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How to improve the range of your electric car battery

Electric cars are cheap to run, but you can make your money go even further. Here’s our advice on how to get more from your EV.

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By Cazoo editorial team

Electric cars are better now than ever before. Even the cheapest models can travel around a hundred miles before needing to be charged up again and the more expensive ones can go for over 200 miles in between stops. For most drivers, that’s plenty, but some people will want to squeeze every last drop of energy out of their battery before stopping to plug in. 

Of course, driving efficiently is about more than just prolonging your battery life. By using less energy, you’ll be saving money and helping the environment too. Driving inefficiently is wasteful, both in terms of your finances and your ecological footprint, so by following these simple steps you’ll be doing yourself and everybody else a favour. 

We sell a variety of EVs, including the first-generation Leaf, which will go about 100 miles before needing to be charged up, and models like the Tesla Model S, some versions of which can travel well over 300 miles between charges. Popular mid-range models like the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia e-Niro can travel well over 200 miles too. But all of them will go further with sensible driving methods and a bit of common sense.

Know your car’s secrets

Electric cars are clever things. They’re usually equipped with lots of technology designed to maximise their range and performance, including ‘driving modes’ that you can select based on your preferences. If you want extra power, select the mode that enhances the performance of your car. If you want to eke out your battery for as long as possible, pick the mode that slows your car down in exchange for some extra miles.

Tech for toasty toes

Heating your car’s cockpit - or if we’re lucky with the weather, cooling it down - will use a lot of electricity. To stop this from denting precious battery life, many electric cars now come with a pre-heating or cooling function, which works while the car is still plugged in. It can be controlled from the car or set with a smartphone app, so by the time you come downstairs to unplug your car and set off, the interior is already cooled or heated to the ideal temperature.

Clear out the kilos

Think about what you’re lugging around in your car. There’s probably stuff in the boot that doesn’t need to be there, just adding weight and reducing your efficiency. Clearing out the clutter is a great way to instantly enhance the fuel economy of any car, whether it’s a petrol or electric model. Regularly cleaning your car is a great way to keep it in good condition, too.

Pump up your tyres

Think about riding a bike with soft, under-inflated tyres. Annoying, right? The same is true with cars. If your tyres aren’t pumped up correctly, you’ll be making more needless work for your car, which means it’ll spend more energy getting from A to B. Rolling resistance is what we call the force trying to stop the wheels of your car from moving forwards and around a third of a car’s total power is required to overcome it - don’t make this any more difficult than it needs to be.

Become a windcheater

The people who designed your car will have spent a lot of time, effort and money making it as aerodynamically efficient as possible. That’s why modern cars are so sleek and streamlined - to allow the air to rush past quickly when you drive at speed. But if you fit a roof rack and roof box, or accessories at the back of your car like a bike rack, you could be making your car a lot less efficient. Some researchers think that a roof box could make your car consume up to 25 percent more fuel.

Plan your route

Stop-start traffic can be very inefficient, even in an electric car. Conversely, high-speed driving can be very inefficient as well, particularly for EVs; you might find your car goes further at a 50mph cruise than it does at 70mph on the motorway. Minimising the time spent on battery-sapping roads can enhance your range, even if it means adding a mile or two to your route.

Smoothly does it

It doesn’t matter if your car runs on electricity, petrol or diesel - the smoother you drive, the further you’ll go. Try to keep a constant speed, avoiding hard acceleration or braking where possible. This helps you maintain momentum and conserve energy. You can achieve this by anticipating the road ahead and what’s going on around you, and trying to predict what’s going to happen before hazards arise. Driving in a rush costs a lot of extra money.

Do you need the air con?

Your car uses energy to move, but there are lots of other components that drain the battery in addition to the motors. Headlights, windscreen wipers, air conditioning and even the radio use power from the battery, which will have some effect on how far you can travel before topping up. Listening to The Archers probably won’t use that much electricity, but having the air conditioning on full blast probably will. Climate control - whether it’s making your car hotter or colder - uses a surprising amount of energy.

Slow down

Generally speaking, you use more fuel the faster you go. There are some caveats, but it’s a good principle to stick to when trying to save energy - and therefore money. Keeping up with traffic is important, and driving too slowly can present a hazard to other road users, but stick to (or just below) the speed limit to maximise your fuel economy. And remember that even if you don’t get a fine, speeding will be costing you extra money anyway.

Help yourself to free electricity

Electric cars have what’s called ‘regenerative braking’ or ‘energy recuperation’. This system allows the car to harvest some spare energy while it slows down, effectively turning its wheels into little generators. When a normal car slows down, it turns the energy of the car moving forwards into heat, which just disappears. But when an electric car slows down, it can keep some of that energy and put it into its batteries for later use.