To be fair, the above picture isn’t actually winter. It was taken while Veronika and I enjoyed a trip to New Zealand in December 2015 in order to experience Christmas time in the summer once again – the way Christmas should be.
I also had the opportunity to test-drive a brand new BMW i3 with a range-extended petrol engine built in. It was a comfortable if unremarkable electric car, but it sure has some good acceleration. I wouldn’t mind one if they were more realistically priced and if they came with a bigger battery instead of an old-fashioned internal combustion engine installed. I guess BMW aren’t ready to follow Tesla just yet.
Before long, it was time to leave the warmth and sunshine and head back to Slovakia, which meant learning to drive my electric car in winter.
The cold winter weather meant that I had to effectively learn the characteristics of my car all over again. There wasn’t that much of a difference to be honest, but I’d be lying if I said there was no difference at all. I learned that the car gave me less range in the colder temperatures, though not a huge reduction.
I quickly learned however that using the heater takes a massive chunk out of the range. I mean that little electric heater uses heaps of electricity. So much so, that I think next winter I’ll copy the brilliant idea from Ben Nelson, and install a tiny fuel-sipping “parking heater”. He did a really tidy, professional install of an tap-in heating system which costs almost nothing to run yet heats the cabin of the car brilliantly while using no more electricity than just running the fan. Cool huh?
Another idea to create more space under the tiny hood in the Peugeot iOn / Mitsubishi iMiEV / Citroen C-Zero in order to install a parking heater system is to move the big lead-acid “starter” battery to a different location. And, while you’re at it, get rid of it and put a lightweight lithium battery in it’s place, as Jarkko Santala did here! He also installed a fuel heater in his electric car, along with heaps of other modifications. Both the aforementioned blogs are great reading with lots of pictures. If you like tinkering, then grap a cuppa and check them out!
There are endless blogs and research info on the internet about winter affecting electric cars, but as we all know, the best way to learn is through hands-on experience. So I did a few warm weather versus cold weather comparisons which I included in the video at the bottom of this page.
As you can see in the above picture, I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a plug-in hybrid (secret code for an electric-assist bicycle) which is something I wanted for years. Thank you, Christmas bonus!
The only problem was that it was the middle of winter so I couldn’t exactly take it for a spin.
Well, thanks to a planet full of gas cars and coal power stations I only had to wait a couple of days for winter to temporarily end as a freak mid-winter heatwave arrived.
This meant I was able to go for a nice long ride in a sunny 11°C (52°F) when it should have been -11°C (12°F). Very, very strange indeed.
On one hand I loved being able to ride my bike in the middle of the Slovak winter, but on the other it made me sad because we all know this shouldn’t be happening. We’re really pulling our delicate climate apart.
On a more positive note, I noticed my electric bike’s battery comes with a USB socket. This means I can charge my phone on the go. Kinda cool.
Overall it’s been a real adventure this winter, learning the eccentricities of my little city electric car, but I’ve had no unpleasant surprises because the range difference wasn’t staggering (as long as you don’t touch the heater).
Another thing I discovered about my electric car was the button that turned off the stability and traction control. This meant that when the snow began falling, I was able to use this button to devolve into a fully-grown manchild, sliding my electric car around an empty street!
I experienced and learned a lot more than what I’ve just explained in text however, so to see the rest, including cold weather comparisons, my brief TV appearance, and even a cameo by Hitler wearing ridiculous socks, click on the video below!
Drive safe, and of course, drive electric!