There are many ways for electric-vehicle owners to optimize the efficiency and range of their cars even in frosty temperatures. The Automotive News Data Center said that there was a 54% rise in sales (368,388 units) last year of alternative power vehicles, which include the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and Nissan Leaf EV. Last winter wasn’t as intense as the current chill that the nation has been experiencing the last few weeks. Volt spokeswoman Michelle Malcho estimates that in cold weather, the 2013 Volt, which has an EPA rating of 38-mile electric range, can lose around 13 miles of distance. As soon as energy runs out, the Volt's gasoline-powered engine kicks in to extend range by 344 miles more. In 2012, General Motors sold 23,461 Volts, which is three times the number it sold in 2011. Other factors that affect the range lost on the Volt include driving style and heating methods. For example, Malcho said that owners should think about warming themselves with the heated seats instead of the heater in order to save energy. In addition, the Volt has an EV hold mode that owners can use while warming it before their morning commute. When this mode is activated, owners can choose if they want to use electricity from the battery or if they want to make the drive using gasoline. In an interview, Malcho said that it’s more efficient to start the car with gas. As soon as the car is warmed up, it’s best to use battery to extend the range. According to a Nissan spokesman, the Leaf is getting a "hybrid heating system" to fight energy-intensive climate control units that make the range suffer.
Gallery: 2013 Nissan Leaf