Five Tips to Get The Most Out of Your Electric Car in Winter
As of December 2013, there were just shy of 170,000 U.S. electric vehicles on the road, according to ElectricDrive.org. Many of these purchases are recent and drivers are going into their first winter as the proud owners of an electric vehicle. Since these cars have special winter maintenance needs that affect battery life, these five tips will help you care for your EV in the winter:
1. Plug in your EV while you warm it up in the morning. In a practice known as preconditioning, many EV drivers plug their car in to charge while heating it up in the morning. This ensures that the car does not burn energy to warm up. By doing this one simple thing each morning, you'll start your vehicle off with a full battery charge.
2. Use seat heaters instead of the heat vents, when possible. Sure, it isn't always possible or practical to use the seat heaters instead of the vents. However, seat heaters do use a lot less battery energy than the cabin heaters. It's important to be mindful of how frequently you use the cabin heater, and how it affects battery levels.
3. Map out the nearest public charging stations to avoid a short ride. No matter where you live, winter's colder temperatures will impact the performance of your electric vehicle. Where you might be able to get 120 miles before you need a recharge in June, you might be lucky to hit 100 during the winter. Stay safe and conserve fuel by mapping out local charging stations before winter comes. This way, you'll know where you can top off your charge while running an errand, maximizing your time and saving the environment. If you're driving a Chevy Volt (an EV that can also use gasoline), this can reduce your gas consumption and keep your costs down.
4. Take the roads less traveled to extend the battery life. If you're racing to work or trying to finish all of those errands and you aren't able to find a station to plug into and refresh the battery, just staying off of the highway will help you get a few more miles. Since your car's electric battery will recharge as you brake, you can get more miles by taking back roads because you'll naturally brake while driving. As a general rule, highway driving impacts your car's ability to get the most miles from its charge. While you can't always avoid highway driving, do factor your route into your estimation of how far you can drive on that winter battery, as Consumer Reports suggests.
5. Park in a garage when a cold spell is forecast, and plug in overnight when possible. Freezing temperatures will tank your EV's battery, particularly if you are parking overnight without charging your vehicle. In Consumer Reports, an EV driver reported finding a projected battery range of 15 miles after leaving his car unplugged overnight in freezing temperatures. While the range did rise after turning the car on and letting it recalibrate, it still was far below the projected range. If possible, plug in overnight. If temperatures are projected to dip into the freezing range, be aware of the effect this will have on your EV's battery charge.
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