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Will electric vehicles charge in subzero temps? Keith Carson puts it to the test

A viral video showed an EV unable to charge in below zero temperatures, so Keith Carson plugged one in on the coldest night of the winter.

PORTLAND, Maine — A few months ago, a viral video circulated online showing that an electric vehicle tester was unable to DC fast charge his vehicle in temperatures below zero Fahrenheit. 

NEWS CENTER Maine wanted to put this to the test here in Maine, so on the coldest night of the year so far, meteorologist Keith Carson drove his electric vehicle to an Electrify America fast-charging station in Scarborough. 

The outside temperature on the dashboard minus 10 Fahrenheit when he plugged it into the charging station. The Portland Jetport at that time was reporting minus 11 F. 

The fast-charging cord was a bit stiff because of the cold, but he was able to plug in and begin charging. But at what speed? 

The cold battery pack initially limited the limiting charging speed to 17 kwh, which is far lower than the max charge rate for the vehicle of 77 kwh. 

After 10 mins, the charging action started to warm up the battery, which led to a charging rate of 28 to 30 kwh. Still substantially below the max "ideal weather" charge rate. At this rate, the car estimated it would need one hour or more to charge the battery.

So, yes, charging was working in these frigid temperatures, but the speed of charge was greatly throttled.

This is not the case for all EVs, however. Some have a preconditioning battery warmer that will heat the battery before fast charging in cold weather. 

One viewer sent NEWS CENTER Maine a screenshot of his Tesla charging on the same night, with a dashboard temperature reading minus 9 F, and the vehicle was able to pull 126 kwh, meaning it was charging at four times the rate of Keith's Kia Niro EV.

Bottom line: You may need to set aside more time to charge your electric vehicle during extreme cold, but it depends largely on what model of EV you buy.

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