Electric vehicles (EVs), whether they are new or used, are typically long-term investments made with the intention of driving and enjoying the car for several years. How you choose to care for and maintain that investment will significantly impact the lifetime cost, experience, and overall value of your vehicle.
One of the most significant expenses in an EV, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the cost of an EV, is the battery. Certain habits can cause battery degradation to occur, which will ultimately decrease its lifespan.
To ensure your vehicle’s battery longevity and receive the most value from your EV long-term, you’ll want to be familiar with EV battery charging best practices. In this article, we’ll explore how to maintain your electric car’s battery health with key EV battery charging best practices and EV charging tips.
The following factors comprise essential elements of EV charging best practices that will help optimize your battery’s performance and efficiency, as well as prolong its life. We discuss each of these in more detail below.
EV battery charging best practices are essential to learn and implement, particularly regarding the tradeoffs between fast and slow charging.
When it comes to EV charging, there are three levels of charging to consider: Level 1 EV Charging, Level 2 EV Charging, and Level 3 EV Charging, also referred to as DC Fast Charging (DCFC).
Level 1 EV charging utilizes a 120V AC outlet and is easily accessible for a majority of drivers, as this type of outlet is a standard outlet in any home, multifamily, or commercial building outfitted with electricity. While this type of outlet is convenient to access at home or on the go, it charges at very slow rates due to the low output in voltage.
You can expect a Level 1 charger to add approximately three to five miles of range per hour of charging, depending on the make and model of the electric vehicle. As a result of this slow rate of charging, Level 1 EV charging can lead to an extended battery life by preventing a battery from regularly overcharging or receiving high-levels of energy on a consistent basis.
However, with a full charge often taking over 50 hours, many EV drivers find this level of EV charging is insufficient to meet their daily driving needs.
Level 2 EV charging stations are a preferred method of charging for many people as they can charge an EV up to ten times faster than a Level 1 EV charger, making it an ideal option for overnight charging.
Depending on the make and model of the electric vehicle as well as the EV charger, Level 2 charging adds 12 to 80 miles of range per hour of charging. These units run on 240V AC power through a dedicated circuit and require a certified electrician with the correct EV charger installation experience to install the appropriate hardware and wiring, as well as make any needed panel upgrades depending on the current available capacity and EV charger needs.
Level 2 EV charging stations use a higher level of power than Level 1 EV chargers but are equipped with “smarter” technology to communicate with the computer and technology inside of your electric vehicle to ensure your EV battery does not overcharge or overheat, and degrade as a result of these things over time.
Additionally, installing a smart Level 2 EV charging station that memorizes your schedule and daily driving needs can also calculate when you need your EV to be fully charged and when electricity is the most cost effective, so you never start your day with less battery range than you need and you can maximize your savings with at-home EV charging.
Level 3 EV charging stations, or Direct Current Fast Chargers (DCFC) are a commercial-grade method of EV charging as they require 480V DC power and are significantly more expensive to purchase and install. Commonly found along major roads and in grocery stores, malls, and other quick stops, these charges offer high-powered, rapid-charging speeds and boast a full charge often in 30 minutes to 1 hour making them convenient for charging your EV while traveling or topping off an EV battery.
DC Fast Charging Stations are the only charging method to utilize DC, or direct current, energy. Using DC allows these chargers to directly power the vehicle battery, whereas Levels 1 EV chargers and Level 2 EV charging stations must convert the energy from AC to DC within the vehicle, slowing down the charge time of the EV battery.
While Level 3 EV charging stations provide the fastest battery charge, consistent use of Level 3 EV charging has been shown to increase battery degradation for electric vehicles by an average of 3-5% over 50,000 miles.
Lithium-ion batteries work better when they are used and charged in partial cycles, in other words, not completely depleted or fully charged.
Consequently, the best charging practice is to charge the battery at different stages, optimally keeping its level between 20% and 80%. Similarly to how the overuse of fast charging stations can decrease battery life, so can consistently allowing your battery to drain to 0% or continually overcharging the battery to 100% when it’s not needed.
One way to keep your battery charging in the optimal range is to utilize a smart panel or smart EV charger to maintain charging within a certain range. Some EVs may also come with these limits established as a baseline setting for charging capacity. Another benefit to keeping your battery charge at no higher than 80% is that it leaves the capability to generate and store energy through regenerative braking, which can help extend your EV driving range.
Consistently having a fully charged or fully drained battery can affect its life, particularly during long-term storage when the vehicle sits with the EV battery at extremely high or low levels of charge for extended periods of time. If you need to keep your EV in storage, make sure to charge the battery at least once every three months. Keeping the EV battery level consistently between 20-80% is the best way to prevent damage during long-term storage, especially if the vehicle will also be exposed to extreme temperatures during that time.
Most batteries are designed to last a minimum of 200,000 miles or more, so battery damage or extended use will not always require battery replacement. However, battery lifespan can fall somewhere between eight and twelve years in more extreme conditions. Depending on the situation and extent of damages, a repair may be possible to bring your battery back to standard working order.
One way to make this less expensive repair choice available is to follow EV battery charging best practices diligently. In particular, repeatedly leaving your lithium-ion battery fully charged at 100% or completely depleted at 0% can cause the worst damage, so it’s best to avoid doing so, and frequently using rapid charging can also result in increased EV battery degradation over time.
