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AAA confirms what Tesla, BMW, Nissan electric car owners suspected — cold weather saps EV range. Even turning on the car drains power

  • The AAA study appears to be the first to have used standard, repeatable methodology to confirm the problem.
  • AAA tested the BMW i3s, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, the Nissan Leaf, the Tesla Model S and the Volkswagen e-Golf.
Published 11 Hours Ago Updated 2 Hours Ago

Hoping to increase the appeal of their battery-electric vehicles, automakers have begun rolling out an assortment of "long-range" models, such as the Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt EV, Jaguar I-Pace and Nissan Leaf Plus.

Some EV drivers — including this correspondent — recently found that range can drop by half when the mercury tumbles into negative territory. The AAA study appears to be the first to have used standard, repeatable methodology to confirm the problem and compare the effect of winter temperatures on different models.Chesnot | Getty Images

Visitors look at a BMW i3 electric automobile during the Paris Motor Show on October 14, 2014 in Paris, France

Several surprises emerged from the research, according to Brannon, starting with the fact that the impact on range was pretty much uniform among the cars tested: the BMW i3s, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, the Nissan Leaf, the Tesla Model S and the Volkswagen e-Golf.

"It's something all automakers are going to have to deal with as they push for further EV deployment because it's something that could surprise consumers," said Brannon.

Different factors can affect the loss of range, he and other experts have noted. Simply turning on the electric vehicles AAA studied in 20 degree weather revealed a 12 percent loss in range. On a vehicle like the Chevy Bolt, with an EPA rating of 238 miles per charge, that would drop range to 209 miles. But that part of the test assumed operating the vehicle with cabin heat and seat heaters turned off.

Brannon said using climate control revealed an even bigger surprise: Range dipped by an average 41 percent — which would bring an EV like the Bolt down to just 140 miles per charge.

The problem is that unlike a car with an internal combustion engine that can warm the cabin with waste heat, EVs have to tape into their batteries to power the climate control system.

Part of the problem, he said, is that "lithium-ion batteries like the same sort of temperatures that we do, around 70 degrees."

Andy Cross | The Denver Post | Getty Images

Much below that and the chemistry that's used to store energy runs into various problems. Among other things, battery components develop increased resistance that limits how much power they can hold, as well as how fast a battery pack can be charged or discharged, said Timothy Grewe, chief engineer for electric propulsion systems at General Motors.

Grewe has experienced sharp reductions in the range of his own Chevy Bolt, but he also said there are ways to limit the impact of cold weather. That includes storing a battery car in a garage, preferably one that's heated. And wherever it is parked, it helps to keep the EV plugged in. Onboard electronics will prevent overcharging. But many battery vehicles are programmed to use some of the energy from the grid to keep the battery pack warm, improving its efficiency.

Motorists are also advised to "precondition" their EVs, Grewe and Brannon said. That means heating up the cabin while still connected to the grid, rather than drawing energy from the battery pack. Most new battery-electric vehicles have custom smartphone apps that allow a driver to switch on cabin heat remotely when plugged in. Commuters can even preprogram the system to automatically start at a particular time of day.

Josh Lefkowitz | Getty Images
The Chevrolet Bolt EV is displayed during the Los Angeles Auto Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center on November 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

While cold weather is especially hard on range, batteries also don't like hot weather, said Brannon. "Much like when it's cold, in hot weather EVs suffer some decrease in range, but not as much as in the cold."

The AAA study found range fell 4 percent from EPA numbers at 95 degrees. But, again, that number was assuming the motorist didn't mind sweating. Turn the climate control system down to 70 degrees, AAA found and range fell by 17 percent.

One thing that EVs and conventional vehicles have in common is that energy efficiency — whether measured by range or miles per gallon — can be affected by a variety of factors. These can include your driving style, as well as the terrain.

Do a lot of hill climbing and you're going to use energy faster. EVs, however, are especially sensitive to any accessory drawing power, whether the car's climate control or even headlights, meaning that driving at night, whatever the weather, will hurt range.

