As electric cars have become more prominent on Britain’s roads, here at ALA GAP Insurance we decided now would be the perfect time to produce an Electric Car Facts Guide.
Our guide looks at everything from how electric cars work, their maintenance requirements, to how to extend electric car battery life and how to improve an electric car’s range.
How do electric cars work?
Unlike petrol or diesel powered vehicles, electric cars use an electric motor. The motor’s controllers and batteries power the car as follows:
- Charged batteries supply power to a controller.
- An accelerator pedal that’s connected to a pair of potentiometers tell the controller how much power it’s supposed to deliver.
- The electric motor then gets its power from the controller and makes the car’s wheels move.
Radiators ensure electric cars operate at optimal temperatures and ‘power electronics’ change the voltage of the electricity used by different components – as well as converting Alternating Current (AC) to Direct Current (DC). Electric cars also require no muffler, catalytic converter or tailpipe, and the manual transmission is replaced with a transmission similar to an automatic to control forward and reverse.
Electric Car Battery Information
Electric car batteries are constructed from stacked individual, lithium-ion electro-chemical ‘cells’, each of which produces a voltage (typically 2V). Most electric cars use between 100 and 200 large cells and are rechargeable from a mains point. The electric car motor converts into a generator, which can recharge the battery as the car glides along. Similarly, some electric cars use a ‘regenerative braking’ system, where the battery receives a charge when the brakes are applied. This can increase a car’s range by as much as 20%.
How to extend electric car battery life
Driving with due care and attention can help modern car batteries last longer, but another important factor to extending your car’s battery life is charging your battery properly.
Avoid charging to maximum capacity
Surprisingly, charging a car battery to its maximum capacity may increase the range for that one charge, but could decrease the lifespan of the battery. Instead, charge the battery to 80%, which may reduce its range but will prolong your EV’s battery life and also enable regenerative braking.
Create a charging schedule
An effective charging schedule can also extend your battery life. Even though many people charge their vehicles overnight, ideally charging should stop the battery 60 minutes before you intend to drive the car. This is because batteries lose their charge the moment they’ve finished charging, so an effect schedule reduces that window and the need to charge the EV at the last moment.
Avoid DC quick charging
DC quick charges can be very useful if you need to drive beyond your vehicle’s single-charge range in a 24-hr period. Unfortunately, this can reduce the capacity of your battery by one percent of capacity per year. Even though one percent does not sound a lot, if you intend to have your vehicle for a long period of time, fast charging should always be avoided where possible.
Preparing the car for storage
In you intend to leave your vehicle in storage without the right maintenance, it can leave your batteries unbalanced and reduce their range. It is worth checking if your car comes with ‘storage mode’, where the car effectively takes care of its batteries itself.
If you do not have that facility then you should:
- Charge your vehicle to 60%.
- Store your vehicle in a temperate garage.
- Monitor the batteries.
- After 3 months or if the battery charge is below 20 percent, charge the battery back up to 60%.
Electric Car Maintenance
Electric cars may have fewer moving parts compared to traditional vehicles, but you should always ensure that you’ve been keeping up with the manufacturer’s suggested service intervals and that you are carrying out weekly checks.
Under the bonnet, these checks can include inspecting the cooling fluid, which is used to keep the car’s battery pack, inverter and motor operating correctly at the right temperature. Outside the vehicle, checks can include inspecting under-inflated tyres, which increase the proportion of tyre tread touching the road, resulting in the electric car using more energy.
Improve your electric car range
As with traditional vehicles, the range of an electric car depends on a number factors, including weather, road conditions, vehicle speed and the number of passengers in the car. As electric cars vary in design and energy use, we recommend reading the manufacturer’s manual to learn how best to optimize your car’s performance. However, with a few checks of the car and alterations in driver behaviour, owners can introduce additional ways to improve the range of their EV.
Driving routes can impact on the efficiency and therefore the range of your car. The faster a vehicle travels, the more energy is needed to overcome drag, draining the car’s battery in the process. Non-freeway routes can help avoid this problem, but if an alternative route consists of lots of stop/start driving, these advantages can be cancelled out.
Eco-mode and turning stuff off
‘Eco-mode’ is well worth using as it can optimise your vehicle’s performance, helping to improve its range. This is achieved by reducing the air conditioning, heating systems and the sensitivity of the throttle, making the driver push harder on the pedal to produce the same amount of acceleration.
Adjust Charging Time
Most plug-in car batteries start to discharge once they have been fully charged. Schedule your charge to finish before you embark on your journey, as this can help improve the range and the long-term condition of your battery.
Poor driving habits can also reduce an electric car’s range. Driving in a more measured way means you can pay closer attention to what you’re doing, helping you to avoid upcoming traffic, speeding up to red lights and slamming on the brakes.
This applies especially for braking. When a brake pedal is pressed gradually, the car’s electric motor slows the vehicle and becomes a generator, which charges the battery. Slamming on the brakes maxes out the regenerative system, forcing the conventional brakes to kick in, using up more energy.
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