Maximize your charging efficiency, save money, and benefit the environment.
When you bought your electric vehicle, you probably had a variety of reasons in mind, including environmental impact, access to the latest technology, vehicle performance, saving money on fuel costs, and automotive fashion trends.
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There’s another potential benefit that many people don’t often realize: charging efficiency. Not all outlets are the same. By maximizing the efficiency of your charging, you can actually increase your fuel savings and potentially the environmental benefits as well.
Understand Battery Charging
The basics of battery charging are the same, whether you’re charging your car or your cell phone. Your car may use a lead-acid, nickel metal hydride, or lithium-ion battery, but in all cases, the concept is the same: Passing an electric current (from mains power) through the battery causes a build-up or “charge” of electrons at the negative end of the battery, known as the anode.
Like people in an elevator, the electrons want to spread out evenly, which means they want to
get to the positive end of the battery, the cathode, but the only way for them to get there is if you activate the circuit for the system that you want powered—in this case, your car.
When you want to recharge a battery, you apply electricity to reverse the flow of electrons back to the anode, essentially resetting the battery to its original state. However, there are many inefficiencies in this process that result in a less than ideal charging experience. In particular, the chemical process also causes insulating atoms to form and obstruct the electrodes. Therefore, we can increase the efficiency of the battery with some targeted charging practices.
1. Maintain Ideal Charging Conditions for Batteries
The major costs of batteries are their purchase price (and thus their lifespan), and their efficiency with different types of charging and discharging behaviors. By taking steps to prolong your battery life and use only the most efficient charging behaviors for your EV’s battery type, you can save a significant amount of money in the long run.
This is the standard battery type for modern EVs. For the most efficient charging, including longer battery life, there are two important things you need to do:
Keep the battery as cool as possible. Park the car in a garage or carport, and don’t charge in open sunlight if you can help it. Instead, choose indoor or covered charging slips, or charge when the sun’s not out.
Keep the battery charged in the range of 30% to 80%. Try not to fully drain or fully charge it when you don’t need to. In other words, you can randomly charge this battery at various intervals without worry. In fact, it’s preferred!
Fast charging is a good option for lithium-ion batteries.
According to Battery University, the best way to prolong the life of this type of EV battery and charge it more efficiently is to avoid heat where possible. Like with most other batteries, heat is an efficiency killer.
Do not allow the battery to completely drain on a regular basis, but do fully charge it each time.
Do not attempt to fast charge this type of battery.
Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries
This battery can form a memory, so fully charge it each time, and give the battery a full discharge around every month to three months.
Do not allow the battery to overheat while charging.
Fast charging is a good choice!
2. Use a Smart Charging App
In order to get the most savings out of your time at the charging station, be sure to use a smart charging app. Modern batteries and EV computer systems are much more sophisticated than “charge goes in / charge goes out,” meaning that smart software will do a better job of managing all those little technical details.
As a bonus these apps will tell you where the nearest charging stations are, meaning you won’t waste any time or money driving around looking for one.
3. Be Deliberate About Which Power Sources You Use
The money you save on gasoline with an EV is offset somewhat by the money you spend charging your car, in the form of higher electricity bills at home and any costs you pay at commercial EV charging stations. There are two things you can do here to save money:
Charge from the Cheapest Power Sources
This takes a little bit of planning, but once you figure out the optimal routine it gets easier. Basically, what you want to do is figure out how much it costs you to charge your car at home and at any commercial charging stations you use. Then, charge as much as possible at the cheapest power source. Only charge from other sources when you have to.
If you have a car with an auxiliary gasoline option, be sure to take into account things like elevation changes and traffic commute times in your morning versus evening commute, so that you can choose to use battery power in such a way that you’ll only need to recharge right when you get to your preferred charging source.
Install Renewable Power at Home
If you own a home, you can reduce your EV fuel costs potentially all the way down to $0 by installing solar panels or a wind turbine on your property. These renewable power sources only work when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, but during those times they tend to produce a surplus of power.
Most power stations will pay you a rebate for any energy you contribute to their grid, but the rebate will almost always be less valuable than the amount of money you’ll save by charging your EV during those surplus times. In fact, charging your car with solar or wind power is one of the most cost-saving and greenest solutions available to you today.
4. Keep Your Vehicle Serviced
Cars lose a lot of efficiency when they’re in poor repair. A well-serviced vehicle with an efficiently running electric engine is going to much less wasteful on the battery, meaning you’ll get more bang for your buck on a given amount of charge. Take your car in for regular service, and at home make sure your tires are properly inflated, and keep excess baggage out of the car.
Keeping the electric motor and battery themselves in good repair is also important. Most electric vehicles have an optimal conversion rate of around 80 to 90 percent, meaning that 80 to 90 percent of the energy drawn from the power grid during charging will actually be converted to usable energy for your vehicle. Maintaining the electrical system will ensure that your conversion rates remain high.
BONUS: Free Charging Stations
If you happen to be traveling past a free charging station, the money you’ll save by charging for free could be well worth the investment stopping for a few minutes to top off.
As an added bonus, by familiarizing yourself with the locations of available charging stations in your area, you can save yourself time and stress whenever you go on a road trip to new locations on a relatively low charge. Getting to better know the various parts of your town or city means you’ll discover some hidden bargains!
Written by Jordan McDowell from EV Connect