It seems that running out of range is the worst nightmare for any electric vehicle owner. Though the charging infrastructure of developed countries has greatly improved from the moment EVs first came into our lives, there is still much anxiety about getting from A to B without being trapped in the middle of the road with a dead battery. Aiming to help EV owners overcome the discomfort, we want to share some tips on boosting electric car range collected from automakers’ recommendations and scientific studies.
Get the Most of Eco Modes
The easiest way to save some power for longer trips is to use built-in modes provided by automakers with an eye toward energy economy. Tesla has its Range mode, Volkswagen E-Golf offers two versions of Eco modes, and Nissan Leaf’s manual recommends choosing its power-saving settings as the preferred option for everyday driving while adding extra modes to cater to drivers’ needs. By pressing a button, you can get your heating/air-conditioning downplayed or accelerator responsiveness reduced or regenerative braking increased, as well as all kinds of combinations. Obviously, your performance and comfort are likely to suffer to some extent, but you’ll get the power and extra miles you need instead.
Use Break Energy Recuperation
This flows organically from the previous paragraph. Brake energy regeneration allows you to convert the kinetic energy of your vehicle into electrical energy for your motor. To put it simply, when the gas pedal is released and only the engine is used to slow down your car, the motor also works as a generator to charge your battery. This helps in energy recovery and prevents wear and tear on the brake pads, so you can get double the advantage. Again, you need to know your car and engage available regenerative braking modes to achieve more aggressive braking and thus more efficient power regeneration.
Adjust Your Climate Wisely
You will be surprised to learn how gluttonous your heating and air-conditioning systems can be. In many modern EVs, they are the largest energy consumers following the electric motor, and you can add to the range of your car by their proper manual adjustment:
- In cold months give preference to seats and steering wheel heaters instead of using climate control to heat the whole cabin, as they consume significantly less energy.
- If you choose to turn the heating system on, set the temperature not higher than 65° F with the mild intensity of airflow.
- When it is warm outside, try to limit the use of air conditioning and also opt for moderate temperatures of about 75-80°F.
- When choosing between open windows and air conditioner, give priority to the windows, even though they increase drag, slowing the car down.
- It would be smart to turn off the climate control system 5-7 minutes prior to parking the car, when you are not going to drive it in the nearest time.
- And if you are friendly with modern technology, don’t fail to take advantage of mobile apps for mobile devices that allow you to pre-condition your car.
It is not for nothing that EV automakers implement reduced acceleration in their Eco modes. Pulling away smoothly is one of the key factors for energy saving in both petrol-powered and electric vehicles, so you need to forget about aggressive driving and hitting the gas. The more so that this won’t save you much time, since aggressive drivers actually only get one more minute per every half-an-hour trip, according to a study conducted by Australian researchers. However, smoothly doesn’t mean slowly, since driving in lower gears for a long time will lead to energy waste, which is not what we are aiming for. So, don’t succumb to the temptation to floor it, but accelerate gradually yet readily to your cruising speed and enjoy the extended range of your vehicle.
Take Advantage of Cruise Control
Do you know your cruise speed? You really should, since your vehicle is designed for optimal performance at this speed. And this optimal performance is achieved through optimal power consumption – imagine that anything above or below this speed level either affects your performance or leads to extra energy consumption. What is the point? Use your cruise control function, if any, to maintain an optimal constant speed on flat highways. In addition to maximizing your range, this will make long-distance driving more comfortable and help avoid speeding. By the way, do you remember the speed limits in your state? If you are not sure, test your knowledge online at Driver-Start.com and drive safely.
Keep It Steady
Even if your vehicle isn’t equipped with the cruise control feature, steady speed is your prime target. When at cruise, you can avoid excessive braking and acceleration, which are the enemies of power efficiency. To this end, you can gain from planning your routes ahead and choosing straight and rarely traveled roads whenever possible. Also, you should keep in mind that when driving on a flat road, it is always more power-saving to shift to the highest possible gear. And sure, you need to anticipate any traffic situation, since this allows for slowing down in good time instead of harsh braking.
