Uber Driver Alarmed He Has to Spend All Day Charging Electric Car in Cold Weather

Cold Shoulder

An Uber driver in Chicago tells The New York Times that he's being forced to charge his electric Chevy Bolt practically all day because sub-zero temperatures in recent days have been sapping his car battery, and he isn't the only driver struggling.

While Tesla drivers have been in the news for dead cars at charging stations, drivers of other electric vehicles have also been bedeviled by the same problem, the NYT reports, adding to the bottleneck.

"When it’s cold like this, cars aren’t functioning well, chargers aren’t functioning well, and people don’t function so well either," the Uber driver, Javed Spencer, told the NYT.

This past weekend, Spencer was headed to a charging station in his Chevy Bolt, which had about 30 miles remaining. But as soon as he set out on his trip, the car died and he had it towed to the charging station.

But he confronted more problems at the station because at first it wouldn't charge after he plugged it in, the NYT reports. Now, he says, it takes five hours to charge versus an hour when it's not freezing.

Diss Road

It's a bind. Electric vehicles are a better environmental choice, but they come with irritating tradeoffs.

All vehicles perform less efficiently in the cold, but electric vehicles are uniquely vulnerable due to the fact that cold temperatures can slow down chemical reactions within electric batteries, the NYT reports.

"It ends up being very difficult to make battery electric vehicles work in very cold conditions," University of California, Irvine professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of the Clean Energy Institute Jack Brouwer told the NYT. "You cannot charge a battery as fast or discharge a battery as fast if it’s cold. There’s no physical way of getting around."

Cold yet highly electrified places like Norway don't have as many problems with stranded drivers at charging stations, according to the NYT, but that country has more charging stations and many more people power up their vehicles at home.

For now, headaches will persist for drivers of electric vehicles in places like Chicago as large swaths of the nation brace for more cold weather for the rest of the week. All we can say to drivers of electric vehicles is good luck and stay warm.

More on electric vehicles: Dead Cars Surround Chargers as Teslas Struggle in Frozen Weather