Getting the best possible range from electric vehicles will have a big impact on the operational capacity of your fleet, and that means ensuring employees are driving in the right way, and understand the nuances of driving their EVs too.
We look at seven key areas for better EV driving, with advice from Andy Mitchell, Commercial Director of RED Driver Risk Management, which runs electric vehicle- specific driving courses for fleets.
“Motorway speeds significantly deplete electric batteries, so try a more direct, but possibly slower average speed route,” says Andy.
Navigation nowadays is incredibly accurate in terms of time taken and traffic conditions ahead – especially those such as Apple or Google Maps – so check route options before you drive. The difference by going direct might not be as much as you think, and the time will be saved anyway if you don’t have to charge en route.
Some proprietary navigation systems in EVs also take into account the severity of hills and number of bends and so will give a very clear picture of the most suitable routes and the amount of time they will take, even choosing the best option for you.
Work with these systems, rather than trying to find a way to beat them. Choosing the right route is half the battle and can make a huge difference to range.
“If you just start an EV and drive off, the battery will have to do a lot of work getting heating or air-conditioning to your preferred level. So always pre-condition the vehicle before setting off, while on a charge, if it has that function,” Andy reckons.
As with route planning, a few minutes spent getting ready for the journey will pay dividends in the long run.
If it’s hot, don’t be afraid to be old fashioned and open the windows. No matter what the speed, the extra drag from open windows is less of a penalty than switching on the air con.
If you’re cold and the car has heated seats and steering wheel, they will use less energy than turning up the heater.
Because of the batteries, electric cars are considerably heavier than equivalent petrol or diesel cars (a Renault ZOE is more than 300kgs heavier than a similar Clio, for example), and so it pays to ensure you are moving that mass around as efficiently as possible.
“Don’t carry unnecessary items in the cabin or boot,” says Andy “You’ll pay to move that extra weight around.”
Keep tyres at their correct pressure, Andy says. Running them underinflated will increase the amount of effort the motor undertakes and impact heavily on range. If the tyres are in poor condition too, that can affect the level of traction which means more work for the motor too.
“Learn how your regenerative braking works,” Andy says. “Each vehicle will have a re-generation mode, in which the electric motor acts as a generator to recharge the battery and also act as a brake.”
Usually it will kick in when you lift off the accelerator, meaning you won’t have to use the brake pedal as you might with petrol or diesel cars, although some have various levels of braking strength which can adjust be adjusted. Downhill is usually a good time to regenerate.
Understanding when to lift off and when to keep your foot on the accelerator can take some time, and it can seem counterintuitive.
For example, in a petrol or diesel car, it pays to sail off-throttle, letting the car or van’s momentum carry you along. But in an EV, if you lift off, the regenerative braking can kick in, meaning you have to get on the accelerator again to get back up to speed. The effort of slowing down and speeding up can negate each other, so in many cases it is better to always be on the accelerator very lightly.
Keep moving, because it saves energy. As long as it is safe to do so, try and avoid coming to a stop at roundabouts, junctions and lights by judging what’s going on ahead and moving into the flow of traffic.
“Even ending up at a crawl is better than a full stop as a significant amount of energy is expended in moving a vehicle from stationary. Watch how HGV drivers do this – they will always try to keep some forward movement, however little,” says Andy.
Many EVs and PHEVs have modes for saving battery power. These might be a mode which limits the power from the motor and the top speed, as well increasing regenerative braking, while PHEVs usually have modes for holding usage of batteries until they are best deployed – in the city section of the journey, rather than on a motorway, for example – or for ‘sailing’ where the engine will shut off and the car run in neutral until power is required again.
“It can take a spot of reading and some experimentation to determine what works best for your specific vehicle,” Andy reckons.
“But where once it was all about how quickly you could get from A to B, now there’s quite a lot of satisfaction to be gained when you get to your destination with more battery life left than you expected. And more time on the road and less time charging will help your business too.”
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