If you own an electric car, we're sure you've probably been asked by an inquiring mind or two "how far can you go in one of those things?". The simple answer is that the distance varies depending on the make and model of electric car.
Typically, the average electric car can travel around 70-80 miles on a single charge, while more elite models can easily reach 200 miles and upwards. Whatever the range of your vehicle, the last thing you want to happen is run out of juice and end up on the side of the road. Luckily, you can maximise your vehicle's range by employing a few different things, from altering your driving habits to taking better care of your tyres.
Looking to go the extra mile? Check out these handy hints and tips next time you've got a long journey ahead of you.
If you're prone to stomping down on the accelerator, then your car's battery is going to take a big hit. And while electric vehicles can benefit from instant torque for a speedier getaway, it's far better to take it easier when accelerating from a standing start. If you find yourself on a motorway slip road, for example, build your speed up progressively rather than blasting straight up to 70mph.
Keeping your speed under 60 mph whenever possible can also be of benefit, ensuring you'll avoid getting a speeding ticket and improve your battery range in the process. The Department of Energy has stated that drivers use 14% less energy by reducing speed by 10mph; likewise, if your vehicle has an Eco mode, then make sure you're using it for a gentler acceleration. Conversely, if your sport mode is switched on, you'll definitely eat into your battery range so keep it switched off.
When you can, make sure you're leveraging your vehicle's regenerative braking function when you come to a stop, and use the brakes only when necessary. By enabling your car's maximum regenerative setting, you'll be sending extra power back to the vehicle's battery when decelerating.
To do this, look as far ahead as you can when driving and plan to slow down, so you pump as much energy back into the batteries by not forcefully pressing down on the brake pedal every time you need to slow down a little. You'll have to lift off the throttle a little earlier than normal when approaching things like roundabouts, as well as easing off the accelerator ahead of time when approaching to a lower speed limit zone, but you'll soon get the hang of it.
If you like a cool breeze flowing through your car at all times, then you'll sadly be limiting your vehicle's range in the process. Air-con chews through battery power at a rapid rate, so try to run only the fan rather than the compressor whenever possible. In the summer months when your car's interior starts to resemble a furnace, you can pre-cool the car while it's charging to reduce the need to turn on the AC when you're on the move.
Likewise, if you're trying to heat things up, then turning the car's heater up full blast will also sap the battery's power. If your vehicle has them, use its heated seats and steering wheel to warm things up. Again, you can pre-heat your car in the same way as the above when it's charging so you don't rely on climate control once in motion.
We're not suggesting you recklessly speed everywhere to improve your battery's range here. Rather, we mean avoiding coming to a complete standstill as much as possible, as starting an electric motor from stationary can put a strain on its batteries compared to when picking up speed from 5mph. If you're approaching a roundabout, for instance, keep the car moving if no one is coming, or when joining another road keeping the vehicle in motion.
Leaving the windows down can hurt the aerodynamics of your car and requires more energy to keep the car moving, further placing strain on the battery. If the car is at speed and the windows are down, then this is particularly inefficient; while you can turn on the air-con, you'll still be draining the battery. Keep in it on for a few minutes so the interior reaches a comfortable temperature before switching off, so you don't waste any charge.
That said, if your windows are down when you're stuck in traffic and moving at a crawl, wind resistance will make very little difference to your range, though turning the air-con on could. A rule of thumb: wind the windows down at low speeds to cool down, and switch on the air-con (briefly) when you're at higher speeds.
Like a petrol or diesel car, driving an electric vehicle with under-inflated tyres not only increases its energy consumption, but can also lead to uneven or premature tread wear. Check the air pressure frequently using a tyre pressure gauge, as it can vary by an average of one PSI (pound per square inch) with every 10-degree (Fahrenheit) change in air temperature. Make sure the tyres are properly inflated according to the PSI recommended by the manufacturer - this is usually found on a sticker attached to the driver side door.
If you’re using your car for storage a little too much, then give it a clear-out of any rubbish, bags and other miscellaneous odds and ends. Reducing a vehicle's weight is perhaps the easiest way to boost efficiency. Empty the boot out too, as carrying an additional 100 pounds can increase a vehicle's energy consumption by 1-2%.
If you leave your car charging for long durations, then it's worth noting that most batteries will slowly self-discharge when they've finished charging. You might be able to get back a few extra miles of range by timing the charge, so the battery pack is at full strength just before you begin your journey. This is beneficial for its health in the long term, and if your electricity provider offers a lower rate for off-peak use, you can save yourself a bit more cash, too!
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