Iowa City’s electric buses struggle with winter weather

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Bitterly cold weather can take a toll on vehicles. But electric vehicles are especially susceptible to winter.

According to AAA, all vehicles struggle to perform to the best of their ability when it’s cold outside. Diesel Heater 5kw

Iowa City’s electric buses struggle with winter weather

And one local expert says electric vehicles are especially susceptible to under-performance in low temperatures.

“Anything below 20 degrees, especially when it gets 0 or colder, they’ll have between a 39 and 45 percent reduction in their capacity to hold energy.” said Alan Makabi with Cedar Rapids Toyota.

Nakabi says one of the biggest issues is the battery’s inability to hold a full charge when it’s cold. But another big factor is drivers using energy on other tasks aside from driving.

“People have their defrost on high, they use their seat heaters typically, and they’re trying to warm the cabin up as fast as they can. And many people go on very short trips, this is what really eats up the battery.” said Makabi.

Owners of electric vehicles might have to adjust their charging habits in the cold.

But the problem is compounded for those who manage electric vehicles for public transit.

Like Iowa City, which has four electric buses.

It’s just a real challenge for an electric bus to keep the bus itself heated. The heater is a huge drain on the battery. " said Mark Rummel, Iowa City Transportation Services Associate Director.

Typically, the buses lose about 5 to 7 percent of their battery an hour, but during the cold, those numbers more than double.

That limited mileage means the had to get creative to keep routes covered.

“We’ll put an electric bus on a route that might be split during our peak times. So, in the morning, it may go out for a few hours, come back to base, then we can charge it for a few hours. And then it goes back out during the afternoon peak.” said Rummel.

Despite the seasonal challenges, Iowa City says it will continue investing in electric vehicles for public transit.

Unfortunately, Makabi says many of these issues are just in the nature of electric vehicles, but if you’re looking to save energy, he recommends checking tire pressure, removing any unnecessary bike racks or cargo, and keeping your car plugged in while heating up the cabin.

Iowa City’s electric buses struggle with winter weather

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