New EV Owners FAQ
Here you'll find the answers to the common questions received from new EV owners.
Should I charge every day?
If you can charge at home, then yes. Get used to plugging in the car when you return. Your car will then always be full and ready for the next day or for an unexpected trip. This is more important if you have a small battery EV (with lower range). Your car controls the charger, so it will charge to 100% and then turn off the power. You cannot over charge or waste energy.
Also if you plug in every night, you can use the pre-conditioning function where your vehicle gets ready at the time you set, while connected to the charger. It will heat up in the winter, melting the ice of the windows or cool in the summer. This is one of the best features of an EV.
If you have a larger battery and not needing the full range every day, then maybe you only need to charge it every few days.
Should I charge to 100%?
Generally yes. Most EVs only allow you to charge to 100%. You have to remember the car has a BMS (battery management system) which looks after the battery for you. So even if your dash shows the battery is at 100%, it is likely that it is actually more like 95%. The BMS keeps a bit of the battery back (both at the top & bottom) that the user can't access, to prolong its lifespan.
Some EVs have the facility to limit the charge to 80 or 90%. If you don't need a full charge, then using this can help battery life even further. But whether is this is actually measurable during the time you own the car is questionable. But if you have smaller battery where you need all the range, then don't worry and charge to 100% every day to give you maximum range. The BMS in the car will look after your battery for you.
If you always charge to 80-90%, then you certainly do want to occasionally charge to 100% to allow the cells to re-balance. I would suggest at least once a fortnight.
How much does it cost to charge my EV?
You buy electricity in units of a kWh. Currently home electricity typically costs around 15p per kWh or as low as 5p during an off-peak night time tariff. Or some use a tariff that tracks the wholesale electricity cost (such as the Octupus Agile tarrif) which can even reduce the cost further and even occasionally you can get paid to charge your car!
If you charge on a public rapid (50kW) charger, this is likely to cost around 30p per kWh. However, many public fast chargers (7kW) are considerably less and even often free of charge. Many charges in retail parks and shopping centres are free of charge.
Your EV battery storage capacity is also measured in kWh too, so it is easy to work out. You simply multiply the battery size by the electricity cost.
If you have a 22kWh EV, then the usable size is probably around 19kWh. So a full charge at home will cost £2.85 if you pay 15p per unit. Using an off-peak tariff would reduce the cost to around 95p. A public rapid charge would cost around £4.56 to charge from 0-80%. The actual costs will likely be lower, as you'll not be charging from completely empty.
The range is showing less than I was expecting
This is a frequent comment from new EV owners, particularly of small battery vehicles and more so when you experience your first winter with an EV. There are many factors which effect range and there is a lot for a new EV owner to learn and maybe your driving style need to change.
Understanding the range meter
New EV owners put too much emphasis on the range meter. The best advice is to ignore it and use the battery gauge (same as the old fuel tank gauge) instead, at least while you're getting used to your new EV. So you then treat the battery like the a fuel tank, drive it to near empty and then fill it up. Watching the range meter will give you range anxiety!
The most important thing to remember is that the range meter is only a guide and most of the time it is not showing you the real range of the vehicle. Some vehicles are better than others, but all range meters are a prediction based on recent driving history, battery charge, temperature and heating use. A vehicle can't predict how you are about to drive, so it bases the range on how it was last driven. So if you drove fast the day before, then charged up over night, the following morning your range will look poor as the vehicle is going to assume you'll be driving fast again. You have to remember that the range meter is a prediction and not fact! On some vehicles, the range meters can be very pessimistic and you'll actually find you'll get far more miles than it says. It isn't uncommon to drive 3-4 miles to every 1 mile of range on the dash.
Understanding your economy
It is far more important to understand your driving economy meter before you put any trust in your range meter. In electric vehicles, your driving economy is measured in miles per kilowatt hour (mpkWh). So that is how many miles you have driven using one unit of electricity (kWh). Your vehicle's range prediction is based on this. So if you're driving uneconomically, then your range will be poorer.
If you're concerned about the range, the first thing to do it reset your economy meter, drive and measure what your current mpkWh. On average, economic driving is around 4.5 mpkWh. If you're doing town driving where your speed is lower, then you can get up to 5.5 mpkWh. This does depend on the vehicle and heating or air conditioning use will effect your economy. If you economy is below 3.5 mpkWh, then you need to change your driving style. See below on how to improve this.
If you have a 22kWh battery pack and assume 18kWh is the current usable capacity, then if you drive at 3 mpkWh on average, your range will be 54 miles. If you drive at 4.5 mpkWh, then your range will be 81 miles. As you can see, your driving economy can make a huge difference to the range in a small battery EV.
