Hybrid vehicles are fun to drive, but they could perform poorly when the weather turns cold, mostly due to the fact that their fuel efficiency suffers significantly. The electrical systems lose efficiency as well, which leads to a drop in mileage.
Factors affecting performance of hybrid car in winter
Hybrid System Temperature
Components of the hybrid system, particularly the battery work best during warm environments. The onboard hybrid battery depends upon a chemical reaction to both release energy to the electric drive motor and accept charge during regenerative braking. When the battery is cold, this reaction is hampered, forcing the engine to run longer and more frequently to account for the deficit while the battery warms up.
Passenger Compartment Heat
Just like their conventional counterparts, hybrids depend on hot engine coolant circulating through the heater core (heat exchanger) to keep the cabin warm. The enhanced heater demand means the engine has to run more often to keep up.
Heavy Defroster Use
Running the defroster can also pull down mileage. When the defroster is on, not only is it dispensing heat from the heater core, but it also runs the AC compressor to remove moisture from the air. While it is fine if the compressor runs regular cycles during colder weather to preserve integrity of internal seals, overuse can lead to reduced fuel economy. In most hybrids, the compressor is run by its own electric motor instead of a belt from the engine, but this doesn’t allow the compressor to run penalty-free as the extra electric discharge needs more frequent recharging of the hybrid battery.
Tips to improve hybrid vehicle performance in colder months
- It is recommended to set the heater to the lowest comfortable level.
- Does your car have electrically heated seats? If yes, use them, so you are snug and cozy, while the entire cabin doesn’t have to be heated.
- Clearing heavily frosted windows won’t be a problem once you set the heater in defrost mode. Once the cabin is warm and windows are clear, turn this mode off, and don’t set it back again unless actually required.
- Keep an eye on tire pressure as they shouldn’t be underinflated or else the car won’t gain sufficient traction on roads.
- With black ice and slushy roadways a wintertime reality, not only is it safer to go easier on the accelerator, it is a good way to save fuel.
Follow these tips to enjoy driving your hybrid car in winter, the same way you do during the rest of the year!