Keep your electric car’s battery comfy and don’t rush the charging and discharging.
Our lives are increasingly filled with battery-powered devices, most of which now use lithium-ion batteries, including cell phones, laptops, power tools, and—most pertinent for us—in electric vehicles. Many of us have experienced some level of battery degradation, then, at least in smartphones. But electric cars are a bit more expensive, and losses in capacity or a battery’s ability to hold a charge can have noticeable impacts on your driving behavior. Imagine your gas-powered car’s fuel tank shrinking over time!
So, what are EV customers to do? Research by the University of Michigan into ways consumers can extend lithium-ion battery life (in cars, phones, and beyond) was recently published in the Journal of Energy Storage, and it holds a few tips. The research was supported by the Responsible Battery Coalition, an association of companies (including Ford and Honda), academics, and organizations committed to the responsible management of batteries now and in the future to minimize the impact our increasingly battery-powered lifestyles have on the planet. In addition to academic research into ways to make batteries last longer, the team studied available battery use and charging recommendations found in user manuals from manufacturers including BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Fiat, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Tesla.
Keep reading past the list for more on how to extend their battery lives, as well as key background information on the science behind these energy storage devices.
6 Ways To Extend EV Battery Life
- Minimize exposure to high temperatures, in storage and use—Park your EV in the shade whenever possible or plug in so that the battery’s thermal management system can function using grid power.
- Minimize exposure to low temperatures—Here again, the danger is mostly parking unplugged in extreme low temperatures. If you can plug in, the battery’s thermal management system can keep the battery comfy. Some EVs automatically run the thermal management system even unplugged, until capacity drops to 15 percent, after which things get ugly.
- Minimize time spent at 100 percent state of charge—Try to resist the urge to plug in all night every night. If your daily travels consume 30 percent of the battery, using a middle-30-percent (like from 70 to 40 percent) is better for the battery than always using the top 30 percent. Smart chargers will eventually integrate with your calendar to anticipate daily driving needs and tailor charging to suit.
- Minimize time spent at 0 percent state of charge—Battery management systems typically shut an EV off well before reaching 0 percent. The bigger danger is leaving a vehicle unplugged for so long that it self-discharges to zero and stays there for a prolonged period.
- Avoid using fast charging—Automakers know that one of the keys to mass EV adoption is the ability to charge as quickly as filling a gas tank, so they’re timid about warning against high-voltage DC charging. And indeed it’s fine for recharging during infrequent long trips—or for when a surprise appointment depletes your strategic 70-percent overnight charge. Don’t make it a habit.
- Avoid discharging more quickly than is needed—It’s tough to resist those Ludicrous Tesla launches, and they’re relatively harmless when enjoyed occasionally when demoing your car to a prospective EV convert. Just know that each one hastens the ultimate demise of your vehicle’s battery by some amount.