Check your driving style
It is very common for new EV owners to drive far faster than they did in their previous petrol or diesel car. After years of driving noising combustion engine vehicles, you're conditioned to associate acceleration and speed with the vibrations and noise, which have all gone in an EV. As EVs are quiet, smooth and accelerate quicker, often new owners end up driving much faster than they did before. EVs have full torque from a standstill and with no gear changes, vibrations or noise on acceleration, new EV owners will often end up accelerating too quickly without realising it. This of course, uses a lot of energy and reduces range.
You also need to be using your regen to maximise your driving economy. If you are driving your EV efficiently, you'll hardly every touch your brakes. Coast as much as possible and allow the regen to slow the vehicle down and adjust the regen (B mode) when needed rather than touching the brake.
Use your vehicles ECO mode as much as possible to maximise the economy. This will reduce the power to the motor which means you accelerate more gently, but still faster than most ICE vehicles!
Other points which effect range
Driving at high speed uses a lot of energy, just like it does with a petrol or diesel car. The faster you go, the more air your car has to push through. So driving at 65mph on the motorway uses much less energy than driving at 75 mph. Tucking in behind an HGV also saves energy and is particularly useful if you're low on energy and need to maximise your economy. Also when driving on higher speed roads, you'll probably not be slowing down for junctions, roundabouts etc and therefore not using the regen to get any charge back into the battery. Taking the country route, rather than the motorway can make a huge difference to your range, as the driving will be far more economical for an EV, If your sat nav has an "eco" option on the route planning, use this rather than the "fastest". When taking a long trip, driving on the slower roads doesn't mean it will take any longer, if it saves stopping of for a charge.
If you're the new owner of a vehicle, the range will be based on the previous driver's history. If it has previously been driven uneconomically, then this will be effecting the current range prediction. I've got in a Renault Kangoo which showed 19 miles range on a full charge and then drove 80 miles!
Heating or air conditioning uses a lot of energy from the traction battery and therefore reduces the driving economy. So again, if you used the heating yesterday, the range meter today will be assuming you'll be using the heating again because your previous driving economy was poor.
Rain also effects economy. Driving on wet tarmac and through puddles increases friction. This is the same with all vehicles, but it is more noticeable with small battery EVs where you have a lower range.
Range is reduced in the cold due to batteries being less efficient and heater use. So often new owners of small battery EVs will get range anxiety when they experience their first autumn or winter. This can be particularity concerning to a new EV owner who buys their vehicle in the autumn or winter, then immediately experiences a lower than expected range before they've got to grips how to use their vehicle. You have to remember you're seeing it at its worst conditions and it all gets much better in the spring when it warms up. See the section below about winter use tips to improve range.
As a new EV driver, you will probably experience range anxiety and it does take many months to not worry about range. If you have a small battery EV, you have to get used to driving to the low fuel level. You've probably previously filled your petrol car up every fortnight and driven around with two weeks worth of fuel on board, then filled up again when its at a quarter of a tank. With an EV, you charge up every night while you sleep and therefore only need enough fuel for the days use and every day you come home to your charger.
How do I maximise range in winter?
Combustion engined cars burn fuel, so heat is the by-product (as well as toxic emissions!) and with these cars we don't need to think about heating as there's surplus heat that the vehicle is trying to to get rid of. However, with EVs, the heat has to be generated and this uses huge amounts of energy. This energy comes from the main traction battery, so using the heater will reduce the vehicle's range in the winter. On top of this, batteries are less efficient when cold so EVs winter range is already reduced before using the heating.
EVs can have two types of heating system. Most older and lower spec EVs (and majority of the vans) have a restive heater which uses a lot of energy. Newer EVs use heat pumps which are far more efficient. All the same tips below apply to both types of system, as both use energy that you'd probably rather not waste in the winter. This is particular important on smaller battery EVs.
Most EVs have pre-conditioning which allows you to pre-heat the car while it is connected to the charger. Use this before every trip in the winter as this is the most efficient way of maximising your range. Using this will also save you time too, as it will save you scrapping the ice off the windows. You may find that when you disconnect and start your journey, you can then turn off the heating as the cabin is already warm enough for your trip. This will then give you 100% of the possible range. Some EVs, such as the BMW i3, have heating on the battery pack too, so using the pre-conditioning (or in the case of the BMW i3, you must set the departure time) not only heats the cabin but also heats the battery pack which makes a huge difference to the winter range.
Use heated seats
If you car has heated seats and a heated steering wheel, use them. These use the 12V battery up front, rather than the traction battery, so will not directly reduce the range. It is more efficient heating your contact points rather than heating the whole cabin. If you have a heated steering wheel too, then you may find you don't also need the air heating on, unless its very cold.
