Advice when driving your electric car in winter
Snow, ice, rain, fog… Driving can be a real adventure at this time of year. Here are some suggestions to make sure there’s always a happy ending.
Winter is the most critical time of year when you’re behind the wheel. You can face a range of adverse conditions, each with their own set of rules for safe and pleasurable driving. First, we’ll look at what you need to bear in mind as an electric car driver, and then offer advice for any type of car.
Watch out for the quick acceleration when setting off.
Electric vehicles are automatic, so you don’t need to change gear or press down the clutch. That’s because maximum torque is achieved right from the start, or, in other words, it gives you full power from the moment you set off.
This translates into faster acceleration from a stationary position than a combustion-engine car. However, you must take a lot of care on a slippery surface, especially snow; wheels spin more, and this could cause the car to get stuck or skid. If there’s snow or ice on the road, you must therefore always press as gently as possible on the accelerator so that your car stays on course.
Take your foot off the accelerator rather than brake.
The latest electric car models are often fitted with regenerative braking to partially recharge their batteries. All you have to do is lift your foot slightly off the accelerator. This also means the car slows down automatically, and explains why the brakes are used very little in modern electric cars. This can be an important ally on slippery road surfaces, which are common at this time of year. Decelerations are smoother, meaning dreaded skidding can be avoided. Consequently, our advice is that you always use this system whenever you can, and leave the left foot for emergencies.
It isn’t always a good idea to wear T-shirts all the time.
Winter and its low temperatures tend to reduce battery life. We therefore recommend you don’t overuse the heating, as this adds to energy demand. If your car can be fitted with heated seats, it’s worth paying for them, because they consume much less. Whatever the case, plan your trip carefully before setting off because your electric car will have a shorter range than normal if the air temperature is very low. If you’re on a long trip, it’s always a good idea to get or make a map of the charging points along your route.
And here’s what every driver should do, no matter what car they have:
Visibility decreases considerably, so fog lights are your best friend. Never use your headlights because the beam bounces back and could dazzle you. Watch out though: only use your fog lights when you really need to, because the rear fog light is very bright and may bother or even dazzle other drivers. A piece of crucial advice: in fog, slow down and increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front.
On snow or ice
You need to avoid moving the steering wheel or pressing the brake or accelerator suddenly. Handle the car as smoothly as possible to ensure you don’t skid. The advice changes if you have to brake in an emergency: press the brake full on, as this is the only way the ABS will kick in to avoid skidding and shorten the stopping distance.
Your car will not move very much even in very strong winds because it weighs over a tonne. However, it might be buffeted about enough to push it off course, which is especially dangerous on single carriageways. You need to do two things if there’s a big gust of wind from the side: slow down (it pure physics that the faster you go, the more you’ll swerve) and grip the steering wheel harder than usual.
In heavy rain
One of the most feared phenomena in the rain is so-called aquaplaning, which occurs when there is more water on the road than your tyres can dissipate. A layer of water therefore forms under the tyres, which lose contact with the ground causing the car to become uncontrollable. No matter how much you turn the steering wheel, the car continues in a straight line. The only way of avoiding this is to slow down because the faster you drive, the more water your tyres have to dissipate in less time, which could overstretch them.