. Rather than using electricity directly from the outlet, it needed to use battery power since we were not plugging it in for the test. I am almost certain that when we take the car on a road trip to use the range all at once in this temperature, the car will go significantly further.

Electric Car Diaries Volume 4: Range Prediction Accuracy

The car seems to allocate approximately 25km of range to defrosting and keeping the car warm when the fan is on high. When you turn the fan down after you get moving, the range climbs. That is the only significant difference I notice in range accuracy than during the warmer months.

One morning right before deciding to push the car to its limits, it showed 140 km of range when I unplugged it and hopped in. After driving a few minutes down the road, it showed 173 km of range. I think the mysterious range jump can be attributed to two things: the batteries warming up and turning the fan down after the car was warm and defrosted.

When I turned the car off last night, we had a remaining 82 km of range. This morning when I hit the road, the car estimated close to 60 km. Instinctively, I turned the fan down and the range popped back up to around 80 km. That was the moment I realized the effect of needlessly (and continuously) driving with the fan blasting on high. It is also a pretty good demonstration of some of the factors the car takes into account while calculating range.

Electric Car Diaries Volume 4: Regenerative Braking Conduct

Similar to the range climbing as the battery warmed on that chilly day mentioned above, the regenerative braking behaves a little bit differently in the cold. It is a trend I have noticed over the last month or so, since we started to see colder mornings. If I pull out of the driveway with the car in B mode (the highest level of regenerative braking in the e-Golf) immediately after starting it up, the maximum opportunity for regeneration when I brake is much smaller until everything is completely warm. Usually by the time 10 minutes passes, it offers a similar opportunity for battery replenishment due to braking  as it does in warm weather.

Electric Car Diaries Volume 4: Summary

So far, I am quite content with how the e-Golf performs in the colder weather. One of the most important parts of car ownership is reliability and this one is definitely proving itself. Even in the cold and snow, the car is warm and defrosted by the time I get in it. The range has been pretty reliable, aside from the magical range gain when you turn the fan down.

I imagine that it is rare you would have the fan off when you get in the car in this weather and not turn it on until you are already on your way. Because of this, the car’s range is likely pretty accurate as you pull out of your parking spot and I doubt there should be any range surprises.

Do you know more about the reasons for the behaviour of the regenerative braking in the cold? Could something other than the fan have caused the jump in range once the car got on the road? I would love to hear your thoughts. If you are interested in reading more about our experiences learning to drive electric, you can check out our other posts here.

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