There are some things EV buyers should know before they even think about buying an electric car. Currently, driving an electric car requires a change in life style as well as education and planning. There are ten important “ought-to-know” tips below that should be very helpful for present and future electric car buyers or lessees.
I’ve been driving electric car for a while now and I am still learning. There are some things I wish I knew before I even started. Some things seem obvious after you think about them but others can have serious repercussions. If you are planning to drive an electric vehicle and have family members who have a pacemaker, or implanted defibrillator please read cautions and warnings about what electronic devices in electric cars can do to medical devices.
There were a few times I was sweating with fear (and no air conditioning to increase mileage) when I thought I didn’t have enough battery power to make it home. These ten tips will make electric car driving better and less stressful.
When I first saw an 80 mile range EV, I thought that’s not far in enough. However, when I did the math, I realized that about 98.2% of the time I didn’t need any more distance than that. Let’s start off with basics first and then move on to the details.
You should have an electric outlet where the car is stored – I’ve read reviews in which the reviewer spent most of his time trying to figure out where to charge a car because he lived in an apartment and didn’t have an electric outlet. It is best and fastest to have a 240 Volt charger at home, however I’ve talked to many people including apartment dwellers who were able to use a slow work trickle charger for their cars. An ideal situation is where there is an electric charger at home and at work.
You need a charger locator app or navigation system – there will be times as an electric car driver that you make a mistake and don’t know where to charge your car. EVs with navigation systems such as the Nissan LEAF have “chargers (EVSE) locations built-in.” the nice thing about having it built into the car is that you always have a way of finding a charging station. Charging station locator apps such as Plugshare are more difficult to use while driving the car but can also locate charging stations. Many charging options require an app or special fob in order to charge.
You’ll have to plan routes ahead of time – planning a route before leaving allows the EV driver to estimate of whether you will need to stop for charging or not. It’s nice to know nearby charging locations to your destination, just in case, you need it.
Do the numbers before you buy – most used electric cars with a 80-100 mile charge range have about 12,000 miles a year or fewer miles on them when purchased used. Before buying an electric car with that range if you drive 50,000 miles a year it will be difficult to run the electric car. The easiest way to tell if you can use a fully BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) is to look at your yearly mileage with a simple formula.
Yearly mileage ÷ 365 = daily mileage, then subtract it from a one day charge full battery range.
12,000 ÷ 365 = 32.876 miles a day, which is very easy to do in a 80 mile per charge EV. 80-32=48
Let’s say you are closer to 24,000 a year
24,000 ÷ 365 = 65.75 miles a day which is still possible even without charging at work. 80-66=24
Here where it gets tricky, driving with the air conditioning or heat on reduces miles and when there is about 20 miles left, we EV drivers get nervous. That’s when having charging stations at work is ideal.
We’ve talked to all kinds of people who have only had a few problems with EVs near the 100 mile charge mark. A soccer mom who lives in NorthEast Los Angeles who has the newer Toyota RAV 4 EV with 150 mile range had to take her son game out in Rancho Cucamonga. She knew ahead of time that she was pushing her range. Before the game, she found a charging station nearby and left the RAV 4 EV at a free local charging station during the game.
Another factor, to look at, is if you travel “out of town” often. There are two solutions for that kind of situation, buy an EV with a quick charge option, or rent a car when needed. Some electric vehicle makers offer free rentals for new owners. The Tesla Super Charger network was designed on major routes to get people from major cities, such as going from Los Angeles for San Francisco or Las Vegas. The downside to quick chargers is that they still take some time 20 minutes to half an hour. For the Tesla super charger network drivers get as much as 170 miles of charge in 20 minutes. For some quick chargers the faster charge comes at a higher price.
Read the manual and download apps before you buy – the manuals for most EVs are available online and can be in the very long, however, they provide the information drivers need when they own the car. I was shocked to see in the Nissan LEAF manual that people with medical devices should not be in the vehicle while charging. The Tesla S manual warns , “To avoid any possibility of interference between a pacemaker and the keyless system’s antennas, people with implanted pacemakers should ensure their pacemaker is kept at least nine inches (22 cm) away from any keyless drive antenna mounted in Model S. Antenna locations are shown below.” The Tesla S manual also suggests ways to save battery juice:
To get the maximum mileage from a charge:
• Avoid frequent and rapid acceleration.
• Instead of using the brake to slow down, move your foot off the accelerator.
• Keep tires at the recommended inflation pressures
• Lighten your load by removing any unnecessary cargo.
