Turning the corner on Winter…

Well now that that stretch of nasty weather is behind us. Just as a refresher: Here in SE Michigan over the past week we’ve seen some of the worst winter weather in a decade. Almost 2′ of snow (which in and of itself isn’t that bad) combined with temperatures well below zero (-15F I think was the lowest temp I saw in our city). I think its safe to say that my FFE has seen the worst winter weather that it will see during the time that I’m driving it.

Most EV drivers in the northern climates wonder about that first winter with the EV:

  • How much range will I lose?
  • Will I be able to go without using heat?
  • How much additional electricity will be used by the heater?
  • What about keeping the windows clear, how much will that cost?

I haven’t really noticed a huge loss of range simply due to the cold. The guess-o-meter still reads around 70 miles of range in the morning when fully charged (in the summer I would frequently see 100 miles. I know that this isn’t a very accurate measure of actual range but the value at a given time–say first thing in the morning when fully charged–will reflect the power consumption for the previous day’s driving). Now if I have to use the heater at all during my commute the power consumption spikes dramatically (If I have to use the heat for the drive in I can double my power consumption).

Overall I’m still very pleased with the car. The winter “power loss” is about as I had expected from my research before I got the car. I’ve developed the following habits to cope with the cold with the FFE:

  • Use the go times to precondition the car to the highest temp setting for the morning commute in
  • Use the defroster on “Lo” to clear the foggy windows occasionally (when 20F or above, have to use heat for colder temps)
  • While at work park the car where it will get the most sunlight to keep it somewhat warmer
  • Clean off as much snow as possible–if you don’t it will stay there
  • When overnight temperatures are less than about 20 F or so garage the car (better for the batteries and when its that cold out the precondition has a hard time getting up to temp)
  • Remote start the car about 5 minutes before the return home commute when temps are colder and sky is overcast

You’d think that a small car like the FFE wouldn’t do very well driving around in all the snow and ice. Not so, after the recall fixes the traction control on the car has just been amazing. I’ve driven through some snow piles that I thought for sure I’d be getting stuck in. The car just drove through them like they weren’t even there. Slick ice, no problem–it just creeps along over the ice until it finds some pavement with a little more traction. Its kind of interesting: you hit a very slick spot and the car just slows down–like it knows better than you how to get through the gunk–then when it finds even the slightest bit of traction….you’re off! (You can even drive over the slick spots with the accelerator floored! Just be careful though because you’ll be off like a rocket as soon as the car gets traction again.)

My coworker did come up with a good suggestion for Ford to improve the climate control: Allow a defrost+re-circulation setting. This would take air from inside the cabin and blow it on the windows to defrost it. There is no CO danger like on an ICE car–since the car doesn’t make CO (the only source of CO2 is the passengers). This feature would also use less electricity if the driver did want to heat the air as the air in the car will be warmer than outside.

After all its only 33 days to spring training!


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