Mini E Electric Cars Struggle in the Cold

By Stephen Markley  on January 27, 2010

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In a potentially serious hiccup for the viability of widespread electric-vehicle adoption, consumers who have leased the Mini E battery-powered car have found that cold weather presents serious issues for the battery’s charge.

Cold weather performance hasn’t mattered too much in warmer states, but in the Northeast, Mini E drivers discovered that extreme cold can drain the battery more quickly. This leads to extreme range anxiety, since being stranded in below-freezing temperatures does not rank high on most car buyers’ lists of preferred features.

Mini says its electric car has a range of 100 to 120 miles, but New Jersey and New York drivers have reported running out of power far short of that — a problem that has led to some calls for tow trucks. Others report that in the cold, the car’s power begins to fade when it hits 70 mph.

We’re a bit stunned that common sense — and Mini itself — did not warn the Mini E drivers that batteries don’t play well with extreme cold temps. Everything from cell phones to laptops to, yes, conventional cars run less efficiently in subfreezing weather. Current Toyota Prius owners in cold climates report similar drops in mileage. The problem with the Mini E is that you can’t just pull over and hit a gas station when the meter dips too low.

Other automakers are trying to tackle the problem by introducing thermal management systems that can heat or cool a battery pack even when the car is not being charged. Coda Automotive, which will introduce an electric sedan in California later this year, has developed a management system for this purpose. However, electric vehicles and hybrids overall will still run less efficiently in these conditions. How much so will only be figured out over time.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside for Mini Es (Wheels)

MINI Hybrids/Alternative Fuels