Driving tips to help get the most of your electric range

Our top tips to assist you in getting every last kilometre out of an EV’s battery pack between charges.

Although the weather is getting warmer – or, at least, it should be – we all still want to maximise the driving range on our electric vehicles (EVs). The more you can eke out of the battery on journeys, the less time you’ll spend waiting at public rapid charging points, which can prove an expensive way to replenish an EV’s power pack. Here, then, are our top driving tips for getting the most range you can out of your electric car.

Pre-heat it

This one applies before driving, but it helps make the volts go further when you do get behind the wheel. Most EVs will have a companion app on your smartphone, which will allow you to pre-heat the cabin of the car before you get in it to drive it. Use this while the car is still hooked up to a domestic wallbox and charging, to get the best possible range out of the vehicle – because, when you get in after pre-conditioning, the cabin will be all nice and toasty-warm, so you won’t have to use the vehicle’s climate controls so much while on the move, something which really drains the battery.

Use one-pedal driving techniques

Another feature of EVs is regenerative braking, which can usually be adjusted through various levels of intensity. What this means is that, in the more powerful modes, regenerative braking will slow the car down as soon as you lift off the accelerator pedal – and not only that, but the otherwise-wasted kinetic energy that would be lost when braking normally is instead harvested and fed back into the EV’s battery pack. Some, if not all, EVs will have a regenerative braking setting which is so strong that the car will come to a complete halt in a short distance as soon as you lift off the accelerator. This is called ‘one-pedal driving’ and it’s the best way, certainly in urban traffic, of keeping the battery as topped up as it can be for longer.

Employ Eco mode

Again, most EVs will have a variety of settings for the drive modes – these usually range through three, known as Eco, Normal and Sport (what these are called will vary depending on the manufacturer, but broadly speaking these are the three main settings). In Eco mode, an EV will typically limit the power of the motors, while also turning down the electrical drain the climate control system has on the battery. It’ll mean the accelerator pedal goes ‘long’, which results in you having to press it down further for the car to meaningfully accelerate, and it can also lead to lesser cabin comfort if the outside conditions are particularly unfavourable, but Eco does ensure the car will go as far as possible between charges.

Junk the junk, pump the tyres

Just like in a petrol or diesel car, carrying a load of unnecessary weight around with you will affect an EV’s range. So, take any heavy objects out of the boot and passenger compartment. Similarly, aerodynamic drag can hurt efficiency, which means remove any roof racks if they’re not in use and try to avoid opening the car’s windows when travelling at speed. Another contributor to drag is under-inflated tyres, so check your EV’s tyres are all at the recommended pressure.

Use heated seats and steering wheel

If your EV is fitted with them and you’re cold while driving, use the heated seats and the steering wheel to warm yourself up, rather than the climate control. Despite the fact these items have heater elements in them, they’re a lower electrical drain on the battery than the full climate control and will therefore maximise your driving range if you need to use them. It’s a particularly good tip if you regularly drive your EV on your own – rather than the climate heating the entire passenger compartment, in which there might be four or more empty seats, instead it’s just the sole human occupant who is being warmed up, which is a more efficient situation.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

You might know where you are going on a given journey – commuting from home to work, for example – but it’s always best with an EV to use the navigation for your destination. The reason for this is that modern inbuilt nav systems can work out if there’s traffic congestion on your route and help you to avoid snarl-ups. In fact, most EVs’ nav set-ups will suggest an ‘eco’ route to your destination that makes the best use of the battery, so follow that for maximal range returns. And if you don’t know where you’re going, use the car’s GPS to help – getting lost at or near your destination and doing loads of needless kilometres is going to introduce range anxiety, especially if you’re at the end of a longer journey in an EV.

Keep your battery topped up, preferably at home

It’s a difficult one, this, as the recharging process is ultimately what shortens a battery’s working life, so the more you charge the car, the more likely you are to trim the vehicle’s driving range as the battery slowly degrades. That said, there are also various thermal management issues that arise when an EV’s battery gets too low, typically below 20 per cent state of charge, which are best avoided to keep the car’s range impressive. Furthermore, rapid charging – 50kW on DC and quicker – places a greater strain on the battery pack than domestic AC charging, which is why manufacturers quote 10-80 per cent charge times for DC; the car will ‘slow down’ its rate of charging at 80 per cent to preserve the battery. Nevertheless, even with that safeguard in place, trickle-charging the car (relatively speaking) on your 7.4kW AC domestic wallbox, even all the way to 100 per cent battery charge, will be better for the power pack in the long run and will keep your EV travelling further between charges when you drive it.