How to Maximize Your Electric Car's Range

By · May 21, 2013

LEAF Guessometer

Does your EV get less range than the E.P.A. says? Follow these tips.

Just like gasoline cars, the real-world range of electric cars depends on a lot of different factors—from the climate and road conditions to car speed and the number of passengers on board.

Take the 2013 Nissan LEAF for example. While the E.P.A.’s official range rating is 75 miles per charge combined, some owners manage more than 100 miles per charge—while others are perplexed when they struggle to get 50 miles. An EV with a bigger battery, like the 2013 Tesla Model S with up to 265 miles of range per charge for the 85 kilowatt-hour battery pack model, can demonstrate even more widely divergent range figures.

There's a reason that the E.P.A. says "your mileage may vary." But what exactly can you do to maximize your real-world range?

1Maintain Your Car

While electric cars need less maintenance than gasoline ones, poor upkeep can have the same detrimental effect on efficiency, regardless of fuel type.

Make sure you’ve been following manufacturer-suggested service intervals for your car, and perform weekly checks on things like coolant levels and tire pressures. While electric cars don’t have an engine to keep cool, many use liquid cooling to keep the battery pack, inverter and motor operating at peak efficiency. Insufficient levels of cooling can result in poor performance, overheating components and even damage battery life.

On the outside, under-inflated tires increase your car’s rolling resistance, meaning it will need to use more energy to push itself along, decreasing efficiency.

2Change Your Routes

Like gasoline cars, the route you choose to drive your electric car on will have a dramatic effect on efficiency and range. You notice it more in an electric car than a gasoline car because it gets recharged every night, not refueled every week or so.

As a car’s speed increases, so does its drag. The faster the car moves, the more energy is required to overcome drag, draining your car’s battery more quickly. While driving non-freeway routes can result in better range, it’s worth noting that in some instances freeway driving can be more efficient, especially if the alternative route consists of lots of stop/start driving or hilly terrain.

For maximum efficiency and greatest range, pick a highway route with gentle gradients and minimal intersections. Adjusting when you travel, and therefore the amount of traffic you encounter, can also make a big difference.

3Adjust Charging Time

It’s all too easy to arrive home in the evening, plug your car in and immediately start it charging for the next day’s commute. But while you’ll know your car will be fully charged when you need it, you may be reducing your car’s available range.

That’s because most plug-in cars on the market today slowly self-discharge when they’ve finished charging, either through battery cell balancing or through natural chemical processes occurring within the battery pack. Over time, this practice can slowly affect your car’s battery pack. In fact, allowing your car to sit for hours at a full state of charge is something that many automakers—including Tesla, Nissan, Ford and Mitsubishi—advise against.

While it makes a minimal difference, scheduling your charge to finish charging just before you drive it can give you a few extra miles of range— compared to a car that sat with a full battery pack for many hours. (It’s also better for the long-term health of the battery, and allows you to make use of cheaper time-of-use rates.)

4Give Yourself More Time

You may not want to hear this, but the driver is often the number one cause of reduced electric car range. It comes down to stress, poor driving habits, or lack of concentration.

By ensuring you have your route pre-planned and given yourself 10 extra minutes to make the trip, you’ll find you’re calmer and much less stressed behind the wheel. A calmer driver is a more attentive driver, making it easier to maximize your car’s energy saving regenerative braking and make smart choices when it comes to reading traffic flow. Why speed up to every red light, slam on the brakes, and speed away again to the next light?

5Visit Your Dealer

It might be time to pay a visit to your dealer to investigate a potential problem with your electric car—BUT only as a last resort, only if the above methods don't work, and only if your electric car is chronically falling below expected range.

And before you take that step, reach out to fellow EV drivers on forums like PluginCars.com to see what other steps they're taking to get a few more miles out of a fully charged battery pack.

Comments

· · 4 years ago

Hmm, I really don't think Li-ion self-discharge for a few hours matters, although delaying charging after midnight instead of in the evening is certainly preferable for both the battery (longevity) and the grid.

Tips that would have come to my mind instead:

(1) Reduce speed. By far the most important factor to me, at least with the Leaf, on the highway. I kind of choose my lane depending on the range I need :-)

(2) Anticipate and slow down coasting or applying brakes as gently as practical to maximize regen. B or Eco modes obviously help with that.

(3) Go easy with the heater. Pre-heat while plugged in, prefer the heated seats/wheel to keeping the whole cabin warm, keep your jacket or sweater on...

· · 4 years ago

I believe the battery "Self Discharge" is enabled in the Roadster if you don't use the battery right away to intentionally drain the battery down to 85% so that the batteries don't spend any time to speak of at a life-threatening 100% charge. At 85% there seems to minimal self discharge.

The Volt shows none of these characteristics, but then it is impossible to charge the Volt battery beyond 80% in any case. It also can go a week or more with no perceptible loss of range. But one would expect this of a battery designed to go 10 years and 150000 miles with no loss of range.

So inherent self-discharge doesn't really exist in modern batteries, or at least in any of the cars I've drove, and I've driven a few.

· · 4 years ago

This is a pretty good article, although I have two issues with it:

1. It gives people (especially the non-ev-driving public who are still trying to figure out if an EV is for them) the impression that maximizing range is something you really have to work at, and is ultra-important to daily driving. If you have some kind of need for meeting or exceeding that 75 miles of range in one given day, only then does it become important. If, on the other hand, like most days, you don't drive more than 40 miles, then what difference does it make? Those of us who already own an EV know this through experience, but those on the outside looking in look at articles like this and say "Oh geez, I would have to be really super careful if I ever want to make it home! I don't want a car like that!"

There are already lots of articles about how to extend the range of your car. They often apply to both gas and electric cars about equally. This isn't anything new, and we don't need more of the same.

2. Nissan has so far found that charging to 100% all the time has only a small, if any effect on the life of their battery in real-world use.[1] Oh sure, always charging to 80% gives you the *absolute best* longevity, but you shouldn't be walking on eggshells and fretting about how such a simple thing will result in horrible, irrepairable damage that will somehow dramatically shorten the lifetime of your car. It's more like the difference between your battery lasting 11 years or 12 years. And even then, the entire pack won't go all at once, either.

In the end, the real solution to the problem is for automakers to just make bigger batteries. That solution isn't a particularly viable one *today*, but it will be in the future as battery manufacturing costs come down.

[1] In the lab, these things have made a bigger difference, but that might just as well have more to do with rapid cycling of the battery that you'd have to do to make sure the test doesn't take 10 years, than it does the actual limitations of the battery.

· · 4 years ago

The fact that we keep talking about "maximize your EV" range is a problem by itself. The day we stop talking about it is the day that EV is finally ready to replace all ICE...

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