"The appeal of electric vehicles continues to grow since a greater variety of designs and options with increased range have come into the market", Greg Bannon, AAA's director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations, said in a statement. "As long as drivers understand that there are limitations when operating electric vehicles in more extreme climates, they are less likely to be caught off guard by an unexpected drop in driving range".
The tests also found that in addition to temperature drops during a cold snap, high temperatures can also cut into the battery range.
Regardless of which model - BMW i3 S, Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S and Volkswagen e-Golf - was put under the microscope on a dynamometer in a climate-controlled room, the range bleed was much the same.
Firing up the heater or air conditioner took things to a whole new level: in the cold, with their heaters on, cars lost 41% of their range and in the heat, with the air conditioning on, they lost 17%.
On average, an ambient temperature of 20°F resulted in a 12 percent decrease of combined driving range and a 9 percent decrease of combined equivalent fuel economy (when compared to testing conducted at 75°F). The vehicles were tested using the ARC's climate-controlled test cell and state-of-the-art chassis dynamometer and data-logging equipment. All have a range of at least 100 miles per charge.
If drivers don't use the HVAC system, the estimated driving range for EVs was "moderately impacted by hot and cold temperatures" compared to the range during tests conducted at 75 degrees Fahrenheit, AAA said.
It found that the BMW i3s performed the worst, as its range at 20° F (-6.6° C) with the climate control system on dropped by more than 50 percent. To help "green" auto shoppers make an informed choice, AAA conducts independent, rigorous test-track evaluations of plug-in hybrids, hybrid and fuel-efficient, gas-powered vehicles and releases the results every spring in its annual Green auto Guide.
Ronak Patel, a CPA auditor in New Jersey, discussed his issues with the Tesla Model 3 he purchased in August stating: "My biggest concern is the cold weather drained my battery 20 to 25 miles overnight and an extra five to ten miles on my drive to work".
'It would easily use double the amount of power for that 15-mile trip, ' said Mr Hughes, who owns four Teslas.
The cars use energy to heat the battery coolant in cold weather, as well as for heating the cabin, Hughes said.
Range would take a hit mainly for short trips, and the decrease wouldn't be as large on longer trips once the battery and cabin are heated, Hughes said. 'If you want to go somewhere far in the cold, you're going to be using more power'. The findings showed extreme cold can have a significant impact on the battery's range.
AAA says electric cars can still be used in extreme climates but recommends that drivers heat or cool their cars while still plugged in to a charging station.