What impact does temperature really have on electric vehicle batteries? Find out on today's episode of #UtilimarcFleetFYIs.
Show notes for today's episode can be found at: https://www.utilimarc.com/blog
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Gretchen Reese (00:24):
Hey there. Welcome to the Fleet FYIs podcast, the weekly podcast by Utilimarc that reveals how you can make the most of your data for smarter fleet management. My name is Gretchen, and every week you'll hear from me or some of the industry's finest in candid conversations that will not only shed some light on over two decades worth of fleet data insights, but also some of the industry's hottest talking points and key metric analysis with the aim to help you better understand your fleet from every angle.
But before we begin, if this is the first time you've heard our show, thanks for stopping by. I'm so glad you decided to come along for the ride with us. But I've got a quick favor to ask you. Once you finish today's episode, if you could take a few minutes to leave us a review on your favorite podcasting platform, we would really appreciate it. Give us a rating, five stars I hope, or tell us what you liked or leave us a comment or a question about what you've heard in today's episode. If we haven't yet covered a topic that you're interested in hearing more about, let us know. We would be happy to go over it in detail in a later show.
Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of the Fleet FYIs podcast. I have a bit of a follow-up topic from last week's episode. If you remember correctly, we were talking about phantom drain, vampire drain, whatever you decide you want to call it, whatever synonym you can assign to it, and the question of whether or not temperature impacts EV range and the thermal management concerns that follow up around it.
Thermal management, again, that'll be in a couple of weeks time when you get to hear that episode, which I have a special guest coming on for and I'm very excited for you all to hear it. But the question of does temperature impact EV range, temperature itself rather than the thermal management side is really, really an important topic to discuss, I think. Because when you think about it, as more fleets around the world begin to adopt electric vehicles, there's certain considerations that are being integrated into these fleet management strategies that were never thought about with internal combustion engine vehicles.
So for example, fuel savings and less frequent maintenance. They're major selling points for these vehicles itself, though sometimes the data thrown in can actually say that, "Well, maybe the maintenance costs are still pretty similar to internal combustion engines. We have been looking at that in the recent past few months." But anyways, fleet managers also need to understand how temperature and weather conditions affect electric vehicle health and range. Just as with any battery-operated item, there is optimal operating temperature for electric vehicles. Take your cell phone, for example. I like to use that example a lot because it's a device that we all have. But because of this, fleets operating in areas with extreme weather must keep this in mind during the peak of harsh winter and summer months. I mean, it's just common sense, right? Let's dig in.
So let's talk about extreme cold conditions first because, I'll be honest, as a Minnesotan, that is something that we deal with quite a lot and we are talking about those polar vortexes that actually feel like minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit on any given day. Not a fan. I really am not. But anyone in colder regions knows the feeling of, I'll use the phone example again, watching your phone battery go from 50% to 5% within minutes of taking it out of your coat pocket. It is so frustrating. Or if you are leaving your phone in the summer sun and you're getting an overheating warning on the screen and then it just goes kaput and you can't use it anymore. Well, electric vehicle batteries, like I said, they're not much different because all in all, they are a battery, and extreme cold temperatures can reduce vehicle range buy up to 12%, which is a significant amount if you can't recharge during the day.
Now, this happens because the cold weather and the cold temperatures slow the chemical and physical reactions happening inside the battery that are absolutely necessary for it to work. Now, cold temperatures can also lengthen the charging time for electric vehicles due to increased impotence. Now, this is important to note as fleet managers create a charging plan for their fleet, again, with the access to public or private infrastructure here and whatever works for them, and then their fleet management strategy. But it's possible that vehicles themselves could need more time at charging stations during winter months or a higher power solution for quicker charging.
Now, when you're managing high-battery temperatures, because again, luckily the effects of cold weather on EV range and charging, for the most part, they are temporary, only when the cold weather is presenting itself. Exposure to extreme heat on the other hand, is more of what could cause that permanent harm and degradation that I think all of us when we think about EV battery degradation are more worried about.
So in general, exposure to heat speeds up those chemical reactions just like cold weather slows them down. If you think about molasses, that's a really good way to look at it. The warmer it is, the quicker it runs, the cooler it is, you're basically dealing with a big block of sludge. It's not going to move very fast. But in the case of a lithium ion battery, this means that the reaction happening throughout the discharge cycle is happening much faster, draining the battery at a higher rate. And this is bad news for vehicles that are working long hours on the road and depending on optimal vehicle range or that kind of factory-level battery range for certain payloads and whatever the range testing is done at.
