10 Tips For Boosting Your Electric Car’s Range

 In EV Industry

Getting the most range out of each kilowatt-hour from your EV not only saves precious dollars, but also occasionally spares you the inconvenience and embarrassment of running out of electrons. Some of the tricks for improving fuel efficiency carry over from conventional gasoline vehicles, but there are also unique challenges posed by electric vehicles that your parents probably didn’t teach you about. The path to the best battery range is often specific to the vehicle model and how it’s used, but here are ten sure-fire tips to start improving your EV range today.

1. Collect and Monitor Driving Data

All consumer and fleet electric vehicles have their own unique driving patterns. To truly maximize range and energy efficiency, the most powerful tool at your disposal is knowledge of your driving and charging patterns. Electric vehicle telematics allows owners to better understand how much range they need, how to improve it, and when improvements will be necessary.

With the use of telematics and data analysis platforms, fleets can monitor the performance and efficiency payoffs of nearly all factors affecting range, including weather, speed, route selection, and charging. This information can help fleet managers support drivers with feedback and general tips for improving performance.

A FleetCarma Daily Summary Report of a 2016 Nissan LEAF in a taxi fleet

A FleetCarma Daily Summary Report of a 2016 Nissan LEAF in a taxi fleet

2. Learn and Use Driving Mode Settings

Nearly all modern electric vehicles allow you to alter their performance to match your driving needs with a quick push of a button. Some modes increase performance at a cost to battery range. Others allow you to maximize range at the expensive of acceleration or by tuning the regenerative breaking more aggressively to recapture energy. The 2016 Nissan LEAF now even comes with a “B-mode” setting that helps drivers maximize efficiency when going down hills.

Read about and experiment with each mode your car has to offer. You might even compare driving data collected from different modes of operation to get a better understanding of the differences and how they contribute to extending the range of your specific vehicle and driving patterns.

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Mitsubishi Outlander Eco Mode

Driving modes can throttle acceleration or increase regenerative braking resistance to save energy.

3. Be Kind to Your Battery

With time and use, electric vehicle batteries degrade, losing capacity and cutting maximum driving range for each charge. Usually, batteries tend to retain 75 percent of their more of their capacity for at least 4 years. But how quickly a battery’s capacity deteriorates is highly dependent on how it’s used. Cars that spend a lot of time parked outside in hot weather experience battery deterioration at much faster rates than those kept in temperate climates. How big an effect this has depends upon model and average temperature, so choosing the right car—which usually means one with an active cooling system—for warmer climates makes a big difference.

Another factor is a battery’s average state of charge (SOC). As a general rule, the more time a vehicle spends at or near full charge, the worse it is for the battery. Fleets can rely on driving data to schedule charge patterns that keep SOC low—or even manage parking so that EVs are steered to cooler spaces during the daytime when they’re not in use.

P.S. we’ll soon be putting out an in-depth report on battery degradation from the data of the thousands of electric vehicles we’ve tracked. Subscribe to our blog to make sure you don’t miss it.

4. Easy on the Accelerator

Time may be money, but so too is electricity. It should come as no surprise that gradual acceleration from a stop is far more efficient for an electric vehicle’s powertrain than “flooring it.” For many drivers, this effect will be most pronounced in stop-and-go traffic, while others will see it more from aggressive highway driving.

We all tend to drive less efficiently when we’re late, even though it tends to save much less time than we actually think. According to one study, driving aggressively for a half-hour saves an average of just one minute of travel time. Optimizing vehicle use schedules and giving drivers an extra 5-10 minutes to get where they’re going can have the effect of lightening his or her right foot—saving battery range and charging costs.

2017 Chevrolet Volt speeding along

5. Coast When Possible

An added advantage to reducing unnecessary acceleration is reducing your reliance on braking. Sure, all electric vehicles have regenerative braking which helps to preserve energy, but those systems are only capable of recapturing a fraction of the energy lost to hard braking. Particularly in heavy traffic, try coasting to a stop as much as possible. It could add up to several miles worth of added range for each charge.

6. Climate Control

Lithium ion battery efficiency changes depending on the temperature under which its operated. But an even bigger contributor to lost EV efficiency stems from the comfort needs of the human beings driving them. Vehicle heating and air conditioning systems can suck up serious energy, depleting range and increasing charge cost.

To prevent this, drivers can often use smart phone apps to pre-condition their vehicle before getting into them, which saves energy that could be used on the road. An even more powerful technique for fleets could be to schedule usage for times of day when the weather is at its most forgiving. Whether this means putting off some trips until the early evening in Phoenix or delaying them until the early afternoon in Minneapolis, it’ll make a difference. (For more on this, check out FleetCarma’s “The Truth About Electric Vehicles (EVs) in Cold Weather” webinar.)

support-drivers1

Fleets can boost battery efficiency using FleetCarma’s EV monitoring and analytics software.

7. Maintenance

One of the best perks of all-electric vehicles is their relative lack of maintenance demands. However, simple things like tire inflation, checking fluid levels and replacing air filters can extend a battery’s range by several miles per charge. Fleets can use vehicle data to optimize maintenance schedules and keep each car in optimal shape during use.

8. Route Selection

For many fleets, certain driving destinations tend to repeat themselves. We have apps on our phones to tell us the fastest way to get between Point A and Point B, but that isn’t always the most efficient. Electric vehicles preserve the most range when traveling at steady, lower speeds.

If getting on the highway won’t save you a ton of time or distance compared to a side road or stretch of timed traffic lights, you may consider adding a half-minute to your trip for the sake of efficiency. Also to be avoided are steep gradients like hills or mountains and areas known for heavy traffic.

Some newer plug-ins now come with battery-saving route algorithms pre-loaded into their navigation systems.

Tesla Navigation Screen

Modern navigation systems make plotting the most efficient path a lot easier.

9. Keep it Light

All vehicles lose efficiency the more weight they’re carrying. For modest range improvements keep any non-essential weight out of the vehicle when it’s in use. This may include passengers, equipment, delivery items or that set of dumbbells you bought on Craigslist but haven’t bothered to take out of the car. Every little bit counts.

10. Be Brave

Studies have found that electric vehicle drivers tend to be overly cautious about running out of range. Educating drivers on how to use an EV’s built-in range estimates alongside driving data and familiarity with routes should give them the confidence to get the most out of each charge. Unnecessarily cutting a trip short or delaying service to charge when more juice isn’t actually needed can cost valuable time and money.

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  • Ari Colin

    What about tire pressure? In my 2012 Volt I have seen significant increase in range from the recommended PSI of 38 to going to the max cold PSI of 51. I have over 50,000 miles at the max PSI with no issues. Benefits of the higher PSI include better range and increased tire longevity.

  • David Dar-El

    I’ve been driving a Fluence ev in Israel for 3 years. All of the tips are correct. One that I would add is to always have your eye on battery consumption driving at lower speed than allowed. This can dramatically extended your range. Unfortunately we don’t have some of the options mentioned especially the cooling of our first generation heat sensitive batteries. To make it worse Renault – Nissan have unilaterally decided not to honour the warranty on the battery so that many of the 1400 Fluence evs in Israel can only be used for very short trips. Of course the matter is being referred to the courts as it was in California.

    • Ari Colin

      I can definitely confirm the benefits of driving at lower speeds. My 2012 Volt is officially rated at 35 miles range. In a “test” I wanted to see how far that can be stretched at lower speeds. Driving an average of 23 mph, I was able to stretch it to 81.8 miles on level terrain.

  • Paul Johansen

    Is it possible to mount some solar panels on the roof and tap them into the charging system?