I’ve Chosen to Go Electric. Now What?
Congratulations! You’ve decided to make the move to driving an electric car. You’ll be doing your part to reduce your environmental impact, will enjoy an awesome driving experience, have the latest technology, and should be saving on fuel and maintenance as well.
Driving an electric car is exciting and rewarding, and we’re convinced you’ll enjoy every moment. Here, we’ve compiled a few tips to make your experience even better – from optimizing charging to improving your vehicle’s range and efficiency, and even tips for maximizing performance in cold weather.
Maximize Home Charging
If you’re considering an electric or plug-in hybrid as your next vehicle, probably the most complicated part of the process will be figuring out home charging. Unlike a gasoline vehicle, you can’t just drive your EV off the lot and charge it up anywhere; you’re going to want to be prepared. And you’ll have the best experience if you are already set up to charge at home by the time you take delivery. Fortunately, once you know what steps are needed, it’s easy to set up home charging.
Most electric vehicles come standard with a charger in the trunk that can plug into a 220-volt “dryer plug” like, well, your clothes dryer is plugged into. This will typically charge the vehicle at the fastest rate possible with Level 2 charging. However, for more convenience – and to ensure that you can charge on the road in a pinch – you may want to leave the standard charger in the vehicle so it can travel with you and install a separate charger at home. The easiest choice, of course, is to ask your dealer to order a duplicate of the charger that comes with the vehicle. But there are other, and less expensive options, available.
For optimal performance and convenience, the home charger you choose should charge at the same rate as the charger that comes with the car. If the car comes with a 9.6-kW charger, look for a home charger that can also deliver 9.6 kW – which will then determine the amperage required to support it in your garage or driveway. A 9.6-kW charger, for instance, might require a 40-amp connection at your home, while a 5.8-kW charger may only require 24 amps.
At GreenCars, we have a catalog of popular chargers on our website which are compatible with most of the plug-in hybrids and EVs on the market.
Unless you are an electrician, you’re going to need to find one to evaluate your home’s infrastructure and install upgrades required to support vehicle charging. If you have a newer home with a 100-amp or 200-amp electrical panel, you may already have enough juice to support EV charging – and if you’re lucky, you might even have a 220-volt dryer plug in your garage.
Once you have chosen the vehicle you want to purchase, it’s best to start the process of assessing and preparing your home right away. Fortunately, we have a useful tool to look up qualified electricians right here on GreenCars. Locate an electrician in your area, and book a home assessment, which will typically take an hour or two.
On The Road
Now you’re ready to charge at home; what about on a road trip? For rapid charging, look for DC fast charging, or “Level 3” charging, which fills your EV a lot faster than a Level 2 charger would. Level 3 chargers bypass your electric car’s power controller and charge more rapidly – but they’re like junk food for your car – fine in moderation, but not something you want to use every day. Batteries rely on a chemical reaction to produce power – and the charging process will deteriorate capacity by a tiny amount with every charge. Using DC, or Level 3, charging, will increase the speed of this deterioration.
Pre-Condition For Faster Charging
Batteries in an electric car work best under optimum conditions, especially when it comes to charging. Temperature is the main thing – not only does a battery deliver its maximum performance at a certain temperature, but it’ll also charge fastest at a certain temperature – somewhere between 60- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit.
Depending on which electric vehicle you drive, activating battery preconditioning before you arrive at a charger ensures the fastest charge times, letting you get on your way sooner. Often the best way to do this is by programming the charger as a destination in the navigation system; your car, knowing you’ll be charging, will heat or cool the battery to accept the fastest charge automatically.
One thing worth noting: a nearly empty battery will charge faster than a nearly-full one – you’ll notice charging speed tail off as you start to fill the battery up – so plan to drive longer distances between fast-charging stops, and pre-condition the battery before each stop to save the most time.
Cold Weather Tips
Cold weather can reduce the range of an electric vehicle. In fact, low temperatures reduce the range of every car. We just don’t pay as much attention with gasoline vehicles. Here are some tips to increase your electric vehicle’s range and make winter driving more convenient.
1. Think about your tires. For improved traction in colder climates, or areas that get a lot of snow, winter tires will give you extra traction and control at the expense of some range due to their softer rubber compounds and the additional friction they generate. So, it’s more important to check that your tires are at the correct pressure.
2. Use the “eco” setting on your vehicle’s HVAC system. Outside of powering the car itself, climate control is the biggest draw on your battery. Using the “eco” setting, if one is available, will activate a program to reduce the electrical draw, typically shutting off the HVAC while you’re sitting stopped, and re-activating it once you’re in motion.
3. Pre-heat the car while it’s plugged in. Almost every electric vehicle lets you program the heater and other accessories to operate while the vehicle is plugged in, so the cabin is comfortable before you drive off. Using this feature means you don’t use extra electricity during your first few miles to heat the car. You might even be able to program regular departure times so your vehicle is pre-heated to the right temperature every morning.
4. Use seat and steering wheel heaters. Heaters on the seats, steering wheel, and on some vehicles, even the arm rests, are in much closer contact with your body than heated air – they provide warmth more efficiently, and warm you up faster.
Not all these driving tips apply to every car – or every climate. Try them out one by one to see the impact they have on your range and find the techniques that are most convenient for you. And if you have any other great winter driving tips, please share them with us!