While there may be a lot of general information out there on how to stay safe and help curb the spread of COVID-19, little has been shared in the way of guidelines for EV owners specifically. As this can create doubts and questions, we’ve created this post to walk you through everything you need to know in terms of using and maintaining an EV.
First and foremost, always follow the official government rules and recommendations in your country, especially when it comes to social distancing, lockdowns and other measures. This means to stay at home and avoid using your EV unless absolutely necessary. In most countries, justified reasons to go by car include buying groceries, medicine and making deliveries to someone who is considered to be in a vulnerable group.
A general note on how to use your EV during the COVID-19 pandemic
Goes without saying: keep your car clean
The WHO points out that the coronavirus can be transmitted through droplets resulting from coughs and sneezes from close range. Since, these droplets can, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, linger on specific materials like steel or plastic for up to three days, hygiene is key. Make sure to clean your car and wash your hands thoroughly before and after each drive. In particular, pay attention to the parts you touch most often such as the steering wheel, gearbox, door handles, touchscreen and so on. Use soap, hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes to not impose any damages to your EV. Finally, of course, always drive on your own, or at least only with people from your household, as long as they are healthy and not part of a high-risk group.
Charge your car at home
Always charge at home when possible as your home charger is less likely to carry germs from other people. You might still want to clean the charging station before and after usage with disinfectants.
If you can’t avoid using a public EV charging station, apply the same restrictions as in other public spaces and make sure to either wear disposable gloves or disinfect the touchscreen and other parts that you touch. To find a less crowded charging point close to your home, you can use digital maps like PlugShare to identify these. In general, EV charging stations are “cleaner” than using gas pump carriers because of the simple fact that fewer people are using them.
How to keep your EV in good conditions during times of low or no usage
Maintaining the EV’s battery
Always read the owner’s manual first for specific battery maintenance information
When it comes to the main EV battery though, things are a bit more complicated. The first thing you should do is check your owner’s manual as each EV manufacturer offers different advice for laying up your car for an extended period of time. For example, the manuals of the Tesla Model 3 and BMW i3 recommend keeping the car plugged in. In contrast, instructions for the Nissan Leaf (2015) and Hyundai Kona suggest leaving the car nearly fully charged and only recharging it once every three months. The Chevrolet Bolt EV’s manual states it’s best to plug in your EV for any shorter times (up to four weeks) but to disconnect it for any longer periods. Finally, the manual of the Renault Zoe offers no specific advice on this at all.
By the way, don’t worry too much about your 12V battery (which supplies energy needed to operate lights, wipers, audio systems and so on). Most EVs, such as a Tesla Model 3, will automatically use energy from the main battery to keep it charged and make sure it doesn’t die.
Keep your EV plugged in unless your car manufacturer recommends otherwise
In general, as highlighted by EV expert Saul Lopez, it’s best to leave your car connected to your home charger if you won’t use it for several days. Typically, both plug-in and electric hybrids have programs to automatically manage the battery charge based on the residual consumption, time parked and outdoor temperature. As a result, they self-manage the battery charge to maintain the health of the accumulator and store as much energy as possible.
What is the best charge level setting for your EV battery?
If you have a smart charger, set your EV charger to the recommended charge level stated by your EV manufacturer. If nothing is mentioned, maintaining a charge level of 65-75% to optimize battery life even further as lithium-ion batteries perform best when operating in this charge range. In contrast, complete charges or discharges are best avoided for several reasons. For instance, research shows that letting your charge level drop to close to zero will have a negative impact on battery life. Hyundai’s video on how to maximize your EV battery’s life comes to the same conclusion. Renault Zoe’s driver handbook states its EV battery might even be impossible to charge if you leave the car parked for several months at a near-zero charging level. Additionally, Tesla points out that other components may get damaged or require repairment (i.e. the 12V battery) if your main battery level reaches 0%. Elon Musk himself also explains that a 100% state of charge is bad for the energy efficiency of your vehicle. Finally, research from the Technische Universität München shows that high state of charge levels reduce battery life.
Turn off features you don’t need & avoid extreme conditions
If you won’t be using your car in the upcoming weeks, it makes sense to turn off any battery draining functions in your EV. This includes automatic map updates, pre-warming or cooling, and so on. In addition to that, always avoid exposing your EV to extreme weather conditions as this might damage the main battery. Finally, remember that while your battery might (rightfully) get the most attention, you should still follow traditional car maintenance practices for everything else during this time.
What should you do if your vehicle inspection is due?
This depends on where you currently live so make sure to check the information in your country. Some places like the UK, France and New York have announced exemptions or extensions for vehicle inspections. Of course, you’d still have to make sure your EV is in a roadworthy condition. On the other hand, countries like Austria are holding on to previous regulations, meaning you can only use your car if you have a valid certificate. In any case, the easiest way to get all the answers is by simply reaching out online or per phone to your nearest testing site.
What to do in case of emergencies?
If you EV breaks down, gets a puncture or you face any other emergency, don’t worry. Breakdown and roadside assistance service providers are still operating in most countries to help you and are reachable by phone or online. Similarly, most recovery service providers and automobile associations are offering call-out services as usual. Here is a list of a few automobile associations that confirmed their service operations are still running:
How to use this time as best as you can
To fully realize the benefits of EV ownership, it’s critical to understand the scope of possibilities for personal EV chargers. Use this extra downtime to research all of the options available for EV charging providers and the potential incentive programs for which you may qualify. In many countries the laws and incentives for charging stations are constantly changing. So if you’re on the lookout for a new charger, make sure you know all about the advantages you might be able to benefit from.
Additionally, take a look at the latest technologies such as bidirectional charging and smart charging to become an expert in the field. If you have some spare time, it might also be good to get to know your charger a bit better. Maybe you’re already familiar with using digital platforms to schedule charging and get insights on your energy consumption and charging behavior. If not, now might be a good time to learn how to take control and understand the different functionalities you haven’t explored yet.
Support and next steps
We’re facing a truly unprecedented, global epidemic that has essentially put the entire commercial world on pause. Many EV owners have never faced extended periods of low usage and are concerned about the impact it may have on their EV and its battery life. Take advantage of this time to learn about the latest in smart charging solutions and best practices for your vehicle that will protect your EV for many years after this pandemic is over.
If you have any questions about smart charging solutions, EV maintenance during the COVID19 lockdown, or something specific to your particular situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly here.
Stay safe and we’ll see you soon on the road!