5 Reasons Why Hybrid Cars Lose Fuel Efficiency in Cold Weather

Hybrid cars are known for their fuel efficiency and eco-friendly technology, but with their advantages come disadvantages. 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 hybrid vehicles to lose even more fuel efficiency which, in turn, means fewer miles per gallon.

Related: 5 Tips to Maximize Your Hybrid’s Fuel Economy

Causes of Lower Fuel Efficiency in Cold Weather

1) Hybrid Battery

hybrid car battery

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 too 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. On top of that, the lifespan of the battery can be reduced.

2) Using the Heater

turn on 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.

3) Defrosting

car hard to start when cold

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.

4) Low Tire Pressure

best tire pressure gauge

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.

5) 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.


7 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why Hybrid Cars Lose Fuel Efficiency in Cold Weather”

    • I have a Rav4 Limited and yes, it does get much better when I’m not using the heater/heated seats and steering wheel. With gas so expensive, I’ve been using the heater sparingly lately (helps that spring is here!) and mileage is back up over 40 MPG. I’d say the worst I’ve had in the dead of winter is about 33 or 34 mpg. Oddly, running the A/C doesn’t seem to affect my MPG.

    • Mine dropped 44-45mpg to 41 mpg in winter. Make sure you do the oil change and check the cabin air filter, try not to drive over 72 mpg and follow eco mode or normal mode. Driving, sports mode take more fuel a d speeding too. Fill up with good brand gasoline.

  1. All cars lose fuel efficiency in cold weather, due to the above mentioned factors, so discounting the overall economy of hybrids is really not necessary here. The fact that hybrids’ optimal mileage begins so much higher than their ICE counterparts still deserves credit. Even a 30% drop in mileage still results in a number that beats the roughly 15% drop in mileage of ICE vehicles.

  2. It’s nice to see an honest negative comment on electric/hybrid cars, I have a suspicion that all is not as eco as we are led to believe, when manufacture and disposal of engines, motors and batteries are considered instead of just comparing driving emissions!


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