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How to Maximize Your Electric Vehicle Range – Four Tips

Electric Vehicle Range - Easy!
Electric Vehicle Range – Easy!

Electric vehicles may just be hitting their stride, but maximizing electric vehicle range is practically the same as maximizing conventional vehicle fuel economy.

What can you do to keep your electric vehicle running at its most efficient? Simple, here are a few practical tips that you can apply, and don’t be afraid to apply this to conventional vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, as well…

  1. Watch Your Speed: There is no reason you need to go 85 mph to get to work on time. Regarding fuel economy or, in this case, electric vehicle range, road vehicles are simply not designed to go that fast efficiently. For the most part, modern automobiles, including electric vehicles, are designed to go about 55 mph. The faster you go, the more you have to fight against air resistance, and the more power you need to do that. In a conventional vehicle, you burn more fuel, but in an electric vehicle, you use more Wh (watt-hours). In both cases, you can reduce your range by a significant amount.
  2. Watch Your Cargo: For most of you, you don’t need to be carrying a lot of stuff for your daily activities. Sure, if you happen to take your electric vehicle on a weekend camping trip, you’ll need to carry your gear. Once you get home, however, you should take that stuff and put it back in the attic. Carrying all that stuff around for no reason is a sure way to reduce your electric vehicle range.
  3. Watch Your Charge: Electric vehicle charging should be fairly straightforward: just plug it in when you’re not using it. The vehicle’s onboard charging system is designed not to let you destroy the battery by deep-cycling it, but it’s still a good idea not to run it down to the last few Wh before you charge it again. Given that there will be some parasitic drain, keep the car plugged in, especially in cold weather.
  4. Watch Your Climate: Climate control in an electric vehicle has more of an impact on range than anything. Warm up or cool off the vehicle, via smartphone app if possible, while the car is still on the charger. Try to minimize your use of heating and air conditioning if at all possible, and save those electrons for the road.

Easy right?

Photo credit: Martin Gillet / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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  1. JoeSiu LoneWolffe  I haven’t actually looked at the electrical systems on a Nissan Leaf. The Leaf has a pony battery? I know the hybrids do, but you’re right, the Model S uses a converter for all 12V stuff, which feeds off the main battery pack.

    A coast mode on EVs would be nice, but when you’re talking about the masses who use EVs, not all of them are as savvy as you, but they’re getting there!

  2. LoneWolffe JoeSiu  The only car I know of that sucks down the battery while parked is a Tesla. All the other EVs take a little bit of juice out of the 12v battery (e.g., for the alarm system, so if you go away for a month put it on a float charger), but the main traction packs draw nothing and thus no effect on range.

    Regarding coasting: note that I said “unless you need to slow down”. Think about it, if you regenerate you then slow down and then subsequently you must pull energy back out of the pack in order to get back up to speed. Nothing more efficient than coasting in neutral using zero power. Regen is great in city traffic where you’re forced to slow down,  or on downhills when you need to keep speed under check, but for regular highway driving an inordinate amount of concentration is required to keep the car out of regen, which is why I wish EVs had a “zero regen” mode.

    Regarding weight: note that I said “unless you have stop-and-go-driving”, and I should have included hills as well (although you get a good part of the energy back by regenning going back down the hill). Yes, weight matters getting the vehicle up to speed in the first place, but on a level highway aerodynamic drag predominates and cargo weight’s contribution to rolling resistance is a second-order effect.

  3. JoeSiu  I think we’re mostly on the same page here, and the charging thing could have been left out. I think what I was trying to say was, basically, don’t leave the car unplugged for a week and wonder why your range sucks.

    You got me thinking on the coasting vs regenerating in an EV. Coasting makes sense with start-stop engines and conventional vehicles, but isn’t regenerative braking better than coasting in an EV? From what I gather, regenerative braking recovers like 99% of the car’s kinetic energy, which is used on acceleration again. I was under the assumption there was not nearly as much loss as simply coasting. Don’t most EVs go into regen as soon as you let off the accelerator, anyways?

    I have to disagree with you on cargo, however. Indeed, while cruising we’re only talking a couple of percentage points difference loaded vs unloaded, but including acceleration of the load, that’s gonna get you every time.

  4. Sadly, you didn’t do your math and didn’t quantify and prioritize the culprits.There are only two, as the rest are negligible.
    No 1 is indeed speed, and allied with this is lead-footing. HOW you, as an individual, drive the car is of paramount importance and the largest variable in a vehicle’s range. Coasting wherever possible and avoiding regeneration (unless you actually need to slow down and stop) are just a couple of the many hypermiling tricks that work equally well on ICE, hybrids, and EVs.
    No. 2 is heater usage, as the traction battery pack is the only energy source and a heater set to maximum consumes the same amount of power as is needed to move the car (at a speed which varies with vehicle). Solution is to pre-heat the car before you get into it and use the seat heater. Some manufacturers are addressing this issue by utilizing efficient heating systems. Aircon robs a much lesser amount of energy than heater use, again, dependent on manufacturer.
    How you charge a car has nothing to do with its range, although charging using 240vac (L2) is slightly more efficient than 120vac (L1) because less time is spent keeping the car’s fixed power consumers active.
    Cargo matters little unless you have a lot of stop-and-go driving. Once the vehicle is moving, its weight doesn’t have much effect
    All other energy consumers such a radio, lights, heated car seats, etc. eat an order-of-magnitude less energy than it takes to move the car.


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