VOW3 143.58
-5.82 -3.90%
BMW 71.58
-2.07 -2.81%
GM 38.63
-1.28 -3.21%
7201.T 928.10
-2.20 -0.24%
4.35 2.44%
TSLA 307.60


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Edmonton transit bought a handfull of electric buses last year.

I wonder how they have been doing this last week.

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4 hours ago, Fido said:

Edmonton transit bought a handfull of electric buses last year.

I wonder how they have been doing this last week.

They are probably hybrid.


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19 hours ago, Moon The Loon said:

They are probably hybrid.


When the purchase was announced the only gas engine mentioned was an additional cabin heater

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On ‎2‎/‎7‎/‎2019 at 8:11 PM, Moon The Loon said:

They are probably hybrid.


They also weigh 3000 lbs  more than the conventional buses so I guess more energy is needed to move them along with some other problems.  not sure if they are in use yet, the following news article mentions 2020 and that 2 buses have been provided to allow for infrastructure and charging information , which could mean testing in cold weather. The buses come from California.

Following is an article that reviews electric buses.

The Verdict's Still Out on Battery-Electric Buses

  1. Alon Levy
Jan 17, 2019

As cities experiment with battery-powered electric buses, some are finding they struggle in inclement weather or on hills, or that they don’t have enough range.


In the last decade, electric vehicles have become mainstream. Having captured a small but growing share of the passenger-car market, and an enormous amount of media buzz thanks to Tesla, the EV industry is now setting its sights on the bus market.

Several companies that manufacture battery-electric buses, or BEBs, are selling the product to cities interested in zero-emission buses that operate without trolley wire. (While many cities already have extensive networks of electric trolleybuses, such as Zurich and San Francisco, these buses require overhead wires to operate.) Manufacturers include the longstanding Canadian bus manufacturer New Flyer, China’s BYD, and the American startup Proterra.

As part of generous government subsidies to BYD, Shenzhen has replaced its entire fleet with BEBs. Cities in Europe and the United States are also experimenting with them. Moscow plans on replacing its trolleybuses with BEBs, and small and medium-sized American transit agencies have begun leasing or buying this technology. Part of the rationale behind this shift is to reduce local-diesel bus pollution; part of it is about cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, and part is the perception that BEBs are a futuristic technology.

But is the technology really ready?

There are reasons for skepticism. So far, it looks like BEBs struggle when it’s too cold (below freezing) or too hot, and on routes with hills. The global frontier of public-transit innovation in Western Europe is cautious about adopting BEBs and prefers a hybrid form of trolleybuses and battery-electric technology called in-motion charging, or IMC. Some Swiss cities are adding trolley wire at low cost while using IMC to extend the range of their existing trolleybuses several miles beyond the wire.

Range anxiety, but for buses

Battery-electric vehicles’ biggest problem has always been range. At the dawn of the automobile age, electric cars competed with gasoline and steam-engined vehicles: In 1900, 38 percent of U.S. cars were battery-powered, and only 22 percent boasted internal combustion engines. As late as the 1910s, Thomas Edison was working on an electric car and a network of charging stations. But in time, gasoline-fueled cars came to dominate the market, partly because a car’s range on a full tank of gas was far greater than on a full battery charge.

Dramatic improvements to battery technology have fed the recent EV renaissance, allowing such models as the Tesla Model 3 and BYD Qin to travel about 200 miles on one charge. That’s helped alleviate the “range anxiety” that keeps many U.S. drivers from considering an electric vehicle.

Still, the energy density of batteries remains well below that of gas. And, unlike most passenger cars, city buses run for the entire day. The big American transit agencies run buses for about 25,000 to 40,000 miles a year, which is two to three times the average distance a car is driven—and buses have a more energy-intensive urban driving cycle (with little highway running), totaling 100 to 200 miles of city running per weekday.

Moreover, the routes most likely to get battery-electric technology are the strongest ones, where fleet utilization is higher, since electric buses are more expensive to buy than diesel buses. This pushes up the required range for operating without midday charging.

