EV101: Quick charging and the cold

Time is of the essence in winter.

By Michael Bettencourt

Mar 21, 2022 2 min. read

Article was updated 2 months ago

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Electric vehicles are not fans of the cold. They don’t travel as far in winter temperatures, plus they need to keep their passengers warm, which uses up more of their battery range. The colder it gets, the more work the battery needs to do.

Unlike with gas-powered vehicles, these cars also take longer to charge in colder temperatures. The difference is noticeable even when temperatures are at or slightly above freezing. Admittedly, by Canadian winter standards, that is not extreme.

Even at ideal temperatures, EV quick chargers, just like the vehicles, have different max charging speeds.  How fast of a charge they provide, from older 50-kilowatt units to 150 units and state-of-the-art 350 units, vary widely – and colder temperatures affect them, too. At home, when charging overnight, this increased time is often barely noticeable. But when you’re on a longer drive, and quick charging is necessary, the speed is key.

I recently got to test drive a Kia EV6 that tops out at a very impressive 250-kilowatt quick charging speed on its spec sheet. But I didn’t hit anywhere near that in early March. In temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, I managed to charge the Kia faster at two Ivy quick chargers rated at 150-kilowatt than I did at a pricier 350-kilowatt Electrify Canada charger.

In theory, the Electrify Canada charger, with a higher speed capability, should have charged the vehicle much quicker. But it didn’t. When I charged the Kia at two different Ivy chargers, the speed reached the max capabilities of those units, and even exceeded them – I recorded a brief 179-kilowatt charge rate even though the maximum is said to be 150. Did Ivy sneakily install more powerful chargers?

“We are aware that some vehicles experience a temporary spike in charging speeds during sessions, which is common with fast-chargers, but this is not indicative of an increase in charging speeds,” said Adam McClare, who manages brand and marketing for the Ivy Network. “Currently, our standard max charging speed across our Ivy Charge & Go fast-charging network is 150 kW.”

This all highlights that quick charging an EV in the winter can have more variables than ever-changing fuel prices. It can cause potential frustration for EV owners but occasionally surprises.

Michael Bettencourt bought his first EV in late 2011 and has followed the Canadian EV scene ever since. Follow him on Twitter @MCBet10court