Why you might have trouble charging your electric car if it’s hot

We know that electric cars don’t like the cold very much, but very high temperatures can also affect their correct functioning. Therefore.

Electric cars are a bit like people: being too hot or too cold affects their overall performance. The cold causes EVs to increase their consumption and recharge more slowly at direct current (DC) terminals. This is also the case during heat waves, but it is a little less known. One thing is certain: if you have more difficulty charging your electric vehicle when the outside temperatures are very high, this is not abnormal.

It is not always the car’s fault if the charging power is low. Charging stations also suffer from frequent exposure to direct sunlight.

Not all cars are created equal in the heat

Batteries are particularly sensitive to weather conditions. For optimal operation, anodes and cathodes must remain within a given temperature range. This temperature range depends on the type of battery used and is specific to each model, but overall they should be below 40°C.

Depending on the refrigerants that the manufacturers have put in place to cool the battery, the vehicles will therefore be more or less affected by high temperatures. Many of the electric models that have recently entered the market have more efficient cooling than before. The liquid cooling system is preferred now, and even more specifically for large capacity batteries. However, some vehicles of older design, such as the Renault Zoé or Nissan Leaf, have much less efficient cooling systems.

Zoe is in charge. // Source: Pixabay @Stivabc

Motorways and fast charging can quickly give an electric car that does not have an adequate cooling system a fever. This was especially what Challenges had been able to experience with the Leaf in 2019. If we combine poor cooling for certain purposes with high heat, we get more complex situations to deal with. Sometimes you need to wait a while before starting the recharge so that the battery returns to acceptable temperatures. These strategic choices, and often cost reductions, are made by manufacturers at the expense of buyers who know little or nothing about these technical aspects of operating an electric vehicle.

In short, if it’s very cold or very hot, sometimes you have to be a little patient to charge. If the battery is not at the right temperature, the charging power can be limited by the built-in system to preserve the battery. It is also necessary to know how to be alert at the slightest signs of possible overheating. As with a thermal model, a pause when the dashboard indicates an anomaly may make sense.

Terminals also suffer from exposure to the sun

During the summer period, it is not uncommon to come across charging stations that are out of order, even more so than the rest of the year. With many requests during the long departures on holiday and exposure to direct sunlight, these two ingredients together put the electronic components to the test. Terminals can also overheat and operate in degraded mode.

Fastned has understood this well by placing its terminals under shade overhangs, which are also covered with solar panels. Total Energies also installs its fast charging stations under awnings. It is high time that other manufacturers and charging network operators also consider this solution. It is also useful both when it is raining and when it is bright and sunny and you can no longer read the displays on the control screen.

Fixed station on motorway. // Source: Raphaelle Baut for Numerama

A charging station is only profitable if it is functional and used. So there is still progress.

Battery technologies are developing rapidly, as are terminal technologies. While we wait for technologies that will be less sensitive to the weather, we unfortunately have to know how to make some concessions.

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