Be it an electric vehicle or an ICE (internal combustion engine = petrol/diesel/LPG) – cars do not like being left unattended for extended periods. Thankfully, EVs have fewer needs (or potential problem areas) than ICE vehicles if they do need to be laid-up during the enforced break we are all currently experiencing.
First-up, check your owner’s manual – that may give you the manufacturers recommended procedure for laying-up your EV.
For instance, Tesla recommend keeping the car plugged in, while Nissan recommends leaving a Leaf unplugged, so it can enter a “deep sleep” mode. On the other hand, Hyundai make no recommendations in their manuals.
So, if there is no guidance from the manufacturer, the following make a useful set of suggestions for maintaining your EV in the best of health until you can take it out for extended drives again.
* Make sure the main battery is not left completely empty or fully charged. Leaving the battery pack at either end of the charge for an extended period can ultimately damage the cells, lowering their capacity. Half charged is a good point, although anywhere between 1/3 and 2/3 (33% and 66%) is fine.
* Ensure the 12V lead-acid battery is in good health – for older EVs where the 12V battery may be nearing the end of its life, not receiving a charge when it is being driven or maintenance charged from the main battery may mean the onset of cold weather will bring on a failure that also shuts off the car computer, main battery management system etcetera. At best this will result in a visit from the auto battery replacement van when you start it up again, at worst a visit to the dealer on a tray truck to reinitialise the systems.
(By the way: auto 12V battery sellers LOVE the start of the cooler months: the first cold day of autumn, 12V lead-acid battery sales spike massively!) Depending on the EV, a low 12V battery may also cause a drain on the main battery pack as it desperately tries to maintain a dying 12V battery.
* Turn off any timed functions that can drain the battery – like pre-warming or cooling, automatic map updates etcetera.
* If the vehicle is to be laid up for a month or more – the tyres can develop flat-spots. Either move every few weeks a short distance to sit on a different part of the tyre, or sit the car up on stands with the weight off the tyres.
* If the car is left outside – check all the drain holes are clear to begin with (the owner’s manual will tell you where they are) and regularly check then to ensure they remain clear. This is especially important as we move into autumn with some trees beginning to drop their leaves.
Ultimately, the best advice for a laid-up EV is, if possible, take it for a short run every couple of weeks.
That way you will remember to check for any leaves at the bottom of the windscreen and around the boot/hatch lip, avoid flat spots on the tyres, prevent rust building-up on the brake discs and you can check the charge levels of both the main and 12V batteries through the vehicle data screens to see if either need charging.
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Bryce Gaton is an expert on electric vehicles and contributor for The Driven and Renew Economy. He has been working in the EV sector since 2008 and is currently working as EV electrical safety trainer/supervisor for the University of Melbourne. He also provides support for the EV Transition to business, government and the public through his EV Transition consultancy EVchoice.