Canada’s winter weather will have an impact on fleet EV operation.
This past winter was memorable in Eastern Canada for more snow and colder temperatures than any winter in many years. In Guelph, we are waiting for our first electric vehicles—four transit buses and four passenger cars. It’s a good time to consider how winters like this will affect them.
Cold weather impact
It’s no surprise that they don’t work as well in cold weather as they do when it’s warmer. The same is true of conventional vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE).
But the cold won’t prevent electric vehicles from flourishing. Look at Quebec and Norway, two places with long, cold winters that have booming EV populations.
The distance that can be driven in an EV may go down in cold weather, so learning the limitations and adapting to them is necessary.
First, use them where limited distances are not an issue. If every trip your vehicles take is over 300 kilometres in a day, then EVs aren’t for you right now. But if the distance is less, and there are lots of jobs with travel that never leaves a small area, then having an EV to drive at -15°C is not much different than a gasoline vehicle.
It was a relief to learn that Ontario’s OnRoute service stations will be equipped with DC fast charging equipment in time for this summer’s travel season. It will make long distance travel along the Highway 400 and 401 corridors much easier for EV drivers.
Snow is another matter. Snow can defeat the most robust of vehicles, even fire trucks. Having good tires can help. Learning how your vehicle behaves on snow-covered roads is the best way to getting through without any problems.
Those driving techniques come down mainly to three driving situations. The first and most important is stopping the vehicle without hitting anything else. This takes real-world practice in a safe area. Having a professional driver trainer for instruction is better than experimenting on your own. Stopping distances on snow or ice are much greater than on dry pavement. Every driver should learn how tor adapt their driving to avoid losing control or worse.
The next is accelerating. Learning how to feel the tires gaining traction also takes practice, so does steering to avoid a skid or loss of direction. It makes no difference if the vehicle is electric or ICE. A collision with a tree will end up about the same either way.
Protecting the vehicle when it is not in use is also important. Many drivers know that parking a vehicle where the wind blows on the front of the motor can make it difficult or impossible to start if left that way for too long. Parking the vehicle under cover can avoid lost time brushing off snow or scraping ice from windows.
EV drivers may have the ability to charge their vehicles at home or while they are at work. This type of “refuelling” is much more convenient than putting on a heavy coat and gloves to pump gasoline or diesel at a gas station.
Travelling in the winter when the roads are bare and the sun is shining has rewards that are not possible in summer, like the absence of bugs being smashed all over the windshield or dust coming in the side windows. Whether it’s electric or fossil fuel, this kind of vehicle experience is still something to savour.
Chris Hill has been a fleet manager and advisor with some of Canada’s best-known companies, several municipalities and the Ontario government. He has served twice as chair of NAFA Ontario Chapter. Currently he is Program Manager, Fleet Planning at the City of Guelph.