The Scouts motto can be applied in so many areas of life, maybe most importantly with traveling or the unexpected in emergency. Facing emergencies with an electric car is often an adjustment compared to a gas car. True, there are not really any alternatives for an EV such as a jerry can of gas, but there are strategies that can come to your aid in a low charge experience with an EV.
First of all, a driver can make changes to maximize a low state of charge in an EV. Speed is the number one thing to monitor. Having a lead foot is the fastest way to drain a battery! Straining the electrons to move that heavy vehicle faster than highway limits eats more power than anything else you could do. Simply going 5 miles under the highway limit can extend your range by 10% or more in most cases. And the reality is, speeding only shaves 5 to 10 minutes of drive time at best. If you know your trip has a long distance between chargers, starting your trip going 10 mph under the limit for the first 20 minutes will provide you with a very comfortable buffer.
A practical way to tackle range anxiety is to experiment. Find an afternoon that you can go for a short road trip. Drive in an area that you know has access to charging and drive until your car reaches zero. Knowing how your car handles 0%, what the alerts will be, and what the power dynamics feel like can give you the knowledge and experience for when you do come close to an empty battery on a trip. Most automakers provide 3–5kwh of buffer past 0%. Getting to know that limit will help you tackle anxiety on a real trip. I’m always comfortable now arriving at a charging station with 5% or less because I know from experience how far it really takes to get to 0%.
That said, even the best strategies only go so far. If you do run out of battery, pull over. Use apps such as Plugshare or Chargepoint to locate chargers suitable for your car nearby and call for a tow. Often, if within warranty, you can call the manufacturer of your EV and they will assist in finding you a tow to the nearest charger. AAA also now offers plans for EV drivers for low charge emergencies.
Ultimately, EV’s have more options than gas alternatives. A simple outlet can give the average EV 4–6 miles of range in an hour of charging. Campsites, KOA’s, hotel parking lots, and shopping centers often have outdoor outlets for holiday lights and decorations. Ask the store owner permission and use your mobile charger to plug in. An hour and half of charging on a regular outlet could get you enough charge to make the nearest charging station in a real pinch.
No one purchasing an EV intends to also carry around a gas generator to make sure you never run out of charge. You won’t be walking the side of the highway with an empty gas can to get a 0% EV up and going, but with preparedness and planning, most owners may never even see a 5% state of charge in their car. However, if you do, know that there are many strategies to use those last electrons to get you to safety.
Written by Volunteer EV Coach Ben Westby