Keep heating use to a minimum
While in your previous ICE car you probably kept the heating on all the time, you do really want to try to limit heating use on an EV if you need maximum range. You soon get used to not having the heating on so much or lowering the temperature. You can wear gloves and a hat instead - it works and costs nothing!
If you have a heat pump system in your EV and you turn it on, then it can be more efficient to just leave it on, rather than turning it on and off. It would be better to leave it running, but just lower the temperature slightly.
Some EVs have a "driver only" mode on the heating controls. This just directs air to the driver's side only so is a little more efficient if you're the only person in the vehicle.
If you're just commuting or popping to the shops, where your drive is well within the range, don't worry - turn the heater up and enjoy it!
Park in a garage overnight
Many people have a garage that isn't used for the car. Consider clearing out the garage to make room for the EV over the winter as it will make a huge difference keeping the car inside overnight. Batteries are less efficient when cold, so if you can park the car out of the wind, snow etc, then the range will be greater. Maybe just parking in a more sheltered or protected area might even help.
If the vehicle is left outside on a cold night, remember in the morning the batteries will still be colder than the rest of the vehicle that may haven been getting warmed up by the morning sun. The battery temperature underneath the vehicle may still be several degrees colder, so don't be surprised if the range prediction reflects this.
Block off the cargo area on a van
If you van doesn't have a solid bulkhead between the cabin and cargo area, then the heating is having to heat the whole vehicle. It would be far more efficient to cover a mesh bulkhead with foam or carpet to insulate the cabin from the cargo area. If you have no bulkhead, try to make up one. Even hanging some thick material, like a curtain, would keep a lot of the heat out of the cargo area.
Use other heat sources
If you're still struggling, then you could use a hot water bottle, 12v plug in heater or a 12v plug in seat heater pad. Some electric vans have small diesel heaters fitted. These use very little fuel, but then of course are till emitting dangerous pollution.
Where do I go for an MoT?
You can get an electric vehicle tested at any MoT testing station. The MoT test is no different to any other vehicle, except there's no emissions to test. So you can use your local MoT garage and no need to use the main dealership that you may use for serving.
Please note, that if you have an electric van registered before 1st March 2015, it is MoT exempt, so there's no legal requirement to get a test. See MoT tests for further information.
Where do I get my EV serviced?
If your EV is still under the manufacturer's warranty , then you'll probably want to use a main dealer. Your car may also need software updates or recall work which only main dealerships can do.
If your vehicle needs other work that isn't related to the high voltage systems, such as suspension work, then any garage should be able to do it.
If your vehicle just needs tyres - use a tyre retailer or online tyre website. They are nearly always cheaper.
My home charger isn't working - who do I contact?
Chargers that were installed with the OLEV grant have a three year warranty, so contact your installer. If it is out of the warranty period, your installer (or another installer which support this charger brand) may be able to repair it.
Will my EV go flat while I'm away on holiday?
Basically no it wont. However, your EV has two batteries. The main traction battery will not go flat if left for long periods, even after many months.
However, just like all cars, the 12V battery can go flat when left for long periods. If the battery is good, then there should be no problem leaving it for up to 4 weeks. But if your battery is week or its cold, then it can drain. The recovery procedure is the same as any other vehicle.
What tyres should I buy?
EVs are no different from any other vehicle when it comes to tyres. You don't need special tyres (even on a Zoe). However, when choosing tyres you do want to get the quietest ones you can find. The difference between a 68dB tyre and a 70dB tyre is very noticeable. You also want a low rolling resistance to help with range.
If you have a puncture,then often you're forced to buy whatever the tyre shop has on the shelf. But if you're replacing your tyres, do some research and find a quiet tyre in the right size, then ask the tyre shop to get them in. It is worth waiting a day or two for the best tyres, as you've got to live with them for the next few years. Oponeo and MyTyres are good websites for seeing what tyres are available in your size. Try Etyres if you want them to come to you and fit at home or work.
Don't fall into the trap of choosing a tyre purely on the name of the manufacturer. Each manufacturer make many different model of tyres, each with different characteristics. Someone may say a "Goodyear are great" but that's irrelevant unless you know the exact tyre model. For example, (in my view) Michelin make the best tyre, the CrossClimate Plus, but they also make the worst, the Energy EV. Watch this video for more information.
Tyre choice depends on the size required, but good quiet tyres for EVs are Dunlop Bluresponse , Goodyear EfficientGrip or Toyo NanoEnergy 3 for a cheaper alternative. Michelin CrossClimate Plus are excellent all-season tyres, but generally the most expensive. Don't buy cheap Chinese made tyres. However, Japanese brands like Toyo or South Korean brands like Hankook make very high quality tyres and are usually cheaper than European brands.
