Why Electric Cars Struggle in the Cold–and how to help them

Lately, Tesla has been keen to emphasize the performance of its cars on snow and ice, tweeting out a video of the Model 3 swashbuckling about a winter proving grounds and running a promotion in which customers can win the chance to drive on a frozen sea in Finland. Elon Musk is right to show that electric motors and their digital controls can provide great traction and control, but EV drivers have other factors to consider in winter weather: How far they can go, and how long it will take them to recharge.

Cold temperatures can hurt both, especially when it gets as severe as Winter Storm Jaden, which has triggered states of emergency across the country and will subject more than 70 percent of the US population to subzero temperatures over the next few days. That’s because the lithium-ion batteries that power EVs (as well as cellphones and laptops) are very temperature sensitive.