On heavy-duty buses, the range has not been enough. Albuquerque provides one example: It found its BYD buses’ range to be only 177 miles on one charge, compared with a contractual promise of 275, and this was not enough to run a full day’s service. In Vancouver, a BEB trial talks up rapid recharging during layovers—there is no expectation of being able to run a bus for an entire day without recharging. Rapid recharging is labor-intensive, since a worker must supervise it, unlike recharging or refueling at the end of the day.

In Moscow, Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has made a big push for BEBs, which in his view are more modern than the city’s expansive trolleybus network. The city recently purchased 100 buses each from two Russian automakers, Kamaz and Gaz. The London-based transit advocate Martin Wright compared Moscow’s procurement and operating costs and talked to Russian observers. Wright said (as of early fall) that Moscow’s trial routes for BEBs—trolleybus Routes 73, 76, 80, and 83—have had to use more buses just to run the same service, pointing to before and after slides. The four routes appear to have gone from 46 trolleybuses to 82 BEBs without any increase in service frequency, presumably because BEBs have considerable down time for midday charging.


This is not the first time that the adoption of a supposedly game-changing new technology has required expanding the fleet and increasing the associated labor costs. In his paper titled “The Bus is Young and Honest,” historian Zachary Schrag details how, in the 1920s, New York City started replacing its streetcars with buses because Mayor John Hylan opposed the private-rail transit concessions and believed buses were more modern. Transportation engineer John Beeler pushed back, arguing that to provide the same capacity of the 1,002 streetcars serving Manhattan at the time, the borough would need 2,538 buses. But despite Beeler’s protests to the contrary, New York replaced the streetcars with buses over the 1920s and ’30s, as did practically all American and most European cities in the following generation.

Mixed experiences

Albuquerque recently made headlines in the urban public-transit world when the municipal transit agency, ABQ RIDE, returned the BYD-made electric buses it had ordered, finding them deficient. The city had paid $1.2 million apiece for these buses, and after it returned them, it bought diesel buses from New Flyer for $870,000 each.

A source who has worked on Albuquerque transit projects and spoke to CityLab on the condition of anonymity detailed the circumstances around the failed BEB trial. Albuquerque is a typical Sunbelt city with low urban density and little historical transit ridership. With plentiful free parking nearly everywhere, few people ride the bus. But one bus corridor is prominent: Central Avenue, cutting east to west across the city. About half of ABQ RIDE’s ridership is on this corridor, so it became a priority for bus-rapid-transit upgrades as part of a program called Albuquerque Rapid Transit, or ART.

However, according to the source, the battery was not strong enough for daily service without midday recharging. Central Avenue has a large elevation change (about 1,000 feet), and this could be the reason the battery life was not as long as advertised. Whereas Vancouver’s TransLink has layover facilities with rapid charges, ABQ RIDE intended to turn buses around without special facilities.

An ABQ RIDE spokesperson confirmed that the buses’ batteries did not have the agreed-upon range, and added that they also had safety problems, such as door malfunctions, which led the city to sue BYD. “It’s clear that the buses are not safe, and we are not going to place residents at risk,” municipal chief operating officer Lawrence Rael said in a statement. BYD did not respond to requests for comment.

In the Twin Cities region, the Minnesota Valley Transportation Authority (MVTA), a small agency serving the southern suburbs of Minneapolis, leased a BEB from Proterra at no cost for a trial last winter. A source in MVTA (again, speaking on condition of anonymity) spoke positively of the physical aspects of the bus, such as the chassis and ride quality. Moreover, when it wasn’t so cold, electricity consumption was low: The battery only drained 2 percent, the source said, while sitting in traffic for nearly an hour.

But when it got cold, the bus’s performance suffered. At the freezing point, the range was already below target. At 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the source said the driver had to take the bus back to the garage, lacking enough charge for an entire day’s worth of work. On Super Bowl Sunday it was 5 degrees F, and the battery allegedly lasted for 40 minutes, covering only around 16 miles. The agency had to bring a generator to the transit center to recharge the bus.

When asked if this version of events is accurate, an MVTA spokesperson responded only that “the range was not as long as we expected.” For its part, a Proterra representative wrote in an email that on Super Bowl Sunday, its data showed the bus drove 61 miles and could even go 120 on one charge, but had to be charged more often because there was not enough time to charge it all the way from empty to full.

