Anxiety over electric car range can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to owning an EV. Given that without access to a DC fast charger it can take several hours to top up an empty battery, it’s important to plan out your route each time you get behind the wheel — and modify your driving habits, if necessary — to ensure there’s enough juice to get you from point A to point B and back again. Even with newer EVs capable of 300+ mile driving ranges on a single charge, it never hurts to be energy efficient. Check out these tips designed to help you extend your battery range as much as possible and avoid being stranded on longer electric car trips.
1. Go Easy on the AC
Ambient temperature can have a big effect on electric car range, not just because it impacts the battery’s ability to retain a charge, but also because the vehicle’s climate control system can drain energy in a big way. Running the air conditioner in an electric car can seriously sap power, so minimize the amount of cool air you’re demanding from the system whenever possible by keeping the windows or sunroof open instead. The same applies to heat: It’s much more efficient for an electric car to warm up a heated seat than to blow hot air, so opt for the former, if possible. You can go the extra mile (so to speak) and choose your clothes to keep warm or cool without having to use the climate control.
Whenever possible take advantage of grid power to pre-heat or pre-cool your electric vehicle cabin. Some electric vehicles have a departure mode that will turn on the climate control system to your chosen temperature so it is ready when you want to leave. This puts all the initial heavy lifting of heating or cooling things like seats, dashboard, and other interior bits on the grid power rather than the onboard battery. Now you can start your trip in a comfortable cabin and with a full battery.
2. Take Advantage of Hills
Your EV’s plug-in charging system is complemented by a regenerative braking system that transforms the kinetic energy generated while slowing the vehicle into electricity that is fed directly into the battery. You can take serious advantage of this chance to extend electric car range by planning out your stops and riding the brakes as long as possible when coasting to a halt. This is especially true on hills, where the gravity assist can add free miles to your driving range if carefully managed. If your vehicle has a “single pedal” driving mode, activate it whenever possible. It may take some getting used to driving with just the accelerator pedal, but smart engineering design allows for the regenerative braking system to recapture a significant amount of power that can be put back into the battery. Plus it saves wear and tear on your hydraulic brakes.
3. Slow and Steady Acceleration
Just as in a gas-powered car, an electric vehicle is bound by the laws of physics. This means that it takes more energy to accelerate a given mass quickly than it does to do it more slowly. If you are judicious with your application of the accelerator pedal, you stand a better chance of maximizing your electric car range than if you mash the pedal and zoom forward from every stop. Some vehicles even help you keep score of your eco friendly driving style, so pay attention and you will learn just how much pedal movement it takes to get rolling.
4. Keep It Clean
It comes down to simple physics: the heavier the vehicle, the more energy it takes to get it moving or drag it up a hill. There’s no reason to keep lugging around sports equipment from last season or other forgotten items in the trunk. When you are going over your monthly vehicle inspection ask yourself if everything really needs to be in the car. Plus it always feels better driving around in a clean car.
5. Check Your Tires
Smooth rolling tires can make a difference in how many miles you can squeeze per charge. Make sure your tires are pumped up to the pressure recommended in the owner’s manual There’s no need to over-inflate, as that can lead to uneven tire wear. If your tire pressure warning system gives you a sign, pay attention and fix the problem quickly. Also pay attention to the type of tires on your electric vehicle. Special low rolling resistance tires are designed to glide down the road much more efficiently. For best range performance use the tires that are recommended in your owner’s manual (or an equivalent). For example the BMW i3 uses a specially designed Bridgestone tire that balances gripping ability with smooth rolling. While you are at it have the alignment checked on a regular basis as well. Having your vehicle track straight and true means it isn’t fighting to stay on the road and wasting energy.
Understanding how your EV’s charging system works and properly planning your routes and driving habits can help mitigate many of the barriers imposed by limited charging infrastructure and long plug-in times. If you are heading out on a road trip in your electric vehicle check out our tips on getting ready to hit the road.
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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.