• Limit the use of resources such as heating and air conditioning.
“Never allow the Battery to fully discharge.” Discharging the Battery to 0% may permanently damage the Battery.
For cars with gas extended features such as the BMW i3 and Chevy Volt, reading the manual is very helpful to let you know how far you can really go while in gas extension modes. Reading reviews can also be helpful. Many EVs have free related apps or diagnostic apps. These apps are free to download, some require the VIN number of the vehicle. Having the apps already on your phone before you try or buy gives you a good idea of features.
Diagnostic apps such as Leaf Spy, spy into the inner workings of the vehicle which gives you great insight into what you will in for. They can be overwhelming at first but in the long run are very educational.
Test drive the electric vehicle – electric cars because of the added weight of the batteries tend to have a slightly better ride however each model has its own style and feel. An ideal situation is to test drive the vehicles at the same place such as the AltCar Expo, LA Auto Show or regional auto shows each EV has its own style and feel. Some car dealers offer extended test driver either over-night or for a few days, then you can get a great sense of what is like to drive an electric car.
Apply for rebates, decals and incentives immediately – earlier this year, the state of Georgia stopped its aggressive EV incentive program of $5,000 and started charging a $200 fee for EV owners, Illinois also axed its program. Some rebates run out by a certain date or have a limited number of HOV lane stickers for electric, hybrid or clean air vehicles.
After you buy or lease heed the following:
Don’t sit in the car while it is charging – when I read a manual, I discovered that the automaker states that humans with medical devices should not be in the car while the car is charging this includes defibrillators and pacemakers. I’ve seen several people sitting in their cars reading at charging stations. With 240 or 480 Volts of of juice running through the car and humans having electromagnetic body systems, personally, I will never sit in a car while it is charging especially high-voltage charging. The higher the current, the greater the strength of the electric magnetic field, (EMF). I also do not leave my dog in the car while it is charging. Exposure to the EMF from electricity such as that found under power lines can cause, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, burning skin, rashes, and muscle pain. There can be risks to damaging DNA, cancer, neurodegeneration and miscarriage. Yes, EV’s have insulation, however, if the field can affect an electronic device it can affect life.
Keep an extra key fob battery in the car, purse or wallet – most electric vehicles use a wireless key fob for starting the car, opening the charge port or the trunk/doors. One day, I went to an event and the car didn’t recognize that the key fob was in the car and it wouldn’t start. The key fob battery may have been weak or dead. It may be hard to find a CR032 battery at an odd hour of the day or night or in the middle of a freeway. However, having an extra sealed battery handy could save service call.
Make sure the charger is connected properly and regularly charge – on a busy Saturday, when I really wanted to get a home, I stopped at a charging station and did not check to see if I placed the charger in the car correctly, there are lights and beeping sound. When I returned an hour later the car was not charged and I had to wait and an other hour for it the car to charge. I have detached garage and can’t see the car from inside the house. every night when I come home, I plug-in the charger. In the morning when I take the dog out I check the status of the charge on the car. If I don’t go outside, I can check the charge status with an app. a few tired nights, I forgot to plug-in the charger, checking the next morning enabled me to charge the car before I had to leave.
Finally, remember early adopters = patience – the automakers are learning more and more about electric cars, batteries, range and how to make them better. The first year model of any car may require frequent trips to the dealer, software updates and giving feedback to the automaker. The first years the Nissan LEAF were available, hot weather climates such as Arizona were learning experiences for the owners and Nissan. Nissan changed to the “lizard” batteries in 2013 models to deal with hot temperatures. First year Chevy Volt, BMW i3, VW e-Golf, Chevy Spark EV, Ford Focus Electric, Rav 4 EV, Mercedes B Class, Kia Soul EV and new Audi e-tron models may have new-to-market minor to major glitches.
Next year, GM plans to introduce the Chevy Bolt with a 200 mile per charge driving range. BMW recently reported it will expand the “i” line. Nissan also has a 200 mile per charge driving range car in development. The ten aforementioned rules will still apply while range anxiety should be reduced greatly.
The best part of owning an electric car is passing gas stations by and not emitting 20 pounds of CO2 per gallon like gasoline-fueld cars do.
BMW i3 – 2015 i3 Owner’s Manual Download 17.0 MB PDF
2016 Ford Focus Electric Owner’s Manual.
Mercedes B Class Electric Drive
VW e-Golf how-to-videos.
If you own or lease an electric vehicle, you are welcome to offer advice to potential buyers from what you learned in the comments below. Please share this information with your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Goggle friends.