Getting the Most from Your Electric Vehicle or: 2012 EV Hypermiling Best Practices

By Jacob Brown | August 06, 2012
Not too long ago, Consumer Reports picked up a new Ford Focus Electric. It has a 76-mile range; the publication had to drive it 100 miles. Something had to give. So the publication drove it as far as it realistically thought it could, ran out of battery power on the way home, tucked its tail in between its legs, and had a trailer carry it the rest of the way back from New York to Connecticut. Way to throw in the towel, guys.
A 100-mile trip with an electric car should be seen as a challenge, not a burden. With that in mind, the folks a Torque News made a quick list to help maximize electric car range. It is as follows:
  1. Spend a while driving your car to gain figure out how it works in the real world.
  2. Divide your trip up into segments.
  3. Map out charging stations.
  4. Keep an eye on alternative routes in case a charging station isn't working or is no longer there.
  5. Find the fastest charging station.
We have to amend its list if only because there are some other tricks to maximizing electric-car range. Let's start with No. 5.
As outlined earlier today, some "quick stations" have CHAdeMO Level 3 chargers. Most electric cars don't have plugs for those because it's not a standard method of charging a car in the U.S. If you have a Nissan Leaf, you're fine. If you don't, you're still looking at six hours of charging from empty. Bring along a good book. The base Nissan Leaf doesn't have regenerative brakes, which can be a bit of a range-limiter, too. Recently while driving a Leaf, I took it on two equidistant routes, both about 65 miles. At a steady 65 mph on the highway in Eco mode, I had to stop to recharge halfway through. While driving in stop-and-go traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway, I had an extra 15 miles left on my range before stopping. Picking the road less traveled sometimes has its advantages. To maintain highway speeds, it often takes only 50 or 60 horsepower in fifth or sixth gear in a gas-powered car. In an electric car, there's one gear and one electric motor in most cases, meaning the motor is always spinning to keep the car moving, and it's always spinning at the same pace it was. That uses a whole lot of electricity. In most electric cars, a "B" mode will engage more friction on the motor, using it to put more power back in the battery. Using it along with an eco mode, perhaps even coupling that with a gentle stop-and-go driving environment, would almost certainly help just about any driver beat EPA range projections. When you're waiting six hours for a car to charge, that can make a lot of difference. Every mile counts. When you don't have access to a Level 2 charger, you have to make due to with a Level 1 power cord. In the Leaf, it can take up to 20 hours for it to charge with the emergency cord; with something bigger and heavier like the new 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, it can take nearly 50 hours. And worst case, there's always spending the night in a hotel or calling AAA. But if you had to get your EV towed back home, we'd likely make fun of you. Don't be that driver. Source: Torque News