Minneapolis’s major agency, Metro Transit, is still interested in BEBs, but according to Energy News is still uncertain about how well they will perform in the cold.

According to a Reuters story from last winter, similar problems have been found in other cities. Transit officials in Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts, complained that BEB technology performed poorly in the cold and snow, while a report in Phoenix said that the buses did poorly in the summer heat, because of the demands of running cooling equipment. Similarly, the Minnesota source claimed that over the three-week trial, electricity consumption was 70 percent heating and only 30 percent motion.

Worcester Regional Transit Authority, however, told CityLab that its Proterra BEBs have not been problematic. (It did have to shut them down for a blizzard last winter, but the city’s entire bus system shut down.) Among cold-weather agencies, there is a spectrum from MVTA’s disappointment, through Metro Transit’s cautious interest, to WRTA’s support.

In-motion charging

There is an alternative, combining the best features of BEBs (flexibility) and trolleybuses (reliable power and range): in-motion charging, or IMC. A trolleybus with IMC has a small battery, with enough range for a few miles off-grid, and mechanisms for recharging while driving under the wire. It still requires some trolley-wire infrastructure, but not on 100 percent of the route: Italian manufacturer Iveco claims that 60 to 75 percent of the route needs wire. While this may still seem high, there are some places in the U.S. where buses could run on one wired trunk and then branch to many unwired streets (for example, in Roxbury and Dorchester, two Boston neighborhoods).

But this technology is virtually unknown in North America, where transit agencies treat the trolleybus as a dinosaur, even in cities with extensive networks such as San Francisco, Boston, and Vancouver. The California Air Resources Board’s regulations mandating electrification of the state’s bus network to curb pollution focus exclusively on BEBs and fuel cells: The mandates give agencies full credit for every BEB already in use, but only one-tenth of a credit for every trolleybus. The state’s analysis of its bus fleet in support of the new regulation ignores trolleybuses as well, never mind that San Francisco has about 300 of them, compared with 71 other zero-emissions buses statewide.

However, IMC is gaining currency in Europe. In Switzerland in particular, a very large proportion of public transit runs under wire, a legacy of cheap hydroelectric power and World War II-era shortages of fuel. The Swiss rail network is entirely electrified, and some cities, especially Zurich, have more ridership on their streetcar and trolleybus systems than on diesel buses.

So far, IMC is mostly restricted to Central Europe. German manufacturer Kiepe has sold IMC buses to nearly all the major cities of Switzerland, as well as to some secondary cities in surrounding countries, such as Parma, Linz, Esslingen, and Limoges. Seattle and San Francisco have bought IMC buses as well, but Kiepe claims only that these have enough battery to get around obstacles and complex junctions, whereas its main European product can travel 5 to 7 kilometers off-wire, or about 3 to 4.5 miles.

In tandem with IMC, Swiss cities are expanding their trolley-wire networks where it is warranted. The Swiss rail advocate and enthusiast Max Wyss has given some examples of recent extensions of trolleybus and streetcar systems. St. Gallen, a small city east of Zurich, is extending its trolleybus network, and the cost of the overhead wires is about $2.7 million per mile, and closer to $2 million after adjusting for the country’s high living costs.

By contrast, ART (the Albuquerque project for which ABQ RIDE intended to buy BEBs, but will debut as diesel BRT instead) cost $135 million over Central Avenue’s 16-mile stretch, or more than $8 million per mile. If ART were IMC, some of the costs could be avoided and some would remain necessary, but even taking the costs as a given, adding wire would only raise the price by about a quarter.

Is this technology ready?

BEBs are not really ready yet. The battery isn’t good enough if there’s any problem along the way, such as a climb or cold weather, and the extra infrastructure for midday charging is expensive.

