Cold weather effects can vary by vehicle model. However, expect conventional gasoline vehicles to suffer a 10% to 20% fuel economy loss in city driving and a 15% to 33% loss on short trips.
For hybrids, fuel economy typically decreases by 20% to 40% in city driving and 25% to 45% on short trips.
When the cabin heater is not used, EV fuel economy is 8% lower at 20°F than at 75°F. Driving range is about 12% lower.
Why is winter fuel economy lower?
Cold weather affects your vehicle in more ways than you might expect:
- Engine and transmission friction increases in cold temperatures due to cold engine oil and other drive-line fluids.
- It takes longer for your engine to reach its most fuel-efficient temperature. This affects shorter trips more, since your car spends more of your trip at less-than-optimal temperatures.
- Heated seats, window defrosters, and heater fans use additional power.
- Warming up your vehicle before you start your trip lowers your fuel economy—idling gets 0 miles per gallon.
- Colder air is denser, increasing aerodynamic drag on your vehicle, especially at highway speeds.
What can I do to improve my fuel economy in cold weather?
You may not be able to completely mitigate cold weather’s effect on your fuel economy, but you can do some simple things to help your gas mileage:
- Park your car in a warmer place, such as your garage, to increase the initial temperature of your engine and cabin.
- Combine trips when possible so that you drive less often with a cold engine.
- Minimize idling your car to warm it up. Most manufacturers recommend driving off gently after about 30 seconds. The engine will warm up faster being driven, which will allow the heat to turn on sooner, decrease your fuel costs, and reduce emissions.