Now, this is the key piece on why thermal management is crucial for maintaining battery health and longevity. Now, they can use complex liquid or air cooling systems to keep batteries at an optimal operating temperature of around 288 to 208 kelvin. And this I can go into in a later episode, again of what kelvin conversions are to Fahrenheit or Celsius. But basically, what this means is it allows batteries to function at peak performance and not suffer a loss of power or range.
Now, in extreme weather, EV batteries are working overtime. They have to keep the driver in the cabin warm or cool along with the battery itself. And surprisingly, the main culprit of loss of EV range isn't in the temperatures themselves, but again, it's the use of in-cabin climate control as a result of the unfavorable temperatures. The battery is needing to stay warm or cool, but heating and cooling the cabin itself can actually use a large amount of power from an EV battery because all of these accessories are hooked into the battery that makes the car move. And the amount of range loss can be anywhere up to 40%, which if it's almost halfway, you're decreasing your range a lot. And this can be a very daunting figure for fleet drivers, managers and can increase range anxiety, which we've talked about in the past. But again, I really think it's something that people need to focus on just so they are aware of all of the challenges that present themselves with electric vehicles.
Now, it was found that electric vehicles operate most efficiently on days that are right around that 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. So we're looking at the low twenties for Celsius here, maybe 21, 22. And days that were even a few degrees higher or lower, some more drivers turning on the heating or the cooling to get that optimal in-cabin temperature of around 70 degrees, ultimately making vehicles less efficient if they were different than that optimal operating temperature.
Now, in extreme weather, electric vehicle batteries are working overtime. Again, an important point to keep tabs on. And the reason is is, again, because you have to keep both the driver and the battery pack at optimal temperatures, because if you're uncomfortable driving, you're going to change the temperature in the cabin to make sure that you are comfortable. But the strain on the battery can be detrimental for battery health, and it can also prevent it from performing as well as it should.
But the question of what fleet managers can do, there's a few ways that fleet managers can encourage drivers to preserve battery power on the road. And I'm not suggesting that they have you bring an extra blanket for an electric vehicle and bundle up because you're freezing cold and only allow the battery to heat up, or when it's cold, having one of those squirt bottle fans that fill up with water and acts as a portable air conditioning. No.
But basically, one of the easiest ways is actually encouraging drivers to use the heated seat and steering wheel features, but also the cooling steering wheel and heat features to keep them warm or at optimal temperature. Why? Well, it requires far less energy than constantly keeping the air heated, but it still keeps drivers really warm, because if you think about it, having that air, or I should say the cooling piece or the heating piece circulating, you feel warm, and then the air actually warms up as you continue to sit and breathe and talk in the vehicle itself.
Now, another consideration is keeping vehicles in temperature-controlled garages at night. This will help to keep EVs at optimal temperature and will reduce the amount of energy required to heat your vehicle when it's initially warmed up or cooled down. It also decreases the chance of phantom drain, like we talked about last week on Fleet FYIs. But the biggest thing that I really, really would like to stress is that there are some instances where keeping your vehicle plugged in when possible is one of the best strategies.
Original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs suggests that drivers that leave EVs plugged in when they're not being used on very hot or very cool days actually allows for the battery temperature controls to keep working and help prevent battery degradation, even if you are using just a little bit more power than you typically would. The good news is, though, as electric vehicles continue to evolve, and again, this is, I think, one of the exciting parts of being on the forefront of this technology and being able to witness it happening as we're starting to use it, is that larger battery packages are being made, you have better thermal management systems that are being created, and with larger volume and capacity, a loss of vehicle range will be less significant and less of a threat to electric vehicle drivers in general.
But I would love to hear if you have any questions on this topic, temperature management, thermal management, electric vehicle batteries, you name it, send them over to me. You can send me an email, tag me on LinkedIn, use the hashtag Utilimarc Fleet FYIs, or you can even send me a carrier pigeon. But either way, I'd love to hear from you. That's all from me this week. I will chat to you again next Friday. Ciao.
Hey there. I think this is the time that I should cue the virtual high five because you've just finished listening to another episode of the Fleet FYIs podcast. If you're already wanting more content, head over to utilimarc.com, which is utilimarc.com for this episode's show notes and extra insights coming straight from our analysts to you. That's all from me this week, so until next time, I'll catch you later.