How to make the best use of your electric car

Aug 09, 2023

As a new electric car owner, you may have many questions. But you can rest assured. We provide you with practical tips and advice for your new life with an electric car. For instance, we'll guide you on things to consider when installing a charger, how to charge your car optimally, and what maintenance and servicing entail.

How do I use my electric car? That’s a reasonable question, especially considering that an electric vehicle is constructed quite differently from a conventional car with an internal combustion engine. Of course, it's essential to follow the manufacturer's recommendations, but there are also many other things to know in order to minimize various issues that might arise while owning an electric car.
Keep an eye on the battery
As an electric car owner, the battery is the single most important component to keep an eye on. It's the heart of the vehicle and the most expensive part of an electric car; replacing it could cost you a lot. Therefore, a valuable piece of advice is to always ensure that the battery is in good health and properly taken care of.
Some of the most important things to consider include limiting fast charging whenever possible, avoiding extreme temperatures, and refraining from parking for extended periods with a fully charged battery. Therefore, it’s recommended to maintain a constant battery charge level between 20 and 80 percent, a principle that also applies to many other electronic devices powered by lithium-ion batteries.
– It's never good for a lithium-ion battery to be fully charged or completely discharged. The battery ages the fastest if the car is left with a fully charged battery for an extended period. For newer electric cars, this is something that can be minimized with the help of built-in automatic control systems. So, even if the car's battery shows 100 percent, it's rarely fully charged in reality, says Daniel Brandell, Professor of Material Chemistry at the Ångström Laboratory, Uppsala University.
Lithium-ion batteries are sensitive to temperature, particularly during use and charging. Therefore, newer electric cars are equipped with built-in temperature regulation systems around the battery to prevent damage when charging in extreme cold or heat, as explained by Daniel Brandell:
– If you buy a new electric car today, the electronics are so well adapted, and the control systems are so advanced that the customer simply can't abuse the battery. For example, when charging in sub-zero temperatures, the car's system automatically adjusts the temperature within and around the battery to receive the power in an optimal way.
Different charging connections
An electric car can, for example, be charged at filling stations and public charging points. It's also possible to charge your electric car through a regular household power outlet at home, although it's not recommended due to the outlet's inability to handle repeated high loads. Old, worn-out, or faulty connections and cables in a property can cause overheating under high load, which in turn can lead to fires.
A significantly safer solution is to acquire a charger and install it at home, typically in your garage driveway. A charging station has a built-in residual current device (RCD) and a "Type 2" socket that can handle high loads over extended periods. The charger also stops the charging process when the battery is full. Keep in mind that the installation of a charging station is directly integrated into your main electrical panel and thus must be carried out by a certified electrician.
Which type of charging connector should I use? Three-phase "Type 2" is the most common connector type in Europe and has been defined as the standard today, although there are several other connector types for public charging points. In principle, you only need one cable to handle all your charging needs while on the go. Mode 3 with a "Type 2" connector is used to connect to the charging station socket, and a "Type 2" or "Type 1" connector is used for the car itself.
An electric car requires less maintenance
The idea that an electric car is "maintenance-free" needs some clarification. However, a pure electric car has fewer mechanically moving parts than a conventional combustion engine car. There are no spark plugs, exhaust systems, engine cooling systems, or gearbox, and no need for expensive oil and filter changes, saving both time and money. On average, an electric car has 35 percent lower service and maintenance costs compared to a combustion car.
But there are also areas where an electric car requires similar maintenance to a fossil-fuel car. Examples of this include brakes, air conditioning, shock absorber and suspension systems. When it comes to tires and rims, this can even be more expensive for an electric car. This is partly due to the higher weight of electric cars, which generally require more powerful brakes, leading to larger rims and wider tires. Also, keep in mind that some electric cars are torque-rich with many horsepower, which can also wear out tires at a faster rate.
Frequently asked questions about electric cars
Can I leave the car at home with the cable plugged in when we go on vacation?
Answer: Yes, if you have a charging station installed. However, it's much better for the battery's health to leave it at about half charge. So, charge the car for a while and then disconnect the cable before you leave home.
How does the battery get affected when the car is parked in the sun?
Answer: High temperatures can have a negative impact on the electric car's lithium-ion battery. Therefore, the recommendation is to park in a shaded environment if you're leaving the car for an extended period during the summer.
I frequently use fast charging for my electric car, is it harmful to the battery in the long run?
Answer: Yes, it can be detrimental if done exclusively over an extended period. However, fast charging about every third time doesn't significantly affect the battery's capacity. Battery health gradually deteriorates with age and the number of charge cycles.
I often drive my electric car in cold and subzero temperatures, is there anything I should consider?
Answer: Manufacturer-stated maximum range figures rarely hold true in practice, especially at extreme temperatures. Lithium-ion batteries don't perform well in severe cold or heat and can't deliver the same efficiency as they do when it's a few degrees above freezing. A tip for driving in subzero temperatures is to preheat the car before setting off.
My car has been experiencing shorter range lately even though the battery shows as full, what could be the reason?
Answer: Most likely, the battery's health has deteriorated, which is normal for an older battery with many charge cycles. If the battery is relatively new, it might be damaged, and in that case, you should investigate the warranties applicable to your car.
Is it possible to test the health of my electric car's battery?
Answer: Yes, there are various methods to assess the condition of your electric car's battery, but many of them are unfortunately time-consuming and complex. DEKRA has developed its own battery test that takes only 15 minutes to complete. You can learn more about it here .