10 Things Every EV Driver Should Know Before Buying or Leasing a Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, VW e-Golf, Tesla, Kia Soul EV or Mercedes B EV

EVsymbolThere 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.

keylesswarningRead 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.

Find your next car, truck or SUV on Edmunds.com
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.

passgasHList of Some Online Manuals Videos for EVs and Hybrid Battery Electric Cars:

BMW i3 – 2015 i3 Owner’s Manual Download 17.0 MB PDF

Chevy Spark – 2015 Spark EV Owner’s Manual, 2014 Spark EV  Owner’s Manual

Chevy Volt- 2016 Volt – Get To Know Your Vehicle, 2015 Volt Owner’s Manual 2014 Volt Owner’s Manual

2016 Ford Focus Electric Owner’s Manual.

Mercedes B Class Electric Drive

Nissan LEAF 2016 Owner’s Manual,2015 LEAF Owner’s Manual, 2014 LEAF Owner’s Manual, 2013 LEAF Owner’s Manual

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.


6 thoughts on “10 Things Every EV Driver Should Know Before Buying or Leasing a Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, VW e-Golf, Tesla, Kia Soul EV or Mercedes B EV”

  1. Battery electric vehicles use powerful electric motors and batteries. Folks have expressed concern about powerful electro-magnetic fields that are present in BEVs. So there was a multi-year, multi-million euro, multi-country state-of-the-art study led by the very respected Sintef to determine if there are any long term health effects from long term exposure to EMF in hybrid and electric cars. The study hoped to dismiss fears about using BEVs, especially by pregnant women and children. Here are this “non-biased” study’s main assumptions and conclusions:

    1. Benzene is bad, so it doesn’t matter if battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and powerful hybrids cause health risks…because OIL AND GAS IS BAD.

    2. BEVs are safe, but long term health effects were ignored by this study !!!! (Huh….isn’t that what we wanted to figure out???)

    3. BEVs are safe, but EMF from batteries and battery cables were completely ignored by this study.

    4. BEVs are safe, but a lot more research is necessary!!!

    5. BEVs are safe, but you should really position that electric motor and battery as far away from the occupants as possible…but don’t worry…they’re safe.

    6. Before we can force BEV manufacturers like Tesla to report EMF data for their cars, we really need to increase the EMF safety thresholds, and there should be no safety limit on the EMF from the battery and wiring.

    7. We can make all these ridiculous assumptions because socialism rules and Obama spends his Valentine’s day with Musk. Us socialists also control all the liberal judges who hate oil and gas, and Musk’s best friend runs Google…so we really control all the health data…so we can lie all we want….what are all you idiots going to do about it???? You’re just a bunch of Guinea Pigs…get used to it.

    8. This study did not include a Tesla because it has much more powerful motors and batteries than any other BEV…so we felt it was not necessary to include our media darling Musk’s Tesla in this study. We did use a golf cart though.

    Looks like the researchers spend a bit too much time in BEVs and went looney tunes before they were able to finalize the study…..and they also decided that their bank accounts were sufficiently full….thanks to all the BEV subsidies from the taxpayers.

  2. Overall very good advice. The best advice here is plan ahead and be patient. I would like to add a couple of things that will help Leaf drivers and hopefully other EV drivers as well.

    I’ve found driving my Leaf around town in stop & go traffic I can switch to ‘Eco Mode’ while running heat or air conditioning and get the same range as not running either heat or air in normal mode. This trick does NOT work for interstate travel. However, if you’re going 45 mph or under with just short faster bursts of speed on city streets it works like a charm, Another trick I learned for the Leaf is to set your dash display to always show the battery % charge level. Then, it can be easily compared with the range estimate (Guess-O-Meter). ALWAYS use the lower of the two numbers as your estimated range and you’ll find you can very accurately know how far you can go without getting stranded. I’ve been doing this since 2011 and have never run short.

    I’d also like to point out that where I live we are seeing an increasing number of apartment communities adding charging stations as an incentive to draw new tenants. Hopefully this will become a national movement like adding work-out gym equipment was in the ’80s and party rooms in the ’90s!

    L-2 chargers are constantly getting cheaper for home use. They are a huge convenience for every day driving you will wonder how you lived without. I have a fancy (Expensive!) charger from 2011 that I can use to track costs, etc. You don’t need that. My advice is look for a 40 amp, dumb L-2 charger that is rated for outdoor use that can be plugged in and doesn’t need to be hard-wired. You can have an electrician add a 220/240 outlet in your garage or on the side of your house. Then just hang your charger and plug in. If you need to move, you can simply pull the charging station and take it with you. I recommend a charger over just plugging in to a GFCI 220/240 outlet. The charger not only has GFCI built in, it acts as a surge protector and regulator to prevent overheating

    Finally, I don’t work for, or get any money from PlugShare, but I highly recommend every EV driver have the app on their phone. Carwings that came with my Leaf is notoriously incomplete (it doesn’t have all charging stations listed) and out of date (I’ve shown up where a charger was supposed to be and it wasn’t there).

    • I have found that the CarWings app in the car sends me to the closest Nissan dealer where they have free charging.

  3. You may want to check your units, 240 kW is definitely not home charging. 240 V yes, but 240 kW is more than an entire residential circuit can supply (240,000 W / 240 V = 1000 A >> 100 A). 480 kW is, while a nice thought for eV charging, ludicrous. Your 85 kWh Tesla battery would charge fully in roughly 10 minutes at 480 kW.

  4. This is excellent article. The two best EVs the RAV4 EV and Honda Fit EV are no longer available. Honda and Toyota met their figures for California and bailed on the models.

    I would love to find a RAV 4 EV used for as good as deal as your Nissan Leaf. 🙂

Comments are closed.