I have been aware of The Green Organisation for years, but my first meeting with Mark Wolens, Manager at The Green Organisation, was when we had a bit of an EV argument on LinkedIn.
Of course he eventually acknowledged I was right, and rather cheekily asked me to write this practical guide to EV driving efficiency –
I have been driving a Renault Zoe electric car for the past 2 years and to date have travelled 28,000 miles of mixed business and personal travel. I don’t do a regular commute – I am a Green Deal Adviser and Domestic Energy Assessor, trading as nextGenergy. I visit customers’ homes across Scotland to assess their properties and their energy use, and to advise where improvements can be made. I am expanding into the business sector this year.
Customers have generally been inspired by my mode of transport, and I am pleased to say that some have followed suit and now have EVs of their own. I’ve learned plenty during the past 2 years and have seen how our charging infrastructure has improved in that time. There’s no better time to consider transitioning over to electric travel.
For most journeys, the range in your EV or PHEV will be plenty, but from time to time you might need to go a little further. In my role this is commonplace and I have developed a bags full of tricks to maximise my efficiency.
I do not ever suffer from range-anxiety, and have never run out of power – follow my advice and you wont either. I hope you will find these tips helpful……
Disclaimer: below is my personal opinion and intended as a guide only – always comply with the Highway Code and follow the car manufacturer’s instructions in your vehicle’s manual.
Top Tips for your Trip
Before your journey
Plan for your journey – certainly if it’s going to be lengthy, or into an area you are unfamiliar with. How many miles are you going to be travelling – can it be done without stopping to charge? Is there a chargepoint at your destination? Will you need to charge to make your return journey? Will you need to charge somewhere en route? What are the expected weather conditions, eg rain needs wipers and window demisting, winds will slow the car, darkness will require lights – all these reduce the range you can travel between charging. Check locations of rapid chargepoints. Check distances.
Get familiar with locations of rapid chargepoints generally – for all your lengthier trips.
Consider the season – it is normal that the expected range varies – when the weather is cold, the battery is affected and the anticipated range is always lower than in warmer weather. You will soon get to know your own vehicle and it will learn your driving style. The algorithms in the vehicle’s software will calculate anticipated range – based on the most recent journey, the present driving conditions eg temperature and wind speed, weight in the vehicle and what is being powered, eg wipers, lights, heater, entertainment system, heated seats.
Remove any unnecessary loads from your vehicle – weight affects the efficiency of your journey.
Check tyre pressures regularly – soft tyres affect driving efficiency and range.
Pre-conditioning (if car has this function) – prior to leaving home, and with car connected to chargepoint, pre-heat the interior with mains power to conserve the energy in the battery for travel. Pre-cooling is also possible. On icy mornings, pre-conditioning the vehicle, and repeating the cycle if necessary, successfully de-ices the windows without using a scraper or de-icer.
During your journey
An EV encourages efficient driving – some will score your driving efficiency and anticipation – challenge yourself to improve your best scores! A light foot on the accelerator is best when the aim is the most efficient driving for the maximum range, gentle acceleration too, and good anticipation – eg on the approach to traffic lights or in advance of queuing at a junction or roundabout, start to slow down well back when you see congestion ahead – what’s the point of using more energy than necessary, followed by harsher braking. Better to slow down well in advance and allow the vehicle to regenerate some energy back into the battery when slowing down on an approach like this – get some advantage out of the situation.
Drive in an economy mode whenever possible – this can extend range by approximately 10%. Best not to use an economy mode on dual carriageways/motorways – better to have the responsiveness and greater acceleration to pass other vehicles with ease – on these types of roads less regenerative braking is likely anyway.
Cruise control – nice facility, but beware – it doesn’t ensure you are driving efficiently so range will be affected – eg if you set cruise control for 50mph and have an incline in the road, the car will use more energy to get up that hill at the target speed set – better to limit when and where you use cruise control. Driving with a light foot will give better range, or a mix of manually controlled and cruise controlled.
Speed limiter – a very handy facility especially about town and in 20mph zones – great for ensuring limits are not exceeded.
Range monitoring – make use of a combination of onboard tools – sat nav with its miles to destination, in conjunction with the battery’s energy level converted into anticipated range assuming present driving conditions – also be aware of how useful the power gauge reading is – this shows the number of kilowatts of energy being used at any moment – tends to constantly fluctuate even when trying to keep foot light and steady on accelerator.
