There are more electrified cars on the market today than ever before, and more choices means more reasons for you to ditch your gas habit and experience the joy of emissions-free motoring. Or, if you’re not quite ready to go cold-turkey, you can go with a plug-in hybrid, which will give you a taste of that EV lifestyle without saddling you with a case of crippling range anxiety.
Whichever way you choose, you’re going to want to get the most range out of your batteries, and here some tips that’ll get you where you’re going.
Since we still haven’t mastered the art controlling the weather, you will definitely want to check the forecast before setting out on your next drive. That’s because the batteries in EVs or plug-ins are a little like us — they don’t like extreme heat or extreme cold. Chances are if you’re uncomfortable outside, they are too, and that means less range.
Some cars with advanced thermal management systems, like the latest Tesla Model S for example, might only see range flosses of 20% or so when the temps drop below freezing. But on other, simpler cars like the Nissan Leaf, I’ve seen range estimates go down by upwards of 50% on a cold day.
Clearly you can’t move your ski trip the middle of the summer to work around your range issues, but you can limit the impact of bogus temperatures.
Preconditioning is a great way to minimize the impact of cold temps. Almost all EVs and most plug-ins have some way of turning on the car’s heating or air conditioning systems remotely, either via a smartphone app or perhaps via a timer set through the car’s dashboard interface — which admittedly isn’t going to be too useful unless you’re the type who leaves at a very specific time every day.
Preconditioning gets your car up or down to temperature before you unplug it from the charger, and this is key. The initial heating or cooling uses a huge amount of electricity, and if you can do that without using any power in the battery that’ll definitely give you a noticeable increase in range.
It’ll also make the first few miles of your commute a whole lot cozier.
Lay off the heat
Be careful about what systems you use in the car, most importantly, the HVAC. When it’s a little chilly our first inclination is to reach down and turn up the heat, but in a car that’s just running on electricity that means wasting power. Instead, reach for the heated seats and, if your car has one, the heated steering wheel. Heating you directly is far more efficient and, frankly effective than blowing hot air around.
Any car uses the most energy when speeding up and wastes energy when slowing down. The solution is to maintain a steady speed, but even tiny adjustments to the throttle can have a noticeable impact on range. So, whenever it’s safe to do so, set the cruise and let the car maintain its on its own.
Finally, don’t overlook your tires. Make sure you have the right rubber fitted on your car, ideally the ones that the manufacturer recommends, because many EVs and electrified cars have special models with lower rolling resistance. But, whatever tires you choose, make sure the pressures are right. All modern cars will tell you if your pressures are dangerously low, but you might not get an alert if they’re only off by a few PSI. So, make a habit of checking.