Battery costs are going down, helping explain the growth of battery-electric propulsion in the passenger-car market. This should give transit advocates and city planners hope that in the future, BEBs may have a place. But the technology is not yet mature, and some of the most innovative cities in the world when it comes to public transit purchase trolleybuses with IMC instead.

lowing is a recent article that looks at Electric Buses:


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U.S. traffic safety agencies probing 2 fatal Tesla crashes in Florida

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it is investigating a fatal Tesla Inc Model S crash in Davie, Fla., last Sunday that killed the driver and resulted in a massive vehicle fire, the second fatal crash this week the agency is probing.

Agencies looking into vehicles' Autopilot feature, battery fires following crash

Thomson Reuters · Posted: Mar 02, 2019 6:59 PM ET | Last Updated: March 2
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it is investigating a fatal Tesla Inc Model S crash in Davie, Fla., last Sunday that killed the driver and resulted in a massive vehicle fire, the second fatal crash this week the agency is probing. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it is investigating a fatal Tesla Inc Model S crash in Davie, Fla., last Sunday that killed the driver and resulted in a massive vehicle fire, the second fatal crash this week the agency is probing.

The agency and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said late on Friday they are sending teams to investigate the other fatal crash Friday in Delray Beach, Fla., of a 2018 Model 3 that crashed into a semi-trailer.

A NHTSA spokesperson confirmed Saturday the agency has an "ongoing investigation" into the earlier Tesla crash in Davie and "will take additional actions if appropriate." Tesla did not immediately comment Saturday.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Monday the 2016 Tesla Model S caught fire and burned the 48-year-old driver beyond recognition. The newspaper said the Tesla battery repeatedly caught fire after being transported to a towing facility.

Tesla struck tractor trailer

NHTSA, the auto safety regulator, can demand a recall if it believes a defect poses an unreasonable safety risk, while the NTSB makes safety recommendations.

NHTSA and NTSB have been investigating a number of crashes since 2017 that focus on two primary issues: the role of Tesla's driver assistance technology known as Autopilot in accidents, and some significant battery fires in the electric vehicles after crashes, including cases of batteries reigniting after accidents.

A Model 3 sits on display in a Tesla showroom. The NHTSA and NTSB are investigating after a fatal crash involving a Model 3 and a semi-trailer. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

A report on Friday's crash released by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department did not indicate if the autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash that killed the 50-year-old Tesla Model 3 owner.

The report said the Tesla struck a tractor trailer and the roof was sheared off as it passed underneath the trailer and stopped about half a kilometre south of the collision. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

Tesla advises drivers to keep hands on steering wheel

NTSB said it is sending a team of three to conduct a safety investigation, while NHTSA said Saturday it is sending a field team.

Some Tesla drivers say they are able to avoid putting their hands on the wheel for extended periods when using Autopilot, while Tesla advises drivers that they must keep their hands on the steering wheel and pay attention at all times while using Autopilot.

NHTSA is also probing the January 2018 crash of a Tesla vehicle apparently traveling in Autopilot that struck a fire truck in Culver City, Calif., a May 2018 crash in Utah of a Tesla in Autopilot mode and a May 2018 Tesla accident in Florida that killed two teenagers and injured another but was not in Autopilot mode.

The NTSB is investigating three earlier Tesla incidents being reviewed by NHTSA, as well as an August 2017 Tesla battery fire in California, in which an owner ran into his garage.

Friday's crash is similar to the first fatal Tesla crash linked to Autopilot.

In May 2016, a Tesla Model S driver was killed near Williston, Fla., using Autopilot when he slammed into a tractor trailer that also sheared off the vehicle roof.

The NTSB said in 2017 Tesla lacked proper safeguards allowing the driver "to use the system outside of the environment for which it was designed and the system gave far too much leeway to the driver to divert his attention."

In January 2017, NHTSA said its review found no evidence of defects in the 2016 fatal Autopilot crash that would require a recall.

Tesla says its Autopilot software reduces a driver's "overall workload" and will "steer, accelerate and brake for you within almost any lane. It will also automatically change lanes on most highways to overtake other cars or navigate to interchanges and exits."

Tesla says the feature "should not be used on highways that have very sharp turns or lane markings that are absent, faded, or ambiguous."

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now we can blame the car and not the driver.  yet another way to not accept responsibility for being an idiot behind the wheel.  

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