We’ve all seen the news, the Reddit posts, and the TikTok/Instagram videos, right? We’re talking about the seemingly endless lines of electric vehicles trying to get a bit of juice from a DC fast charger during the cold spell that engulfed Chicago and other parts of the United States this week.

And while the TV segments that showed dozens of “stranded Teslas” might have been dressed in a bit of sensationalism, it’s undeniable that people had to endure the cold while trying to wrap their heads around the fact that their EVs wouldn’t accept a charge.

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How Norway does EV charging in the cold

Norway is one of the coldest countries in the world. It also has the highest EV adoption rate on the planet, but we can't remember seeing reports about endless lines at chargers during the winter. Here's what lessons can be learned from Norwegian EV drivers.

There are several reasons why this happened, and we already have a couple of stories explaining the circumstances in detail, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to the lack of EV-oriented education and lackluster charging infrastructure. Unlike a petrol- or diesel-powered car, most electric vehicles need to have their batteries preconditioned before accepting a fast charge, especially in extremely cold weather.

But Chicago isn’t the only place on earth where it gets cold and EVs are roaming the streets. Norway has the highest EV adoption rate in the world, with nearly one in four cars being all-electric. It’s also one of the coldest countries in the world, but we rarely–if ever–hear or read about spectacles like the one that went down in Chicago a couple of days ago. So, how does Norway play the EV game in freezing temperatures?

According to a story published by The New York Times, EV drivers in Norway are used to preheating their cars before going out for a drive in freezing temperatures. Lars Godbolt, who’s an adviser of the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association, said that charging infrastructure has also been improved greatly in the past few years, leading to shorter lines during the winter at charging stations.

Another interesting piece of information is that the majority of people in Norway live in houses, not apartments, and that nearly 90% of EV owners have their own charging stations at home, Godbolt said for The New York Times.

Tesla Model Y winter testing (source: Tesla / YouTube)

A Tesla Model Y driving on a snow-covered road

In the United States, however, the story is a bit different. A recent study from S&P Global Mobility showed that while most EV owners are aware that home charging is considered best practice, only 51 per cent of current and repeat EV owners who participated in the survey said that they have a charger installed at home, while 42 per cent of owners typically charge their cars this way.

Another difference between Norway and the U.S. has to do with trip length. In the U.S., it’s not unheard of for people to drive over an hour to get to work, while the average commute in Norway is typically less than 30 minutes. The distance travelled is also shorter than in the United States because of the way the road infrastructure is set up.

So do your homework before going out in the freezing cold: charge at home, precondition the battery before fast charging, and even read the manual (crazy, right?) if you have to. And remember, people riding around in horse-drawn carriages used to laugh at motorists in the early days when petrol had to be bought from the pharmacy in glass jars.