How to make your car battery last longer

If you want to minimise your carbon footprint, an electric car will usually be a better choice than one that uses fossil fuels; we talk about the benefits of electric vehicles in our article on self-driving cars and the environment. You can further reduce your impact on the environment – and the cost of running your vehicle – by taking care of your car battery. In this post, we’re talking about how to prolong EV battery life.

What do we mean when we talk about extending electric car battery life?

When we talk about extending the life of an electric car battery, we could mean either of two things:

  1. We want to extend the range of an electric car. In other words, we’d like to make sure the battery lasts as long as possible before needing to be recharged.
  2. We want to prevent the battery from losing its charging capacity to the point where it’s no longer useful. In other words, we’d like to make sure the battery lasts as long as possible before needing to be replaced.

Of course, you’re probably hoping to achieve both of these things. When you’re driving an electric vehicle, it’s best to have a battery that rarely needs charging and remains useable for many years.

They’re also both desirable from an environmental point of view. If a battery rarely needs recharging, that reduces your vehicle’s emissions from electricity generation. If a battery rarely needs replacing, that reduces your vehicle’s emissions from battery production.

Because of this, we’re going to look at both aims in this article.

Tips to extend EV battery life

  • Only plug your car in to charge when you need to. It can be tempting to plug your vehicle in every night, but unnecessary charging puts the battery under unnecessary strain, causing its capacity to deplete faster. In other words, the more you charge your battery, the more you’ll need to charge your battery.
  • Only use fast chargers when necessary. If you’ve stopped in the middle of a long journey, you might need to top up with a fast charger. They’re harder on your battery than regular chargers, though, so, if you’re not in a hurry, regular chargers are a better option.
  • Try to avoid either charging fully or letting the battery run flat. It’s worth checking whether the manufacturer recommends specific percentages, but general advice is to keep your vehicle’s charge between 20 and 80%, avoiding the extremes of 0 and 100%. Some electric vehicle manufacturers let you specify a maximum charge, in which case your vehicle won’t charge past that point even if you don’t unplug it straight away. It’s fine if you occasionally need to charge to full for a long journey, but it’s worth keeping this in mind for day-to-day use.
  • Try not to leave your car exposed in hot weather. If you have access to a garage, tuck your car away in high temperatures. Even if you don’t have a garage, you can take steps to reduce the impact of temperature on your car’s battery, such as parking in the shade on hot days.

Tips to maximise EV battery range

  • If it’s cold, time your charging so you can set off as soon as it’s done. Batteries work less efficiently in the cold. If the battery’s just been charging, though, it’s going to be nicely warmed up for your journey. Bear in mind that charging can also take longer in cold weather.
  • Make use of regenerative braking to extend your EV’s range. Regenerative braking captures some of the energy usually lost in braking and uses it to restore a small amount of charge to the car’s battery. This might seem to contradict the ‘only charge your vehicle when you need to’ advice, but Keil and Jossen’s 2015 paper ‘Aging of Lithium-Ion Batteries in Electric Vehicles: Impact of Regenerative Braking’ suggests that regenerative braking may in fact be good for your battery in the long term as well as the short term.
  • Remember that heating or air conditioning will draw energy from the battery. Your comfort is important; don’t sit there and freeze when the temperature’s low. It’s hard to concentrate at extreme temperatures, and, when you’re driving, concentration is more important than range. If the temperature is tolerable and you’re worried about whether you’ll make it to your destination before needing to recharge, though, you can extend your range by turning the climate control off.
  • Avoid sudden acceleration and sharp braking where possible. Smoother driving consumes less energy.
  • Reduce the weight of the vehicle if you can. The heavier your car, the more energy it takes to move it. If you’ve got a boot full of firewood you keep forgetting to store, remove it before your next journey.

A final note on preserving car batteries

These are general tips that will serve you well with most electric cars. Different vehicles have different needs, though, and we don’t know exactly what you’re driving.

It’s worth checking to see whether your car’s manufacturer has put out advice on their electric vehicles. For example, Tesla has a page of range tips for Tesla drivers and Volkswagen has some advice on the page ‘How far your electric car can go’. Take a look at your car manual, too; some vehicles have eco modes that limit their power or shut off extraneous features in order to conserve battery life.

With an awareness of both the general needs of batteries and the specific needs of your car, we hope you’ll be able to keep using your battery for as long as possible. Safe driving!

Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-based R&D company focusing on autonomous vehicles and communications, both terrestrial and satellite. If you’d like to keep up with our articles, you can follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter, or subscribe to our newsletter on the What We Do page. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page.

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