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New And Potential Plug-In Vehicle Drivers Have Questions, We Have Answers

For anyone that has recently purchased or is considering their first plug-in electric vehicle, whether it is a fully electric vehicle (EV) or a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV), they may have questions. Surveying social media and being an early adopter of modern plug-in vehicles has given me lots of exposure to such questions. Here are a few common questions I’ve encountered and answers based on years of experience and research. Consider this an invitation to ask others and to challenge me with ones I’ve never seen.

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How should I charge my battery (be that how often, to what %, at what “speed”, etc.)? This may be the most common question or type of question I encounter. In short, to some extent, it depends. PHEVs should almost always simplify the matter though because manufacturers typically build in restrictions on how much you can charge/discharge the hybrid battery. Just charge a PHEV to full or 100% displayed capacity. It won’t hurt the battery, and neither will depleting it, as this is what they are designed for and there is simply a certain % of the battery you won’t be able to access via charging or discharging, which is held in reserve to protect the longevity of the battery. Of course plugging and unplugging adds a tiny amount of wear and tear to the connectors, so one may not want to arbitrarily plug and unplug it more than necessary. Perhaps, if this concerns you, just think of it like this: if you know you don’t need more charge than is already in the battery to make your next trip, and you’ll have enough time to do a full charge before you need it, then wait until you get back from the short trip to charge. The capacity of your battery, the speed at which you can recharge it, etc. may all determine how you will charge it, but remember, PHEVs only attain their best efficiency by plugging them in and using the battery as frequently as possible. For EVs, though the above is also generally true, you should also consider the battery chemistry (Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries are more tolerant of being charged to 100% and is encouraged by brands such as Tesla). If your EV has a chemistry other than Lithium Iron Phosphate, you may only want to charge to 100% just before leaving on a long drive that you know requires most of a full charge to get to your destination/the next charge point. Otherwise, it is generally better to make more short stops than fewer longer stops on a long EV trip (of hundreds of miles or more), if only for the better safe than sorry aspect of being able to make it to another charger should there be a long wait/charger out of order at your first stop. By not letting your battery dip below roughly 20% state of charge or much above 80% will also mean it recharges at a near optimal rate and is better for the longevity of non Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries.

How long will my battery last (before it needs to be replaced)? A great question that typically arises from people’s experience with gas powered cars or from a place of fear or concern. But the short answer is that all EVs’ and PHEVs’ propulsion batteries are intended to last a minimum of the warranty covering the battery but more likely somewhere around 10-15 years should be attainable assuming the battery has adequate, functioning temperature controls that help it maintain optimal temperature ranges. Typically, EV and PHEV battery warranties are at least 8 years/80,000 miles, and some are much longer/higher. Should a battery need to be replaced after its warranty has expired though, do expect that it will be expensive to replace as the battery is usually the single most expensive component in a plug-in vehicle.

How do I get the stated electric (or total) range, MPGe, or best efficiency? I have written more than one article on how to get or exceed the EPA estimated range in a PHEV and the same principles apply to EVs. In short, you must drive gently (i.e. don’t accelerate hard, drive the speed limit, and expect to need to do a large portion of your driving not at freeway speeds (i.e. on local or neighborhood streets) because the EPA doesn’t set its estimates based on driving patterns that are primarily freeway miles. You must also not be towing or have large obstructive objects strapped to your roof, and it matters which kind of tires you have mounted, your driving conditions (going over mountain passes?), etc. Your mileage will vary of course, but if you want to get the most efficiency out of your plug-in vehicle you can not drive it hard.

What do you think readers, do you have any additional questions for any plug-in cars? If so, please leave them below. I’ll follow up with another piece as I collect more questions. Cheers!

Image courtesy of Justin Hart.

Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.

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