Let It Snow, Let it Snow, Let it EV Snow!

Saturday 21st February 2015

I love the snow I really do, but now I have had enough. I wouldn’t mind if we had one big snowfall, a couple of feet maybe, and that be it, instead of the continuous dribble we are having this winter. We are getting a few inches here and there and then the freezing rain. Oh my goodness there is nothing worse than freezing rain.

I can tolerate the snowfall, that’s easy, it snows, you get up the next morning, get dressed up in many layers and go and clear it up, again and again, especially it seems this winter. But the freezing rain, that stops everything. I know when it snows I’m not going out until later that day, but with freezing rain I am not going anywhere at all that day and maybe not the next either. It’s so dangerous.

Now with snow I know my EV will be okay as I’m not likely to go out while it’s snowing or until the roads are clear. That’s always best anyway as it gives the ploughs and the gritters chance to clear the road. I’m lucky that I work from home so I don’t need to go out, although I am cross that I have to keep missing my exercise class! Very frustrating.

One thing though that I do find a little frustrating is the loss of range, particularly in this really cold weather, -18℃ / -4℉. It’s jolly cold. Now, I know all about loss of range and it doesn’t surprise me but still I get frustrated by it. Currently on my BMW i3 I am regularly seeing 60 miles of predicted range. Now, I could likely get more than this as I haven’t tested it out fully, after all my commute to exercise and back is only a 14 mile round trip. So, the lower range estimate, for me isn’t a big deal, but if I wanted to go on that longer trip with the heat on, would I be able to do so in comfort? We know from previous experiences with our other EV’s that no, you can’t do more than 70 miles in total comfort (that was the ActiveE). You could, however, do nearer to 90 if you turned the heat off – Brrr, where did I put the blanket? – and reduced your speed. Not the most fun of journeys. Preconditioning does help. We still need that longer range small EV at a reasonable price. I’m talking 120 mile range for around $40,000. Can it be done? I’m not sure, but I’d like to think so.

I have spent too many winters wrapped up in blankets and yes, even a duvet once – well you do what you have to do as Pioneers! But that isn’t what I want to do anymore. My sidekick can not do his once 72 mile roundtrip commute in comfort without access to a good charging network or workplace charging. So here is where we have the issue. An EV with a 80 mile range is perfectly acceptable if you can drive in comfort and have access to a good charging network, preferably a fast charging one. If not, then it isn’t pleasant. But, we would and do make the sacrifice to continue driving electric – There is no petrol for us, we gave that up over 5 years ago and there is no going back, ever!

But, then, the other issue we are also faced with is buying an EPA rated EV at 81 miles (the BMW i3) which is great in the warmer months but as soon as you hit temperatures below 10℃ / 50℉ then you are looking at a loss in range which changes the use of your EV. Now, we were fully aware of this problem as we have been driving EV’s for a long time but what happens to that unsuspecting, new EV driver that wasn’t anticipating a potential loss of 20 miles of range? I think there needs to be full disclosure when purchasing EV’s, letting you know that you will see a drop in range when the weather is chilly. Of course, the reverse happens in the summer when we are seeing range into the 90’s. I had hoped that having the heat pump on my BMW i3 would have meant that my loss of predicted range was not so significant, maybe it isn’t but it just seems that way. I do know that when temperatures are below freezing the batteries are just too cold to keep those watt-hours in, so yes my range will go down but, that isn’t really acceptable, what we need is to have an EV with a 120 mile range, that we know will potentially go down to 100 in the cold winter months. Back to temper tantrums and demanding longer range EV’s with a good fast charge network.

Why we don’t go out in the snow:

Tyre tread matters: Fun in the snow with the ActiveE

When we had all that snow last year – because it does seem to happen every year – school decided to close early. Now, why they do this I do not know as it puts everyone on the roads at the worst part of the snowy day. The roads are bad, the gritters haven’t managed to get out to every road and certainly not mine – we are always last on the list. But the schools continually do this and every year too! Anyway, I had to go and pick up my child from school. Getting there was fine, it was the return journey that turned into a bit more of an issue. I had managed to get all the way back from school to my road – it doesn’t matter which way I go to get to my road as I have hills to get up in all directions to get to my house. I have a choice between a long steep hill; a short steep hill or downhills and uphills so I opted for the short steep hill, or rather my trusty sidekick told me to take that one! I turned into my road and hoped and prayed we would make it up the hill. Umm, it wasn’t happening, two thirds of the way up and the ActiveE said no, I’m too heavy. Great, brilliant, stuck on the hill. The tyres just couldn’t get any grip. The ActiveE had all season tyres and probably the reason they were struggling to get grip was as much to do with the fact that they were low on tread depth after 45,000 EV miles and not just the fact that there was snow on the ground. Fortunately, I didn’t roll back down and the car held on the hill. One quick phone call, without even thinking, to ones most trusty sidekick. Please bring the snow shovel. As my trusty sidekick togged up against the snow, we waited until, appearing over the brow of the hill, there he was – albeit looking rather snowy!! The child and I got out of the car and my sidekick got in and proceeded to bounce the tyres off the kerb as we pushed until he had gotten to the top of the hill. We got back into the car and slithered down the other side of the hill to the house. Happy to be back in the driveway and all safe, the car went straight into the garage, where it stayed until the snow had stopped and they had cleared the road. Fun times!

Beware of deep snow and low profile cars

My trusty sidekick would like to say a few words – Imagine a bright day, the sun shining, a covering of snow perhaps four or five inches but a strong cold wind whipping up the snow into drifts here and there. Whilst battling through the snow in the Roadster I found myself following a big SUV along a back-country road. The snow was quite deep in places but the SUV was cutting a decent path for me. I could occasionally feel the snow between the tracks cut by the SUVs wheels swishing along the aluminium clad floor of the Roadster. It was a straight road and, with the grip from the chunky rears on the Roadster we were travelling in convoy at quite a pace. That was until, the SUV crested a small hill and I witnessed a plume of snow emanating from both sides – he’d plowed through a drift that had been formed on the other side of the hill – Great, I thought, he’s just cut right through that so, no problem for me… Until I hit the same drift and found the Roadster lifted from the ground – the grooves that the SUV cut were far deeper than the ground clearance offered by the Roadster! This left me skimming across the snow sliding like a toboggan… A really expensive, toboggan, at about 30mph. I touched the brakes – nothing, turned the wheel – nothing – the wheels weren’t even on the ground – the speedo dropt to zero! I could feel the rough snow through the floor at my feet. This went on for at least 100 nail biting yards before my wheels finally touched back down, that’s great I thought, just saved 100 yards of range – nice.