Sat. Sep 23rd, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Extreme temperatures can negatively impact the lifespan and performance of an electric vehicle’s battery, so it’s important to avoid exposing it to extremely high or low temperatures.
  • Keeping the battery’s charge level between 20% and 80% can help prolong its lifespan. Avoid letting it go below 20% or charging it above 80% whenever possible.
  • Opting for slower charging speeds and driving with restraint can help maintain the health of the battery and increase its longevity. Following the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance is also crucial.

If you’re a new electric car owner or are strongly considering buying one, keeping the battery healthy is as important as changing the oil in a regular vehicle. While EVs require less maintenance, and the battery should last longer than you own the car, there are several steps you can take to prolong its life.

Most electric vehicles have large lithium-ion battery packs similar to what’s inside your favorite smartphone, which gives endless power to the motors instead of gasoline. Considering how expensive it is to replace an EV battery if it’s outside the manufacturer’s warranty, good habits and maintenance can increase range and longevity.

Avoid Extremely High or Low Temperatures

Side view of the Tesla Model 3 in a parking lot.
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

The battery inside your electric vehicle prefers the same temperature range as humans. By that, I mean you don’t want to let it get extremely cold or hot. Not only is this bad for the battery, but it’ll actively reduce performance. If you’ve ever left a smartphone in a hot or cold car overnight, you’ve probably noticed how much the temperature can impact the battery. Temperatures can and will affect the cells, charging speed, and performance.

Thankfully, most modern electric vehicles have built-in heat pumps and liquid cooling, which helps offset cold weather or rising temps from charging and usage. That said, you’ll still want to take any opportunity to charge in a shady spot at a public charger or use a garage during the summer or winter. Anything you can do to keep the battery in a friendly temperature zone will help in the long run.

Electric vehicle experts suggest that most battery packs can easily last 10–20 years with minimal degradation. But just like your smartphone, it’ll hold less charge over time, and the range will decrease. Excessively high or low temperatures can eventually speed up the degradation process. Tesla offers a battery and drive unit warranty for at least eight years or 100,000 miles, and some models extend to 150,000 miles. Just know that after eight years, there’s a good chance it won’t fully charge to 100%, and the range will slightly decrease, similar to an older car getting fewer miles per gallon.

Stay in the 20-80% Zone

Fast Charge display on the 2023 Chevy Bolt EV
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

Like any vehicle, you’ll want to follow any guidance in the owner’s manual for optimal performance and lifespan. Regarding EVs, almost every automaker suggests keeping the battery inside the 20-80% zone, but what does that mean?

In simple terms, try not to let the battery go under 20% state of charge, and don’t go above 80% unless you have to or are preparing for a long trip. Between 20% to 80% is the sweet spot for charging and usage, and the battery doesn’t have to work as hard. Going too low will get every last ion moving back and forth, and manufacturers suggest that can decrease lifespan.

A general rule of thumb is that it’s better to do partial recharging from, say, 40% back to 80% whenever necessary rather than let it get extremely low (or near zero) and have to do a complete charge cycle back to the top. And while Tesla has said that charging to 100% isn’t that big of a deal, battery experts have mentioned the 20/80 rule for longer than I can remember, and if it’ll help that expensive battery last longer, it’s worth doing.

Don’t Let the Battery Go to Zero

It goes without saying that you’ll never want to let your electric car battery run out and go to zero. Allowing any Li-ion battery, whether in an electric vehicle, smartphone, or a power tool, to hit empty can damage the cells and decrease capacity.

Most EVs will shut down before you actually get to 0%, but it can and does happen. Additionally, never leave your EV parked for long periods with a dead or extremely low battery, as it could deplete while it sits, causing harm. Your electric car will maintain proper battery temps, even while parked, which can slowly drain the battery to unsafe levels.

Did you know you can jump-start an EV? You can’t use jumper cables on the massive battery cell, but EVs still have a regular 12V auxiliary battery that can occasionally die. You’ll want to take care of that battery just as you do the bigger one that keeps the wheels moving.

Opt for Slow Charging When Possible

Rivian R1T plugged into a ChargePoint CCS charger.
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

As electric vehicle technology improves, we’ve seen charging speeds consistently increase. And while it’s still slower to charge an EV than topping off a gasoline-powered car with fuel, fast charging is beginning to bridge the gap. However, just because you can fast charge doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

Fast charging produces more heat and stress on the battery pack, so most automakers recommend owners trickle charge vehicles with slightly slower speeds at home and overnight, if possible. Sure, using the nearest DC fast charger is excellent for road trips, but using those high speeds sparingly is probably a good idea. According to KIA, those who use slower charging speeds throughout the life of an EV can expect upwards of 10% more range as the battery ages and degrades.

While there’s nothing wrong with using something like a fast 350kW charging station, for overall lifetime longevity, opt for a slower charger when you have the time.

Drive With Restraint

Just like aggressive driving with a gasoline vehicle will lower MPG and stress the engine, that same type of driving can negatively affect the battery in an EV. So, you’ll want to try and maintain good driving habits alongside everything else mentioned above. Basically, treat the battery like you would an engine in any other vehicle, as it’s the most important component to staying on the road and out of a junkyard.

Even if you don’t plan on keeping an electric vehicle for more than a year or three, keeping the battery in healthy shape is recommended. Whether that’s for you to enjoy the best range and performance or for the next owner. Many vehicles have companion apps where you can check battery health, which will not only help you keep tabs on things, but a future owner may want to see those stats before buying a used vehicle.

In closing, you’ll want to read the owner’s manual. Vehicle manufacturers provide specific details on how you can best care for and maintain the battery, and you’ll want to follow those guidelines for your make and model.

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By John P.

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