Power Gauge – aim to drive with this as close to 0kw as possible for greatest range. When it is displaying a negative kw consumption, then the vehicle is using regenerative braking, putting energy back into the battery, however if the power gauge indicates a negative figure, then the vehicle’s regenerative braking will be slowing it down – this is not best when in a flow of traffic. Best to marginally increase acceleration when the car is regenerating – aim for 0kw on the power gauge, and only allow regenerative braking on the approach to junctions and roundabouts, otherwise you will then be using an unnecessary amount of energy to increase the speed again from that negative position.
Speed – for maximum range then lower your speed – eg on dual carriageway, experiment driving at 55mph or 50mph and see the difference this can make. You will still get to your destination. You may even accomplish a long journey without needing to stop for a top up.
Performance – on particularly cold days, when setting off on your journey, it is best to get your battery warmed up as quickly as possible with a bit of acceleration early in your journey if you can – this will give you better performance from the remaining charge in the battery. On particularly windy days, you will notice a difference on the expected range. Not ideal I know, however on days like these you may want to get friendly with the rear end of a double-decker bus or HGV – which could help pull you along in its slipstream – only when needs must though – still aim to maintain an appropriate stopping distance.
Equipment – make sure your charging lead is always with you, and your chargepoint access card or app. Not all EVs come supplied with an alternative charging cable with a 3-pin plug – this might be an optional extra – it can be worthwhile getting equipped with such a slow charging cable, which uses just 10amps – could be used in the event of any emergency being able to charge at any property (I’ve not needed mine for this purpose yet) – eg if you find yourself lacking enough range to get to the chargepoint you intended getting to, or if on arrival there is any issue in the operation of the chargepoint.
I always promote the link between EVs and electricity generation – charging leads with 3-pin plugs are particularly useful if the EV will be getting charged at a property which is generating electricity, eg by solar panels or a wind turbine – I have found it frequently possible to charge my car slowly, and to keep within the amount my solar panels are generating, hence charging the vehicle at absolutely no cost in this way using the technology I had already invested in.
Economy tariffs – there may be merit in reviewing your electricity supply and tariff, eg if you are a regular commuter and will typically have to charge your EV in the evening or overnight – a cheap rate overnight tariff on an off peak meter may be more cost effective, however the daytime tariff will then likely be higher than a standard tariff.
When charging the vehicle
Battery care – it is better to charge the battery when it is warm – eg upon arrival at your destination, on return home, or en route at a public chargepoint once the vehicle’s battery has warmed up. The battery will charge quicker when it is warm. It can be charged when it is cold, but generally fairly slowly which protects the cells within the battery.
Charging lead care – when charging, fully unwind your charging lead and stretch it out to prevent any parts of it looping over itself which could cause an inductive loop which generates heat and could trip a circuit breaker.
Safety at a public chargepoint – avoid causing a tripping hazard – the charging lead could be tucked beneath your car.
State of charge in the battery – manufacturers design in protection of the cells within batteries – when we see the level of charge running low, there are some limited reserves still in the battery. However ideally try to top up -charge before your battery’s state of charges goes below 20%. When using a rapid chargepoint, unless it is essential that you charge the battery to 100% full, the most time efficient option is to charge to 80% only – to charge the final 20% to 100% full takes an extended time because the charge gets taken more slowly as the battery’s state of charge approaches full.
Etiquette – drivers of EVs are generally courteous – when using a public chargepoint, if another vehicle arrives needing a charge, and if the number of charging bays at that location is limited, if you have enough range either to get to your destination, or at least further on your journey where you will have the opportunity to charge again elsewhere, then it is courteous to free up the chargepoint for the other driver minimising their waiting time – they may have arrived with very limited miles range left and are unable to travel further to use another chargepoint.
Chargepoint Use by PHEVs and EVs – the speed of charging a vehicle depends on 2 things – the kw size of chargepoint the vehicle is connected to, and also the kw size of the charging unit built into the vehicle. On board charging units on PHEVs are typically 3.5kw (sometimes there is a rapid option as well), which means they take far longer to charge than a pure EV, so there is no advantage for some PHEVs to charge using a 50kw rapid chargepoint. Best that PHEVs with 3.5kw on board chargers use the 7kw chargepoints often found at the same location. This way the rapid chargepoints would not be in use for many hours by PHEVs, keeping them available to EVs which have no backup fuel – EV drivers have a more pressing need to access the rapid charging infrastructure.
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