My car doesn't charge to 100% at home on my Smart charger
The new smart meters stop and start the charge sessions. You tell the charger via the app what time you need to have the car fully charged by (for example, the morning) and then the charger will charge in different time blocks to take advantage of a cheap rate tariff (if you have one) or the loading on the electricity network. So by default, smart chargers pause the EV charging during the evening peak time loading on the network. A problem arises with some EVs in that they can't cope with the pauses between charging sessions. This effects many older EVs like the Renault Kangoo and Peugeot iOn, but also some newer EVs like the MG ZS. The vehicle goes into a sleep mode when its not charging and then won't wake up when the charger tries to switch back on, which results in only a partial charge. The vehicles simply weren't designed for long pauses in charging and of course smart meters are a new concept. In these cases, the vehicle will only start to charge again if the vehicle is woken up, but unlocking it or opening the door.
The way to resolve this is to firstly set the charger to override the smart functions and force it to charge immediately in one session. The app will have an override option. On the Rolecs I think this is called "boost". Secondly, you should speak to your charger manufacturer for a permanent fix. This could be to disable the smart functions completely or in the case of Rolec, at the time of writing this (Nov 2019) they are working on new algorithms for the effected vehicles which sends short burst of electricity to the vehicle to keep it awake during the paused sessions.
I say contact the charger manufacturer, rather than your installer, as often I've found that the installers aren't seeing enough problems to understand the whole picture and will often say your vehicle is at fault, rather than the charger. If you have a Rolec charger, you can contact them on 01205 724754 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What should I do if leaving my EV for long periods?
You may have to leave your car for long periods without use. For example, while on holiday or during the Coronavirus lock down. If you want to look after your traction battery, then it is best to leave it somewhere between 50-80% charged if leaving the car for a period of more than two weeks. The ideal state of charge is 80% if leaving it for longer periods.
The other issue is that the 12V battery can go flat, just like it would on an ICE vehicle that is left for long periods. A trickle charger (or maintenance charger) could be used to keep the 12V topped up. Or occasionally starting the EV will wake up the traction battery and the DC-DC converter will charge the 12V. You would need to leave it on for 20 mins at least to get any benefit. Or you could run the pre-conditioning without the car being connected to the charger, as again this forces the 12V charging. At least this way, the car remains locked and you don't have to sit in it. Or just take the car for a drive occasionally.
My EV is dead. What do I do?
It is most likely the 12V battery has gone flat. This typically will happen if the car hasn't been used for a long period or maybe it was a cold night and has killed a failing 12V battery or maybe the car interior lights were left on and the battery has drained. This is what happens on all vehicles, as both combustion engined vehicles and EVs are reliant on a 12v battery.
You will find the central locking doesn't work. So open the car with the manual key and open the bonnet. Connect a battery charger or jump leads from another vehicle to the 12V battery, just like you would with an ICE vehicle. Once the 12V battery has enough power, the vehicle should start. Once started, you can disconnect the charger (or jump leads) as the DC-DC converter is then charging the battery from the traction battery.
If you're only driving for a short period, it is likely the 12V battery would not had enough time to fully charge and it may not start again. Either way, you should get your battery tested, as you'll probably need a replacement.
My brakes are making a grinding or rubbing noise
New owners of EVs will often question the noise from the brakes. The brakes on an EV are exactly the same as combustion engined vehicles and because they are cast iron, they rust when it rains or when the car isn't used. However, there two major factors why you hear the brakes grinding and rubbing on an EV:
there is no engine noise to drown out the sounds from the brakes
you use the brakes less on an EV due to the regen braking effect from the electric motor, so the brakes don't get cleaned and stay rusty
It also common for new owners to fear the worst and assume something is wrong with their new car, as maybe they have not heard grinding sounds from the brakes before. But it is completely normal and has no effect on braking performance. The noise will be worst in the morning, especially if it is damp or has rained as the cast iron discs get surface corrosion. If you wash your car, you'll also notice that the brake discs will turn from shiny silver to rusty brown in an hour or so. It can be worse if the car hasn't been used for a while and isn't used daily. Simply using the brakes more while driving will clean the surface of the discs and they will quieten down. However, you will always hear the brakes at low speeds, due to the lack of engine noise. If the brakes are particularly noisy, you may need to brake hard a few times at high speed, to give them a good clean. However, this is all a short term solution as they will just keep doing the same and the new noise is something you have to get used too.
If you are driving your EV efficiently, you will hardly use your brakes as you'll use the motor regen to slow down. This is why it is normal to have scored and corroded discs on EVs, particularly on the rear wheels. It is just from lack of use of the brakes or only very gently braking being applied. On the plus side, brake pads will often last 100,000 miles on an EV, whereas it may be 25,000 miles on an ICE vehicle. The downside is they make a grinding sound while the corrosion is worn away and may feel more grabby. However, they will still work fine and stop the car when needed.