Understand Your Braking
On the one hand, all modern EVs are equipped with a regenerative braking system, which serves to recover energy, right? And we know that the automakers engage more aggressive braking to get more regen. But on the other hand, the same automakers recommend reducing the brake pedal use to the minimum, whenever it is safe. Some rookie drivers may be embarrassed, as they believe that braking always adds to the regeneration. But it doesn’t, because the energy recovery is powered by engine braking when you lift your foot off the accelerator pedal, and not by pressing the brake pedal madly. So, you should avoid harsh braking and opt for coasting to a stop, especially when in heavy traffic.
Lighten Your Car
The heavier your vehicle, the more energy it consumes – don’t forget this commonplace truth, applicable to both fossil fuel and electric cars. There is no use in carrying unnecessarily bulky and heavy stuff around in your vehicle, sacrificing its range instead of sorting out the mess. It is particularly true for long-distance trips when you are tempted to take a lot of different things, part of which will turn out to be useless by the end of your journey. Form good habits, remove unnecessary items from the car immediately, and don’t stuff it to the gills before a trip – only bring what is actually needed.
Don’t Interfere with Aerodynamics
Do you know that anything sticking out of your vehicle causes aerodynamic drag? Believe it or not, but this phenomenon can lead to a significant increase in power consumption. It was scientifically proven through the example of roof racks, which are widely popular in the United States now. While Berkeley Lab’s scientists continue their research to achieve nationwide changes, you should avoid traveling with empty racks and give preference to models with improved aerodynamics. The same is true for open windows – they increase the drag and affect the performance of your car, thus making it use more energy for maintaining the required speed. If you are used to opening the windows, you may want to reconsider the habit. Obviously, covering your car with stickers and other decals is also a bad idea.
Check Your Pressure
Don’t wait until your low-pressure warning system tells you that it’s time to pump up the tires. Actually, it will warn you when the pressure is significantly lower than required, while every 10 psi of soft tires cost you about 2-3 percent of your range. However, it is also not smart to over-inflate your tires, as is often recommended across the Web. Yes, you can gain a little in the range, but this is at the expense of increased tire wear, stiffer running, worsened grip, and reduced undercarriage life. Just follow the manufacturer's specifications and keep your tires pumped up. Also, think of purchasing low-rolling resistance tires – they are proven to be power and money saving.
Provide Proper Maintenance
We love EVs for their easy maintenance, saving our time and money on changing all those ignition plugs, fuel filters, and other stuff. Nevertheless, easy maintenance doesn’t mean no maintenance at all, especially when it has a direct bearing on the power consumption and range. In addition to the above-mentioned tires, make sure you check fluid levels and replace air filters regularly, thus gaining a couple of miles added to your range. Also, make sure to keep your wheel’s aligned, as when your wheels are pointing in different directions, this results in increased rolling resistance and reduced range in addition to tire toe-out wear.
Take Care of Your Battery
It is within your power to help your battery last longer. In fact, any EV’s battery degrades over time, leaving you with reduced range. However, you can lose more or less depending on how you handle the battery. Here are some tips to help you mitigate the loss:
- Try to keep your car in temperate climates rather than exposing it to hot weather conditions. Generally, lithium-ion batteries are sensitive to high temperatures. If you live in a hot climate, choose an EV with an active cooling system for longer battery life. However, extreme cold temperatures can also be bad for your battery.
- If you charged the battery to full, use it. The batteries tend to deteriorate faster when the vehicle spends too much time standing idle at full charge. The best state of charge for most batteries is between 30 and 90 percent.
- The opposite is also true – you shouldn’t leave your car discharged for a long time. Plug in your EV when the power is lower than 30 percent, and don’t forget that it loses some energy even when the car sits in the garage.
Now you have a dozen helpful tips, which are effective for increasing your EV range. However, you are free to experiment with your specific model in order to get the best driving experience coupled with the lowest possible power consumption.