Cold Weather Fuel Efficiency : Electric Versus Gasoline Showdown

 In FleetCarma Updates

Update: We’ve updated the labeling on the graphic included, another thank you to some eagle eyed commenters!

When we released real-world data showing how the ranges of Chevrolet Volts and Nissan Leafs changed with plummeting temperatures we wanted to show not just overall trends, but how much variation existed from trip to trip.

This time we took it a few steps further. With this infographic, our analysis focuses not on the differences within electric vehicle models, but the differences between electric and gasoline vehicles as temperatures drop. We looked through FleetCarma’s real world database to find how much the fuel economy of each vehicle changes at and below freezing temperatures.It is important to note that the specific numbers used in the infographic below represent aggregates, the specific sensitivity of an individual make or model will vary heavily for electric vehicles. Different electric vehicle models will use dramatically different power loads. A topic we’re going to cover more next week.


As shown in the infographic we can see that the key take-away from comparisons like this is that while the factors that cause the range of a vehicle to shrink differ between electric and gas vehicles, when the costs are analyzed on a cost-per-mile basis the savings improve at lower temperatures.

You can learn more about how cold climates affect the performance of electric vehicles by watching our The Truth About Electric Vehicles in Cold Weather Webinar.

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The Truth About Electric Vehicles in Cold Weather Webinar

 What was your favorite part of the infographic?

Let us know in the comments below!


Megan Allen
Megan Allen is a Vehicle Technology Analyst at FleetCarma. She recently graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor in Chemical Engineering.
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  • larryh

    Why does cold weather performance of tires have such a greater impact on EVs than gasoline powered vehicles, i.e. -13% vs -4%. I would expect increased rolling resistance due to cold weather would be the same for both. How are you computing this factor?

    • Djoni

      It’s the same resistance applied on less energy available, so the impact is much more noticeable.

      • larryh

        Then why doesn’t the increased aerodynamic drag in cold weather also have significantly more impact for EVs? Both effects impose additional resistance to the propelling the car.

        • HI Larry – that is a good question. The main reason is that aero represents a larger fraction of the load on an EV. Setting aside powertrain losses and auxiliaries, the loads can be put into three main buckets: aero, rolling, braking. In an EV you recoup a portion of the braking through regenerative braking. So the effects of aero and rolling have a larger share of the “load pie” in an EV. So denser air increasing aero losses will have a disproportionately bigger impact on an EV than on an ICE. So you may not have expected it, but the answer to why EVs are proportionally more impacted by aero drag in cold weather is: …because of regen braking.

  • jstack6

    the heater in most EVs is not very efficient. A gas car has lots of waste heat since it produces mostly heat, friction ,pollution and is only 15-20% efficient to begin with.,

    The Heat pump in the 2013 LEAF is super efficient, maybe all EVs will make that important change in the future.

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  • Peter Forint

    EV Drivers… Pre-heat your interior while plugged into the grid and you’ll extend your cold weather range and be warm.
    2010 Prius Driver (hey, my next car will be plug-in)

  • Stephen Bieda

    This is great information! Thank you Megan.

  • Joe Huber

    If the EV range (efficiency???) shrinks more at low temps vs an ICE (first graph), then what enables the EV payback (electric costs) to become favorable vs an ICE (last graph)?

    • praos

      Lower cost of energy, as simple as that. More energy squandered, but at lower cost. Relative v. absolute, energy v. money.

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  • Roger Pham

    A simple engine block heater using plugged in home electricity can eliminate the majority of cold climate inefficiency of gasoline car. In fact, cars in cold climates should be equipped with engine block heater to ensure reliable cold start. Engine compartment insulation or engine block insulation is another way to keep the heat in.

  • I think that gasoline vehicle is better than electric vehicles because in that type of vehicle we can use gas and most of the places that gasoline are available compare to electric point, but I also never use that electric car so maybe I am wrong about it.

    gas to gasoline

  • Xiaolong Li

    I am going to put it out here that I find this report very misleading or incomplete. Here is the reason why. It doesn’t show what is the price of electricity used in the calculation or the price of gasoline. In addition, the mpg of the comparable gasoline vehicles aren’t provided either. It would be helpful if Fleet Carma would provide those information as well the size of the survey.
    Average electricity cost in the US is hitting almost $0.13/kWh. If the so called electric vehciles are costing $0.026 per miles, then it is getting 5 miles per kWh on the US grid that including the charging loss and EVSE loss. Anyone with any kind of experience in EVs or follow EPA’s rating on EVs knows that is impossible due to the fact that charging loss adds typically 15% loss to the rating. 5miles/kWh is 168.5mpge. Yes, certainly trips can happen with those kind of efficiency but there is NO way that LEAF and Volt can average that for the fleet.
    Now, let us look at reverse sides of the comparable gasoline cars. $0.15/miles is really expensive for today’s gasoline price in the US. Even if we assume it is $3/gallon, then $0.15/miles indicates an average mpg of 20mpg. That is sigifnicantly lower than the typical midsize or compact size gasoline cars comparable to LEAF and Volt can get in the real world if you derate the EPA rating by another 10-20%. The math doesn’t add up.
    I sure hope that Fleet Carma can address those questions such as the price of electricity and gasoline used, comparable gasoline modles and their respective MPGs.