How to: Maximise driving range in your electric car
With every passing month, it seems the difficult path to full electrification by 2030, as envisioned by the Government of India, has one less hurdle. It comes in the form of ever more affordable EVs, extra incentives for electric-vehicle buyers, greater take-up of EVs for the government to use itself, or the corresponding promise for a more robust public charging network. But until that happens, using your electric car in an environment outside of the urban setting for which most EVs are designed, does take overcoming a mental block - that you are going to run out of juice before you reach your destination.
The current crop of EVs in India do help alleviate those worries, but only to an extent. For example, the Tata Nexon EV has a claimed range of 312km from its 30.2kWh battery pack, which sounds like it's more than enough for a week of daily commuting if your commute is around 40km a day. But those numbers were attained in a test lab, under ideal conditions, which doesn't account for variance in acceleration one needs when driving in traffic, or even the long periods of time most people spend waiting for traffic to get moving in the first place, with things like the infotainment, climate control and even lighting, slowly chipping away at the battery's charge. All of that can make for a real-world driving range which is roughly 60-85 per cent of the advertised range. But there are ways you can come close to that seemingly-unattainable figure - and it has to do with not just how you drive, but also how you charge.
Charge when you can, even if you don't need to
Like the lithium-ion batteries in your smartphone, or laptop, the batteries in EVs have a limited number of charge cycles before their efficiency drops off, as well as an ideal operating range of charge, most usually between 40-80 per cent of the total charge capacity though there isn't a downside to consistently charging to 100 per cent either. And like with any battery-powered gadget, you'll get the most life out of your EV by frequently topping it off, which ultimately puts less stress on the battery. So even if you're merely using your EV for a short run to the grocery store (considering the current WFH situation), try and top it off when you get back home. Knowing where your local charging stations, as well as vehicle dealership with charging stations, helps too, in case you need a quick top-up before continuing your journey.
Plan your journeys
Most of us do a quick check on Maps before we head out the door, to take stock of the traffic situation along your route. When you drive an EV, just make sure to pick the route with the least traffic, even if it's slightly longer distance-wise. Ultimately, the time saved draining the battery just sat in traffic adds back to your driving range. It doesn't hurt to pay a little more attention to the traffic around you while you're actually driving too it'll help you plan overtakes in advance, using up less juice.
Traffic light battles may be fun with an EV's generous and instant torque. Try and get it out your system early on!
Aim to keep up with traffic
This is a tip that'll help you get the most efficiency out of your regular internal-combustion engine car too - just accept that in the city you're going to be driving in traffic! The less you try and get ahead to ultimately save less than a few minutes, the more peaceful your drive will be too. It'll also help you cultivate gentle inputs for the throttle and the brake, making you a smoother driver and netting you greater range. The best part is, you don't have to necessarily drive slow either! If you're on the highway, you have an added advantage of less wind resistance if you're behind a larger vehicle, and easier coasting too. Remember to keep a safe distance, of course, and while the advantage may be minimal, every little bit helps on the highway - where EVs typically see the greatest drain of power at high sustained speeds.
Use Eco mode and regenerative braking
A little obvious, but worth pointing out, especially on a journey that may take you to the fringes of your driving range envelope. All EVs have a drive mode that priorities efficiency (sometimes reducing the climate control's cooling) and ups the energy recuperation through regenerative braking. Trust us, it makes a difference. We've seen a distance-to-empty of 32km stay nearly constant over a 20km journey by putting our EV into Eco mode and letting the car slow down by itself, slowly charging the batteries as it shed speed.
Avoid the heat
An electric car's biggest enemy is heat, either through aggressive driving, or even ambient heat if your car's parked outside. Normally, an EV will drop the smallest amount of charge if it's left parked for a period of time over a couple of days, supplying energy to the various sensors and systems onboard. This effect will be greatly accelerated if it's parked where the sun is beating down on it. Not to mention, you'll have to crank the air-conditioning to lower temperatures to try and cool your cabin down, further eating up valuable battery power. If possible, try and pre-cool your EV's cabin while it's still connected to a charging socket, so that you save some battery power for when you get moving.
While some of these tips mean you do have to exercise some restraint and some forethought, it's a small price to pay for being an early adopter of a technology that we're no doubt going to be seeing more of in the coming years, and one that has the potential to clean up the air (keeping aside deferred pollution for now) in our cities. More so when you consider the cost savings versus owning and maintaining a conventionally-powered vehicle in the long run. Remember, you're already part of the revolution!
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