Charging an EV in winter – what do you need to know?

Thicker coats, warm gloves, cozy boots – winter time usually calls for a little extra preparation. Does this also apply to electric vehicles, and is there anything special to consider when charging at IONITY high-power chargers as temperatures drop?

We talked to Jan Haugen Ihle, Regional Head of IONITY North & West Europe and a passionate EV driver, who shared his knowledge and his top five tips for high-power charging in cold temperatures.

Jan, you’re from Norway. How cold does it get there and is there anything special to consider when charging at an IONITY high-power charger in cold weather?

It does get pretty cold here indeed. Minus 10 to even minus 20° Celsius isn't too uncommon. Some places even experience bone-chilling temperatures of around minus 40° Celsius. However, using your EV in the cold is not as big of a deal as people make it out to be. What you need to keep in mind when it comes to fast charging in winter is that it could take longer than it usually does. This also applies to fast charging at IONITY.

Jan Haugen Ihle, Regional Head of North & West Europe

Why is it that charging could take longer during the winter time?

The battery is the heart of your electric car and, just like your heart, it operates best at a certain temperature. 20 - 30° C is ideal for the chemical processes inside the battery -depending on the vehicle. To put it simply: the cold reduces the capacity of your batteries. However, our IONITY high-power chargers still deliver the same power as usual. But to prevent battery damage from high voltage, your car’s intelligent electronics automatically slow down the charging performance. The good news is, there are quite a few tricks to speed up charging while still going easy on your batteries:

  1. Keep your EV warm - even when you’re not driving
    To prevent a loss of battery performance, try to avoid some of the cold. If possible, park your car in a garage instead of outside and preheat the vehicle while charging a few minutes before driving off.
  2.  Take your car for a ride
    Fast-charging works best with batteries around 20° to 30° Celsius. One thing that will warm up your battery during the wintertime is: driving! So if possible, start your trip fully charged and give your EV a few hours to get your batteries to the right temperature before making the first charging stop.
  3. Use your car’s intelligent features
    Many EVs offer automatic preconditioning, which preheats the battery for planned charging stops along the way. This will ensure that the battery is at the ideal temperature when you arrive at a charging station which will reduce charging time. If your car has such a feature, you should definitely make use of it.
  4.  Make energy available
    Turn off your car’s air conditioning and heating in the first 10 minutes of the charging process and – if your vehicle is equipped with this – consider seat or steering wheel heating instead. This way, more electricity is available to warm up and charge your batteries.
  5. Save some time and make an extra stop
    The less power you have left in the battery, the more power the battery can be charged with. The best state of charge for a lithium battery is between 20-80%. It actually takes less time to make an extra stop to recharge than it does to charge to 100% in one session. So grab yourself a coffee and enjoy the view while still getting to your destination in time.

For more useful tips, check out the IONITY Winter Travel Guide.