While most EVs require very little battery maintenance, some models rely on a liquid coolant to manage battery temperature. You should have a professional check coolant levels regularly and ensure that this system is still working properly to prevent overheating.
The maximum lifespan of your EV battery will vary based on the vehicle’s make and model. Check the maintenance recommendations of your EV’s manufacturer to get a better idea of how many charging cycles your battery is rated for.
How you drive your EV can also impact its battery life. Rapid acceleration and harsh braking negatively affect your battery. Accelerating slowly and maintaining a consistent speed, as well as easing into stops, maximizes your battery range. Respecting the posted speed limits will also help enhance your EV’s battery health and range, as you will have a lower risk of needing to rapidly slow down to turn or avoid traffic.
EV range can also vary widely based on the driving environment. Regenerative braking can capture an average of 22% of the energy used when driving. This percentage can exceed 30% when driving in an urban environment with frequent stops, but it can be as low as 6% when driving on the highway where you are generally less likely to make frequent stops.
How you charge your EV when driving long distances is another factor affecting battery life. Planning ahead is a good practice, and with many attractions and hotels now including EV charging as an added amenity, it is more convenient to find Level 2 EV charging stations during daytime venues or for overnight charging while you also rest and recharge.
Ideally, well-planned trips should minimize the need to frequently fast charge your EV in favor of Level 1 EV chargers or Level 2 EV charging. Combining meals, venues, and hotel stops with EV charging can provide ample time to replenish your EV battery, especially if you plan ahead to make the most of your stops.
Weather is another significant consideration for optimal charging. Extreme temperatures can substantially impact any vehicles range, and it’s especially important for EV drivers to be mindful of how the weather conditions can affect an EV battery’s life and charging capability.
Cold weather can reduce your EV’s range by as much as 25% when driving at 70 mph. However, your range can be reduced by half when making short trips with frequent stops. Cold temperatures decrease battery resistance, which results in less power being available. Using energy to heat the cabin is another factor that affects range in the winter.
Warm weather can have a similar effect on battery performance. Range typically decreases by 5% at 90°F and can drop by as much as 31% once temperatures exceed 100°F. Driving with the AC on further contributes to reducing the range.
Parking your vehicle in the shade or in a temperature-controlled garage and pre-cooling it while still charging and before driving can help maximize the battery’s range in the summer. In the winter, you can protect your EV’s battery from extreme temperatures by charging indoors, pre-heating the cabin while still charging, and relying on heated seats rather than the cabin’s HVAC system for heat to help increase your vehicle’s range in cold weather. One unique difference with electric vehicles is that they can remain plugged in and charging while they are turned on and warming up or cooling off, helping you to conserve battery range while driving.
A malfunctioning EV charger can cause damage to your battery by not regulating the level of energy sent to the vehicle, or other harmful situations. When plugging in at home, this damage can add up over multiple charging sessions and significantly reduce the vehicle’s range over time.
You can prevent accidental damage to your battery by maintaining your charging equipment. You should perform regular visual inspections of your EV charger, look for signs of rust or damage, and keep the charging ports clean.
If you use a connected or smart charger, your charging data can reveal changes in performance and help identify potential problems. You should also have a professional test your charging equipment regularly to make sure the energy output is adequate for your vehicle’s battery and that the wires and internal connections are continuing to properly function.
Beyond damaging your electric vehicle and EV battery health, an improperly installed EV charger that used incorrect materials or wasn’t maintained properly over time and began to degrade can lead to electrical fires, melted components, severe damages, and more. Working with an experienced licensed electrician who has the proper training and certifications for EV charger installation to install and service your EV charger will help ensure your EV charger is safe and efficient for years to come.
When relying on public charging locations, your best option is to pick a charging network with a reputation for actively maintaining chargers and performing regular charging tests.
One final tip is to check your EV owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations for optimal charging, operating, and any instructions for repairs or replacements.
Your owner’s manual should provide additional tips and suggestions to further address EV charging and ensuring the health of your vehicle and EV battery for years to come. For example, certain vehicles offer a “sleep” mode that places them in an optimal state for storage. Your owner’s manual will also tell you where to check for any software updates that will increase your battery’s range and can provide additional information on how the carmaker is working to advance your EV’s range and functionality.
Remember, while technology is designed to provide added convenience to our lives, you will need to do your part in providing the maintenance and support your EV needs to perform optimally. Following these best practices will help keep your electric vehicle in excellent shape and ready to meet all your driving needs.
While planning for travel is vital, 80% of charging is done at home, generally overnight. Installing a Level 2 EV charger at home makes this manageable and straightforward and it’s important to work with a reliable, certified electrician who will ensure you have all the information and hardware needed to optimize your charging capabilities and ensure your vehicle is maintained for years to come.
With the largest network of certified electrification experts in North America and over 269,000 EV charging station installations to date, Qmerit can help you determine the best at-home charging setup and guarantee that no shortcuts are taken when it comes to your EV charging installation.
As the most trusted electrification installer in America, we’re here to support you in your electrification journey and beyond. Contact Qmerit today for an EV charger installation you can trust to keep your EV battery charging safely and to find out more about best practices for your car’s battery health!