As with electric cars in the winter, many factors can reduce the overall range of an EV when Summer brings the heat–the response, in many ways, is quite different from gasoline-powered vehicles. Today we’re looking at some tips that will enable you to maximize your range even when it’s blazing hot outside.
Maximizing Battery Life Before You Depart
Between journeys, there are several ways to get your battery into the best possible condition to increase your range.
Leave Your Car Plugged In
The sophisticated technology found in electric vehicles requires power to operate. Even while stationary and technically switched off, processes are going on in the car. One of the key processes is battery management – if the battery gets too hot, a mechanical cooling system will kick in to keep the battery in its safe operating limits. This can result in battery drain, even overnight.
The best answer to this is to keep your car plugged in between journeys. It won’t overcharge beyond the limit you set it, but it will use electricity to power the cooling system should this be required.
Remember to be considerate of other EV drivers while you’re at public charging stations, and always follow the charging conventions we cover in this blog. It’s best to leave battery maintenance activities for your own garage whenever possible.
Limit Your Overnight Charge
If you charge your battery too fast or too high a capacity, it will get too hot, and the battery management system will drain it again.
The first thing to consider is just how far you will need to go the next day? The optimum charge for an electric car battery sits at around 80% – at 100%, it can get too hot. The best practice is to only charge to 100% if you have a big drive ahead. In particular, Tesla allows a maximum 80% charge in most circumstances, with you having to go into a specific setting to get the full 100%.
Charging speed is another factor that you need to consider. If you are doing 50 miles tomorrow, a Level 1 trickle charge overnight will usually give you enough juice for the day. If that’s from 60% capacity, you can deal with a family emergency or severe traffic with the rest of the battery capacity you’re not using.
Most new EVs have a ‘preconditioning’ setting. The car will ready itself for you and optimize battery temperature for a set time of departure. From air conditioning to battery temperature, these parameters are prepared by the car for you to step in and drive away without putting your air conditioning on max or leaving the windows open to make it feel more comfortable inside.
Preconditioning systems typically pulls power directly from the outlet by default, so your car will be in peak driving condition before you go, all without draining the battery. This maximizes your range and comfort while driving.
Where Possible, Leave the Car in the Shade
We’ve all experienced the not-so-great feeling of getting into a hot car after it has been in the sun all day. That feeling of oven-like heat is a real one, and can, in turn, overheat the car battery. If you can leave it in a shady place or in the garage while plugged in, then you will reduce the need for the battery management system to kick in, while also reducing the need to use air conditioning and other active cooling systems while driving.
Having tinted windows and investing in a sunshade for the windshield are additional types of passive cooling systems that will minimize the need to cool the car for comfort.
Driving an electric car is often very different from driving a combustion engine car due to the way it is powered. In taking on board this advice, you can keep your battery at a high level of charge by adapting to the way it works.
If you have taken active and passive preconditioning measures as described above, you will not need to cool your car so fiercely when you pull away. Always remember your air conditioning sucks power out of your battery.
Combustion engine cars use engine power to cool the cabin but are more efficient at this than leaving your windows open and cooling passively thanks to the drag that open windows induce. Drag is also a factor in electric car efficiency, so air conditioning is still a better option. However, EVs only have one source of power – the battery – that both drives the car and cools the cabin. Ultimately that same energy can be used in either driving you or cooling you!
When you rent or buy an electric car, do see about in-seat cooling options. These are more efficient at keeping you cool than air conditioning. The same systems can heat you in winter – both operate by conducting the heat or coolness directly to your body and require less energy over time than conventional cooling systems.
Driving around in the heat of summer with the music on loud can be lots of fun. As with air conditioning, the battery power can either be funneled into driving the motor or into your comfort – but not both at the same time! If you are on a music streaming service, download playlists and albums where possible as cellular network data use also drains the battery.
Hybrids and EVs both have an ‘Eco Mode’ setting. This setting reduces the amount of power available for acceleration and other electronic processes. If used all the time, you will considerably minimize the amount of energy you use as you go about your business.
One of the similarities to driving combustion engine cars is that battery efficiency significantly falls when you accelerate hard.
There is no denying that driving an electric car is exhilarating thanks to the unmatched torque that flows from the accelerator pedal to the wheels. The driver of that “suped-up” sports car thinks they have the upper hand on your quiet EV until the light turns green, and you leave them in the dust. We get it.
But, hey, getting a bit tipsy on some cocktails (maybe too tipsy) can be fun also, but you don’t hit the bottle every night (or shouldn’t anyway!). For the same reason you don’t relive your college drinking days seven times a week, you shouldn’t go “pedal to the metal” every chance you get. Moderation will keep your EV in the best condition and will keep the flashing blue lights out of your rearview mirror (you can thank us later).
A significant difference in driving an electric car to that of a combustion engine car is that the faster you go, the more energy is used.
While traditional gasoline cars typically use less fuel on the highway than they do in stop-and-go traffic, electric vehicles are the opposite–the higher the speed, the more energy it consumes.
EVs are on a different energy curve, and as long as you are not stopped too long or accelerate too hard, you will have more battery available at the end of 100 miles at 30mph than you would the equivalent gas in a combustion engine car. This is because the faster you go, the more revolutions your motor needs to turn, and the more battery power it needs to make those revolutions.
Regenerative braking charges electric car batteries significantly. By siphoning and redirecting a portion of the naturally occurring kinetic energy flowing from your brakes while slowing your vehicle, you can extend the range per charge by as much as 100 miles.
How do you do this? You take your foot off the accelerator and let the car slow itself – simple as that! Many different models of electric vehicles allow you to adjust the regenerative braking parameters from braking very hard every time you take your foot off the accelerator to a more gentle experience.
One of the long-term benefits of this is that you will hardly ever have to replace your brake pads on the car, saving on annual safety maintenance costs.
When driving your electric car in hot weather, consider your charging needs carefully. On longer trips, it can pay to do smaller, more frequent fast charges, because fast charging heats the battery and the battery management system must work harder to keep it at optimum efficiency.
As discussed at the beginning of this article, a 100% charge can be less efficient per mile than an 80% charge due to the battery requiring cooling and using its own energy to manage that.
If you regularly take the battery to 100% and then drain it almost to empty, you will shorten the overall life of the EV battery. Research has shown you get an increased lifespan from an electric car battery when it is neither discharged too much nor excessively charged to full capacity.
On a longer drive, could you keep the car between 10% and 80% on your legs between charges? An electric vehicle with a 250-mile range would allow you 175 miles between charges, or close to three straight hours of driving at average 60mph. Most people would need to stretch their legs, have a coffee, and so on after three hours behind the wheel anyway! What’s healthy for you is also fit for the battery.
Could you do the drive in the early morning or late evening? Choosing to drive the car on long legs in the cooler parts of the day is always an excellent tactic for squeezing the most miles per charge out of your EV.
By taking advantage of these simple techniques–from leaving your vehicle plugged in the evening, to lifting your foot off the accelerator a few seconds earlier–we’re confident that you’ll notice a consistently extended range, all while reducing your lifetime maintenance costs.