The Mills Administration has made it a top priority to get Mainers driving electric vehicles (EVs) as part of its mission to lower carbon emissions and global temperatures.
The latest effort on the EV front is a campaign to enact new limits on internal combustion engines that will phase in overtime.
That rule was drafted by the left-wing Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), which submitted a petition to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and it is based upon California’s similar regulations. Whether the rule comes into effect depends now on Gov. Janet Mills.
As the Maine Wire reported last week:
Adoption of these new regulations would essentially result in the state phasing out the sale of gas-powered cars and trucks in favor of zero-emissions vehicles over the course of the next few years.
Instead, residents of Maine, which has some of the highest electricity prices in the country, would be forced to use electric vehicles.
Maine’s high cost of electricity complicates the Mills Administration’s efforts to encourage — or mandate — EVs in Maine.
But so does Maine’s weather. Specifically, the frigidly cold winters.
According to a scientific paper from 2020, cold temperatures cause EVs to charge much slower.
A study published in July by the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) examined data from EVs (Nissan Leafs) operating as taxis in New York.
That study found charging times for the EVs grew longer when the temperatures ran colder.
“Battery researchers have known about the degradation of charging efficiency under cold temperatures for a long time,” said Yutaka Motoaki, an EV researcher with INL’s Advanced Vehicles research group, according to an INL press release.
The temperatures in that experiment ranged from 14 degrees to 103 degrees, which doesn’t capture the worst of the cold that a Maine winter can supply.
From the INL:
The researchers found that charging times increased significantly when the weather got cold. When an EV battery was charged at 77 degrees, a DCFC charger might charge a battery to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes. But at 32 degrees, the battery’s state of charge was 36 percent less after the same amount of time.
And the more the temperature dropped, the longer it took to charge the battery. Under the coldest conditions, the rate of charging was roughly three times slower than at warmer temperatures.
Motoaki and his colleagues used the data to create a map showing regions of the country where EV owners might experience longer charging times due to cold temperatures. As expected, high elevation regions and the northernmost parts of the country were more likely to be identified as places where cold temperatures could most affect charging times.
The researchers also produced a map that shows where EVs are likely to function best and where they’re likely to function worst.
According to that map, Maine is the worst possible place to own an EV. However, the researchers did note that owners who charge their vehicles in a heated garage may not experience slower charge times.
Charging times aren’t the only impact the cold can have on EVs.
More recent research from the Seattle-based Recurrent Auto showed that cold temperatures can diminish the total range an EV can get out of a single charge by as much as 35 percent.
The cold reduces EV performance because the chemical reactions in batteries happen slower in cold temperatures than in normal or warm temperatures.
But that’s not the only factor.
Unlike internal combustion engines, which can use the heat generated by the engine to warm the interior of the vehicle, EVs must use energy from the battery to warm the cabin.
That means running an EV during cold weather will drain the battery much faster, thereby shortening the distance an EV can travel on a single charge.