Seven ways to Maximize Electric Vehicle Range in Hot Weather

 In EV Industry

Outside temperatures affect the range of all cars, but electric vehicle drivers will feel the sting most in extreme weather. That’s because an EV battery does not deliver the driving range of a gas tank yet. Until that day comes, drivers of plug-in vehicles have to be more vigilant than folks driving cars powered by fossil fuels.

As we discussed in another blog post, cold weather has the biggest impact of all on an electric vehicle’s battery life, but hot weather will affect range as well. Anything that puts stress on a battery can cause it to lose power, and anyone sensitive to heat knows how stressful a summer day can be.

Whether you plan on driving in your plug-in frequently during the summer or live in a warm climate year-round, there are ways to get the most from your EV. Here are seven tips on maximizing your car’s range.

Limit Air Conditioning Use

Summer EV Range Limit Air Conditioning Use

Keeping your car cool might be a priority in hot weather, but remember it is draining your battery fast. Run the air conditioning at a reasonable temperature if you cannot settle for the fan and have limited charging options. In models with less range (125 miles or fewer), you may want to opt for cooled seats when available as an option.

To start your trip off with a cool car without using any battery power, run the AC system before you unplug from a charger. Once the car is cooled, keep it a lower setting or use the fan to maximize battery life.

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Acceleration and Braking

Smooth Acceleration and Braking can save EV battery charge

Smooth acceleration and braking will get you the most from an electric car battery. Most EVs have a power gauge on the display that shows you how you are driving, but the best method is easing your way up to a preferred cruising speed and taking your foot off the accelerator as soon as you anticipate a stop ahead.

Cruising with your foot off the accelerator allows for regenerative braking action to add charge back to your battery. So not only are you conserving battery power; you’re also improving it. Of course, this tip applies to EV driving at all times, but it becomes even more important in the hottest times of the year.

Smart Stereo Use

Limiting extra electronic use can extend your ev rangeThere are few things that spell “summer” quite like playing your favorite music on the stereo with the windows down. However, fun as it may be, this way of driving will affect your EV battery’s state of charge (SoC). In a gas-powered car, the engine propels the vehicle, but in a plug-in model, the battery supplies the power for the motor, stereo and every other function that requires energy.

So blast your stereo whenever you like, but be aware of what it does to your battery if you need to arrive at a destination without stopping to charge. Maybe you don’t want to keep the volume at 11 for the entire trip.

Park in the Shade

High temperatures will force an EV’s thermal management system to kick in

High temperatures will force an EV’s thermal management system to kick in, which itself depletes the battery while preserving charge. Even though the first Nissan Leaf and other, older plug-ins are the worst at dealing with extreme temperatures, it remains a factor with any electric model.

As with other examples we cite here, the key is stress on the vehicle. Whenever possible, park in a garage to avoid exposing the car to high heats. When that is impossible, look for a spot in the shade.

Avoid High Speeds

high speeds drain the battery at much faster rates than low speeds

Driving over 50 miles per hour feels light and easy in an electric car, but high speeds drain the battery at much faster rates than low speeds. While it won’t matter much in a Tesla, it will for other EVs. A glance at the difference between city and highway fuel economy suggests how much it can impact a car’s range. Most EVs get 20-28 MPGe more in city driving as compared to highway driving.

The faster you go, the larger the gap will be. It’s not only speeding, either. Staying under the maximum speed limit is always better for your range. So if you are not in a rush, take the back roads and enjoy the scenery. If you want to get there faster, plan on arriving with less charge than you would expect.

Use ECO settings

Manufacturers of EVs and plug-in hybrids help do the work for drivers with “ECO” settings

Manufacturers of EVs and plug-in hybrids help do the work for drivers with “ECO” settings that limit power output. You will feel less punch when you floor the accelerator, but it definitely helps keep a battery from draining faster than it should. After all, there is no difference between accelerating quickly or more gradually when a stop sign looms 100 feet ahead.

Cars like Toyota Prius Prime even offer suggestions on how you can conserve more energy at the end of every trip. When you see comments about climate control, acceleration or something else on the display, you can work on adapting the next time you take the wheel. In the Chevrolet Bolt EV, choose the “one-pedal driving” mode (full regenerative braking) to conserve energy.

