10 Tips For Boosting Your Electric Car’s Range
June 9, 2016
June 9, 2016
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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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