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Does an Electric Car Need to Warm Up?

A car charging at an EV station in snowy weather.

Does an electric car need to warm up on cold days? Definitely! Warming up your electric car has distinct benefits. Let’s take a closer look.

Gas-Powered Engines: Then and Now

For context, let’s start with a quick look back at gas-powered engines. Decades ago, letting your car’s engine run for a few minutes before beginning your journey was advisable on cold days. That’s because cars back then had carburetors that needed the engine to warm up first so they could function properly.

These days, most gas-powered cars have replaced carburetors with fuel injectors that make warming up the engine unnecessary. But there are still good reasons to heat your vehicle before getting behind the wheel on cold days. Letting the engine run for a few minutes before hitting the road gives you a chance to get warm air flowing through the car’s cabin, giving you a toasty environment ahead of departure. Many vehicles now even have a feature that allows you to run both the engine and climate control remotely before actually getting in.

Electric Powertrains: Does an Electric Car Need to Warm Up?

So, is it advisable to let your electric vehicle (EV) warm up before driving on wintery days? As mentioned, yes.

Warming up the car before you unplug and drive away is advisable with an EV mainly because it will help preserve your battery range.

EVs have to draw on electricity to warm the interior. If you enter a car with a cold cabin and begin driving, the vehicle will need to take from its stored electricity to bring the inside air to a pleasant temperature. This will tax the EV’s battery and leave you with less driving range.

The Value of Grid PowerEV being charged

If you want to preserve battery range for driving on cold days, the best solution is to let your EV run for a few minutes before leaving to give the cabin time to warm up. When you do, keep the car plugged in and connected to grid power so the EV will be using that for the heating process instead of the battery. That will give you a warm cabin without reducing your battery range.

Once you begin driving, the car will need to draw on the battery to continue running the heater. But maintaining the temperature in a cabin that’s already warm requires less electrical power than warming an interior that’s freezing cold. The impact on your car’s battery range will be less if you warm the interior while it’s plugged in than if you hadn’t done so before driving away.

When warming up your EV at home, keep it connected to a level 2 charger if possible. If you plug the car into a 120-volt outlet, you may not get enough voltage to fully support the heating process, which could lead to diminished battery range.

Electric cars are the wave of the future, and more and more automakers are adding them to their fleets. The best way to ensure you’re prepared for driving an EV in winter weather is to follow the steps for warming before you disconnect from your power source.

Check out all the EV-related products available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on warming up electric cars, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Warren Clarke View All

I'm a writer and editor who's a regular contributor with the New York Daily News and Carfax, and my content has appeared in over 20 publications. I've written content that covers industries such as automotive, medical, insurance, healthcare, real estate, plumbing, pest control, dental and hospitality.

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