Outlander PHEV problem with the cold

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Outlander PHEV winterCannot the plug-in hybrid handle  the winter cold ?

Yesterday I noticed something interesting and at the same time worrying. The EV drive mode did not work properly at -20 degrees celsius (-4 F). Lets start from the beginning …
To heat the interior of the car in winter and cold temperatures the petrol engine has to generate the heat. Now it can feel like a loss to have an electric car that needs to use the gasoline engine in winter. You can then use the pre-heater to heat the cabin before leaving. The heater is using the car’s driving battery to power the heater, therefore it is best to do this during charging so as not to jeopardise the range on EV drive If you have a 16A charger it will charge at the same rate as the pre-heater uses battery. If you have a 10A charger it will not keep up with the required charging.
I usually pre-heat for 30 min and the heat produced lasts for 15 minutes, depending on outside temperature, without additional heat from the petrol engine, especially when using the seat heaters and steering wheel heating.

To ensure that the petrol engine is not enabled you can put the ventilation and heating system in the OFF position.

Yesterday, for the first time this winter the temperature was -20 degrees Celsius (-4 F). I had had my Outlander in garage overnight where the temperature was -6 degrees C (21 F). I used the pre-heat for 30 minutes just before departure. With EV drive only I drove toward Soderhamn, 25 km south and started the ventilation and heating system when I got half way to bring up the heat in the car again. At that time the petrol engine started, as it should. When I reached the desired temperature I turned the ventilation and heating system off again and the petrol engine was shut down and I ran only on EV drive.

During the day the car is parked in Soderhamn in -20 degrees temperatures (-4 F). When I´m, about to leave for home the car is fully charged and before leaving I pre-heated the car in 30 minutes. HOWEVER when I try using the same procedure as before with the ventilation and heating system switched off I didn’t manage to get the petrol engine to stop. The entire trip is made with the engine running and the only time it shuts off for a short period is in a steep downhill. The battery meter shows full but the meter for the estimated range for EV drive shows just three strokes. No numbers. When I get home the battery meter is full. The route I run, I run at a speeds of 40-65 mph. The symbols for energy flow displays the arrows between the gasoline engine and battery and battery to wheel the whole trip. I don’t get why it’s like this, the battery is full so the petrol engine should not have to charge the battery and I have the ventilation off. It has something to do with the battery capacity degradation in severe cold I believe.

Energy flow driving range

This morning it was -10 degrees  (14 deg F) outside and I had the car parked in the garage overnight. The battery was not fully charged and I wasn’t running for the heater because I got an error message when I tried to do it. I put a car heater in for 10 min instead. Also this time I was able to make the whole journey in pure EV mode without starting the petrol engine.

UPDATE!

When I was leaving for home in the evening, it was -15 degrees (5 deg F), I had preheated the car for 30 min and it was almost fully charged. The petrol engine started in the beginning but after a few minutes I was able to turn off the fan and therefore the petrol engine. It seems that -20 degrees  (-4 F) is the limit for the batteries . It says something in the manual that at temperatures below -15 C, there might be a problem with starting and limited power. I also noticed that brake regeneration effect didn´t work as well. The car didn´t slow down as much at B5 like before.

Luckily we don’t have these low temperatures that often.

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  • Hi, nice blog I recently got my PHEV 13-01-2016 so I find alot of similarities to the things you are reffering to. However I was confused by your statement “If you have a 16A charger it will charge at the same rate as the pre-heater uses battery” In my owners book it states that the battery max effect is in fact 10A. Can you confirm this with some reference on the internet? As my dealership I noticed are not very knowledgable when it comes to the technical details of this car.

    regards
    Tyrone

    • Hi Tyrone
      Glad you like my blog. Regarding the 10 A charge. I base it one the fact that when I use the 10A charger at the same time that I use the pre-heater, the charger still charges after I have stopped the pre-heater. The battery was fully charged when I started the pre-heater. If the 10 A charger was to keep up with the loss of power when pre-heating it would not have to charge when the pre-heating is finished. When I use the 16 a charger it does´nt need to charge once the pre-heat has stopped.I believe I read it somewhere on the internet also but I cant confirm it.

      regards
      Peter

  • Maybe the battery cannot operate efficiently or goes into safe mode below -20c. Does the battery have temperature management? Perhaps it needs to be heated or charging (which would also warm the battery) if the temperature is too low.

    • Hi
      It can be so that it goes in to safe mode, I don´t know how it works, it might have a temperature mangement but there is no display for it.
      Peter

  • The manual states that with temperatures below -15C the battery output is restricted and the generator needs to supplement power. At -30C the battery output is disabled. It does try to heat up the battery while on generator power.

  • Hi.
    Recently here in Finland was quite cold too, like below -25 ºC during the night. I get the same phenomenon too. With full battery no EV ride.
    Then the EV range didn’t come back even during a day with -10 ºC or so. After installing the EvBatMon it reported that the coldest battery cell temperature was still -15 ºC. Today was so much warmer and waiting long enough the cell temperature rose to the -10 ºC and voila, the EV range was there again. My car is the MY 2014, so early model.

    Let’s see, next night should be well below -20 ºC again but now I timed the charging during the night. Maybe it will keep the battery warm enough.

    If the threshold for the battery is really -10 ºC, then we are in troubles at really cold weather. Of course, driving and charging keep the battery much warmer than ambient temperature, but if the vehicle is unused long enough, then there is no way enable battery than take the car to the warm.

    This is a shame, as warming lithium battery is kind of built-in, the internal resistance rise heavily in cold and all you need to do is discharge it with low current. Low enough not to break it but warm gently and internal resistance get back to normal.
    Like the use of an electric heater or something…

    But they do not design these vehicles for poor peoples at the north 😉 There was once a guy who aimed to design cars for northern exposure, but not anymore… 😉

  • Even at temperatures just above freezing I find our 2018 PHEV uses the petrol engine initially.

    I haven’t used it enough in these conditions to estimate how long it runs on petrol before EV mode will kick in. I normally only drive a couple km to the store and back. I have noticed however, even after the cabin is nice and warm it’s still running on petrol.

  • Hi, i also experience these symptoms, and the lowest temperature here is around 35F. I can force EV, but if i go into cruise mode and EV is turned off, engine will inmediately turn on and i will see a decrease in mpg from my average of 80mpg for my 42 mile commute, to about 50mpg. This still happens even using the ECO mode. When i just leave the charging station, braking doesnt regenerate until about 1 mile of driving.

  • Had the same issue today with my 2018 PHEV Outlander. -20 C error immediately “EV system requires service” only the ICE worked the whole trip. Surely the battery must have been warmed enough after 20 minutes? But no. . Yellow warning lights everywhere. Disappointing. The idea was that on cold days the EV would be far more efficient than the ICE. That is obviously not a Pro.

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