Top 5 Tips to Make Your EV Driving More Efficient

Carlos Huerta

Table of Contents

    Nowadays, electric vehicles have driving ranges that can reach 200 miles and in some cases even 300 miles. The range anxiety seems to a matter of the past. However, just as you would need to know with a regular gas-powered vehicle, there are some tips that can help you extend your range for a few extra miles.

    This is important to minimize electricity consumption (and consequently minimize costs) but it is especially useful whenever you find yourself in a situation with low-battery or with a system malfunction in the middle of the road. Learning about a few of these tips might just give you the chance to reach a nearby charging point location or even to your own home for battery charging. Here you will have the top 5 ideas to make your EV driving more efficient and minimize your battery discharge.

    1.     Gain and Keep Momentum

    One of the most pleasant things about owning an electric vehicle (EV) is acceleration. An EV’s acceleration is faster than a regular internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. Generally taking the electric vehicle from 0 to 60mph in just 5 seconds or less. While it is one of the benefits of owning an EV, the truth is that accelerating has an important draw of energy from your battery, especially when accelerating from zero.

    This is means that every time you fully stop your vehicle and press the pedal, you are consuming more energy than you should. It is one of the principles of gaining and keeping momentum in the highway/road. As the vehicle keeps the same or similar speed, it will consume much less energy than constantly accelerating and reducing speed. Try to drive smoothly and at a constant speed to make use of the accumulated kinetic energy and keep momentum.

    Figure 1. EV driving on a tunnel at constant speed. Source: EV Friendly

    2.     Drive Slow

    Battery electric vehicles can run as fast as 150 mph. While this is the average maximum speed, you should never go this fast if you care for your life and want to avoid the speeding ticket. However, there is another extra reason to avoid high speeds and that is the energy consumption.

    While the maximum speed limit is close to 70 mph (depending on the State), driving to that speed or more can drastically increase the aerodynamic drag and consequently increase the air-resistance that the EV needs to overcome, this has a heavy impact on energy consumption. In fact, when the vehicle is driving at 90 km/h (about 55 mph) or more, the air resistance is responsible for nearly 62% of the total energy consumption.

    To reduce drag force, two variables are important, the drag coefficient of the vehicle and the speed. The drag coefficient is a constant value associated to the shape of the vehicle, therefore it cannot be changed. However, the speed is a variable that you can adjust. Knowing that the power required to push the vehicle against airflow scales at the cube of velocity, it is clear that after a point, every mph counts.  Figure 1 shows the impact of high speeds on the battery consumption and range of Tesla vehicles. Here the optimum speed to minimize battery consumption is 20 mph but a value close to 40-50 mph also leads to positive results at a more decent speed.

    Figure 1 (a). Battery Consumption vs Speed for Tesla Model S and Roadster. Source: Tesla
    Figure 1 (b). Range vs Speed for Tesla Model S and Roadster. Source: Tesla

    3.     Properly Use Regenerative Braking

    Additionally, regenerative braking is one of those unique full electric vehicle features that everyone loves and that is good to get used to while driving. Unlike ICE vehicles, EVs work with an electric motor that takes power from the battery. When you press the pedal for acceleration you are injecting more current to the motor, but when you let loose off the pedal the accumulated kinetic energy (or potential energy that accumulates when driving down a hill) will keep the vehicle running for some time until air and friction stop the vehicle. However, if you press the brakes you will simply stop the vehicle and loose that energy, or will you?

    By enabling the regenerative braking function, you can recover that accumulated kinetic energy (or potential energy) and use it to recharge the battery as the car slows down. Here is where knowing ahead the topography of the landscape can be of great help to know specifically when to activate the regenerative braking system (at the top of a hill for instance).

    The regenerative braking function activation varies depending on the car model but in most cases, it can simply be activated by touching a button in the vehicle and letting go off the accelerator. At that point, the regenerative braking system will start working automatically.  

    In some models, pressing the brakes up to a certain level will also add a boost recovery feature that can retrieve a higher amount of energy almost instantly. Depending on the mode, speed, site height and the car model used, the energy retrieved can be high or low. It is important to verify the regenerative braking system efficiency of your vehicle to have an estimate of how much energy the system can theoretically retrieve (an average between 60 -70%).

    Figure 2. Audi E-tron’s Regenerative Braking System. Source: AutoMotoTV

    4.     Select and Maintain Your Tires Properly

    Believe it or not, the tires of your all-electric vehicle can also have an important impact on your car’s performance because they are directly linked to the rolling resistance. Having the appropriate tire size and correct pressure is essential to get the optimum performance.  The size and tread design of the tires are also linked to the aerodynamics which are another important draw source from the battery as was explained before.

    Moreover, tires for pure EV applications need to carry heavier loads and need to withstand high instant torques. This leads to higher tire wear which is why tires with more robust constructions are required. Hence, some manufacturers such as ERange have specifically focused on designing tires for electric vehicles. According to ERange, their tire design allows to optimize grip for braking in a shorter distance and also reduce battery consumption.

    5.     Use HVAC Features Only When Necessary

    Finally, the most energy demanding of power consuming accessories in an EV is the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, taking between 30 to 50% of the total stored energy during heating in some cases. Some studies even indicate that 10% of battery degradation can occur over time if the HVAC system is used constantly.  This is why keeping the use of the HVAC system down is one of the most important things you can do to extend your vehicle range for a few extra miles, especially if you are running low on battery.

    However, the HVAC system is an important feature that you will still use. Keeping in mind a couple of tips will help you minimize the energy consumption from the battery on a regular basis.

    For instance, during winter temperatures, one of the best approaches to heat the vehicle is to activate the heating while the vehicle is still getting charged, in other words, pre-heat the vehicle before going out on the road. Another valuable tip is to use seat warmers (if available) instead of regular air heating. These will keep you warm and use a lower amount of energy.

    On the other hand, during hot summer days, the same approach can be applied, just the other way around. Cool down the vehicle while it is plugged-in rather than using the battery alone to cool the vehicle. While on the road, using the fan alone can be another good solution.  Finally, another obvious, yet useful tip, is using the natural air-flow while driving by opening the car windows. This will increase air resistance and correspondingly have a minor impact your vehicle range, but the gain from turning off the HVAC compared to aerodynamic losses will be far superior.

    Figure 3. Electric Vehicle During Winter Season. Source: Autoevolution

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