Leave the Gear at Home

your car battery will be affected by extra weight inside the vehicleSummer is a time for outdoors excursions to the beach, park, campground, lake and other destinations that involve outdoor gear. While your car battery will be affected by extra weight inside the vehicle, remember to take out the surfboard or other equipment when you do not need it. Even though it may only be a few pounds, it will impact range.

Roof racks and flags also have an effect on mpg and thus total range. (These factors have the same effects on gas-powered cars.)

Conclusion

  1. Limit Air Conditioning Use
  2. Smooth Acceleration and Braking
  3. Smart Stereo Use
  4. Park in the Shade
  5. Avoid High Speeds
  6. Use ECO settings
  7. Leave the Gear at Home

No one starts driving an electric vehicle like an expert, so be patient as you learn the technology. Remember that everything you turn on that requires electricity will drain battery power and ultimately range. EV manuals offer tips on getting the most out of your particular model, so read through it carefully when you have a chance. We’ll keep you posted on what’s working best for us.

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  • mrrumbles

    Great tips…I use them all. Well, except for the stereo one. This is really the smallest influence of the 7 for several reasons:

    1. Many EVs have a 12 V battery (my 2011 Nissan Leaf has one) that power the radio. The energy still has to come from somewhere, but a fully charged 12 V battery will mean that your stereo usage probably will have minimal effect on your HV battery.
    2. The stereo systems in EVs are made to be more efficient, with some going down to the 120 W level. That much power over an hour or two of driving is going to have very minimal consumption.
    3. The difference between loud and quiet music is much less than the difference between on and off. So if you really want to squeeze the last few miles, you should turn it off, not turn it down.

    I would say that concerning yourself with your stereo usage is more mental energy (and anguish, for some) than is worth it for extending your EV range.

    • bluzer

      Good points but I don’t totally agree with 1. The 12V battery is charged while driving through a DC-to-DC coverter, so the energy does come from the HV traction battery. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 50W, which is as much as heating a seat on high in winter.

      • mrrumbles

        Point 1 is the weakest of the three, no doubt. But even if it’s 50 W (any reason why you suspect this power level?), 12 V batteries have pretty small capacity–on the order of 50 Ah (or less). So even if we stipulate that the charge rate is 50 W, we are still well under 500 Wh, making this draw negligible.

        • bluzer

          I chose 50W as it’s approximately the max RMS power/channel off ~13.5V (i.e. no DC-DC step the amp). Since you won’t typically be playing at max, it’s a reasonable STARTING point for say, 4 channels.
          I agree it’s not a crazy load but not necessarily negligible. Even the low-power Bose systems in the Volt/Bolt have 6 channels with a sub. So they may step up voltage and we could be talking 200+W.

          • mrrumbles

            Well, I guess it might depend on how you define “negligible”. At 200 W, and a couple of hours of driving, we are talking 400 Wh, which is less than 1% of a Bolt’s useable energy (where I have assumed 60 kWh). If you really need to squeeze every last electron from your vehicle, then stereo usage could conceivably have an impact. But at the very least, the stereo usage is by far the smallest and least important of the seven tips.

  • windsorsean

    I wonder if there is a speed at which AC becomes more efficient than the drag caused by having the windows down? I tend to take the approach above 50 km/h (31 mph) that it is better to have windows up and AC on.

    • mrrumbles

      You are right to wonder about that speed. It’s certainly better to have the A/C on and the windows up in all cars above a threshold speed. That threshold will vary by car, but your choice of 50 km/h is probably about average.

      The OEMs should really include this advice in the owner’s manual.

  • bluzer

    I believe your comment regarding using L (one pedal mode) in a Bolt is perpetuating a myth. It’s well known in the Volt/Bolt community, see the GM-Volt forum, that coasting is much more efficient. It probably applies to all EVs that have a normal D mode and all the best hypermillers use it.
    At least in the Bolt/Volt you can get just as much regen through the brake or paddle, and if you want to be efficient, only ONCE you’ve used up all your kinetic energy and there’s a stop ahead.