Owning an electric car means keeping an eye on the battery gauge instead of the gas gauge. While not every trip needs maximum range, there are times when stretching out the distance between charges can be beneficial. Here are a few tips to help you get the most miles out of your electric car.
Watch Your Tire Pressure
Your electric car’s manufacturer took a lot of care designing an exterior that slips through the air with minimal wind resistance. But the wind isn’t the only resistance a vehicle faces, there is also rolling resistance. Keeping all four tires inflated to the factory recommended pressure keeps rolling resistance to a minimum. Your vehicle may have a low tire pressure warning light, or it may even display each tire’s pressure via the infotainment system. Look for a sticker on the driver side door opening which will list the recommended tire pressure for your exact vehicle, labeled as the “Cold Tire Pressure” specification. Keep your tires at the specific pressure and you will be rolling exactly how the engineers meant you to be.
Keep It Clean
A clean electric car is a more efficient electric car. This may sound silly but it actually makes a difference. Don’t keep anything in your vehicle that you don’t need. Every pound of weight you add takes a bit more energy to get moving. Are those snow chains from last winter still riding in the trunk come spring? Keep forgetting to take that case of bottled water into the house? Open all the doors and trunk/frunk at once to get a good view of just what you’re hauling around at all times. Decide what is a necessity and what was leftover from a trip but never made it out of the car. You may not see a huge increase in range, but you will make a difference.
Take It Easy On The Throttle
The immediate torque that some EVs deliver can make for spirited driving at times. But jackrabbit starts are a very inefficient way to get rolling. For maximum range ease into the accelerator pedal. An old fuel-saving trick was to imagine there is an uncooked egg between your foot and the accelerator pedal, so try to not crush the egg. Use just enough foot pressure to get you going safely, but not enough to jolt you forward. Once you are up to the speed limit it won’t matter how fast you got there, but your battery will have a bit more charge if you ease up to it.
Take It Easy On The Brakes
Just as you don’t want to hammer down the throttle, you also don’t want to jam on the brakes for every stop. Almost every EV on the road today has some sort of regenerative braking system. This system allows the electric motor to do the braking by turning into a generator, thus recouping some of the electricity you already used getting up to speed. Read your owner’s manual to see how your specific regenerative braking system works. Some systems will begin to regenerate power any time your foot is no longer on the accelerator pedal and the vehicle is rolling.
Slow It Down
It is a simple fact that it takes more power to push a car through the air at 65 mph than it does at 55 mph. The faster you go, the more the motor has to work to keep you there, and thus more power it has to drain from the battery. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination so you can make it a leisurely drive. Try to keep it under 60mph as a rule of thumb.
Use The Right Driving Mode
Your electric car may have several different driving modes to choose from. Read your owner’s manual and pick the driving mode designed to make the most of your battery charge. For example the Nissan Leaf has an ECO mode, while Tesla has Chill mode.
These driving modes adjust certain vehicle parameters to help reduce energy consumption. Some may tweak throttle and brake inputs for more energy friendly driving, while others may reduce power to certain systems. For example the climate control system may operate in a more conservative mode.
Some electric cars will allow you to get ready for a trip while still plugged into the charging station. Take advantage of this whenever possible, especially during the summer and winter months. It takes considerable battery power to heat or cool the cabin of any vehicle, so why not let the heavy lifting happen while you are plugged in. For example the Nissan Leaf has a Climate Control Timer function that will prepare the interior temperature of the vehicle to be ready at your chosen departure time. On some Tesla models the Preconditioning mode takes the extra step of warming up the battery to its optimal performance temperature. While the idea of warming up the car before you go is decades old, electric vehicles have taken it to a whole new level.
Use Climate Control Wisely
As previously mentioned it takes a lot of power to heat or cool a vehicle cabin. If it is a nice day and you aren’t traveling on the highway, consider lowering the windows a bit rather than using the A/C. In the winter time it can be more efficient to transmit heat directly to the passengers rather than heating the air around them. That is why many electric vehicles come with heated seats and even a heated steering wheel.
Plot Your Course
Nobody likes getting stuck in traffic, but sometimes it may actually be better to go a little out of the way than taking the shortest route. The idea is to make the trip with as few stops or changes in speed as possible. While heading straight through downtown may technically be shorter, any battery charge savings you get from the shorter distance will likely be eaten up by repeated acceleration (only to stop almost immediately). Take the city bypass or try roads with controlled access that have fewer stoplights. Once you make a trip a few times you’ll know where the congested spots are and how to avoid them.
Once you start applying these techniques to your everyday electric car ownership experience it won’t take long before they are automatic. You’ll be enjoying the benefits of a bit more battery range and with it a little less range anxiety.
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Photo courtesy of pxhere.
With an automotive writing career spanning over two decades, Brian has a passion for sharing the automotive lifestyle. An avid DIYer he can usually be found working on one of his many project cars. His current collection includes a 1969 Olds Delta 88 convertible and a slant-6 powered 1975 Plymouth Duster.