(Updated on April 20, 2020)
Hybrid cars are known for their fuel efficiency and eco-friendly technology. People like to assume that hybrid cards will remain fuel efficient all year round. However, the performance of a hybrid car will actually be reduced in colder weather. This should not be a surprise since regular vehicles with gas engines tend to have the same problem. But this problem in hybrid cars is even worse because the cold temperatures will not only affect the gasoline engine, it will affect their electrical components as well. This causes the hybrid vehicle to lose even more fuel efficiency which, in turn, means fewer miles per gallon.
Causes of Lower Fuel Efficiency in Cold Weather
The electrical components in a hybrid vehicle will only work well if they are subjected to warm weather conditions. Out of all the components which need to remain warm, the hybrid battery is at the top of the list. Each time the hybrid battery transmits power to the electric motor, there is a chemical reaction going on inside the battery. This chemical reaction can only go smoothly if the temperature is warm. Otherwise, if the weather outside is cold, it could interfere with the chemical reaction inside the battery. Once that happens, the electric motor is not able to produce an adequate amount of electric power. The gasoline engine will then need to supplement more of the vehicle’s power which means there will be more fuel consumption.
Using the Heater
If it is cold outside, what is the first thing that you do when you get inside the car? You turn on the heat. Do you ever wonder how this heat is produced? Well, there is hot coolant which goes into the heater core of the vehicle. Air gets pushed through the heater core so that warm air comes out of the vents on the dashboard. But the only way that the hot coolant can circulate like this is if the engine is running. Even if your vehicle is idle, a running engine will consume fuel and generate carbon emissions. That is not what you should want as a hybrid vehicle owner.
Your gas mileage will be reduced if you use the defroster in cold temperatures. An activated defroster uses two things to do its job properly. It uses heat that is generated from the heater core and it uses the A/C compressor to get rid of the airborne moisture. The compressor is what drains the fuel economy of your hybrid vehicle. Most hybrid vehicles are designed with an extra electric motor to transmit energy to the compressor. This means that the hybrid battery must power this electric motor in addition to the main electric motor. Meanwhile, the gasoline engine will need to recharge the battery more frequently. This causes there to be more fuel consumption and fewer miles per gallon.
Low Tire Pressure
Do you ever notice that your tire pressure decreases in colder temperatures? This will happen with all vehicles, including hybrids. For every 10 degrees colder it gets, you will lose up to 2 psi of air pressure in your tires. This will make your vehicle more resistant to rolling and moving. Your engine will then need to work extra hard to keep the vehicle moving. This will result in more wasted fuel and a decrease in your miles per gallon.
Fuel Burning Difficulty
It is harder for an engine to burn fuel in cold temperatures. There is always a small amount of unburned fuel that stays inside the cylinder and then escapes through the exhaust system. The engine will be consuming more fuel just to perform its regular driving operation if this happens. You will find yourself spending more money at the pump and causing more carbon emissions to spread into the environment.