How to keep your electric vehicle running in the UAE summer sun

The main issue is batteries being drained by the heat, which results in less range for drivers

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Electric vehicle owners in the UAE have been warned to take precautions to prevent their cars from being damaged by the searing summer heat.

Experts said EVs were particularly vulnerable to certain problems when faced with extreme temperatures.

The main issue is batteries being drained by the heat, which results in less range being available for drivers.

A 2019 study published by the American Automobile Association said the driving range of an EV could reduce by up to 17 per cent if the temperature is constantly above 35ºC.

Without a doubt, extreme heat absolutely has an impact on the range of an electric vehicle operating in the UAE
Kyle Weber, EV Lab

Unlike petrol and diesel cars, the battery on an EV can also be affected while not in use as internal fans are often required during downtime to prevent overheating.

“Without a doubt, extreme heat absolutely has an impact on the range of an electric vehicle operating in the UAE,” said Kyle Weber, former chief operating officer at electric vehicle platform EV Lab.

“Besides the increased energy consumption associated with additional cabin cooling, there is also increased energy consumption required to keep the batteries at their optimal operating temperature, which is around 25 ºC on the high side.

“Other components also need cooling, including the onboard charger, motor and inverter.”

Feeling the heat

Most EVs use lithium-ion batteries, which are known to suffer in extreme heat, Mr Weber said.

He said part of the problem is that lithium-ion batteries were created for use in indoor applications such as computers and mobile phones.

This is a particular issue in the region, as the overwhelming majority of EVs were created for use in countries that did not share such an extremely hot environment.

“The solution to extreme heat is to equip a vehicle with a powerful and energy efficient liquid cooling system to be able to expel heat that is built up in the components,” Mr Weber said.

“This is why if you ever walk past an EV on a hot day, you will likely hear the fans whirring even if there is no one inside because they are working hard to get rid of the heat coming up from the pavement to prolong the lifespan of the batteries.

“It is also why it is important to purchase an EV that has been specifically designed to deal with the temperatures here.”

Experts previously told The National there has been a rise in demand for electric and hybrid vehicles due to rising petrol prices.

A subsequent report commissioned by Audi Abu Dhabi and produced by YouGov suggested more than half of motorists were considering a switch to electric and hybrid vehicles.

Going undercover

One of the best ways to ensure an EV was not adversely affected by the heat is to keep it under shade, Mr Weber said.

“Wherever possible it is important to choose shaded parking, especially when charging the car,” he said.

“If EV owners have the luxury of choosing when to charge, for example, if you have your own charger at your home, then charging in the evening hours will be easier on the cooling systems.

“But everything else is automatically regulated by the car so there is not a whole lot that the average person can do apart from this to ensure optimal battery performance.”

Salman Hussain, chief executive of Fuse, has warned against the "vampire drain" on electric vehicles in the UAE summer sun.
Photo: Salman Hussain

Keeping cool

That you could leave an EV fully charged up and come back later to find the battery significantly drained is such a common issue it even has been given its own name, said Salman Hussain, chief executive of Fuse, a Dubai firm that specialises in converting cars with petrol engines to electric.

“It’s famously called the vampire drain because your systems will stay on at all times to make sure the battery stays in good condition,” Mr Hussain said.

“It will constantly drain a little power, so you need to be aware of that and keep as charged as much as possible to compensate for that, as well as parking it in the shade when you can.”

A version of this story was first published in August, 2022

Updated: July 24, 2023, 3:00 AM