What happens when an electric car runs out?

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This is what happens when an electric car’s battery runs out – and what you should do if it happens.

You’re sure to have heard of the term ‘range anxiety’ – this refers to the stress of running out of electricity in a car powered solely by batteries. Since it’s not possible to nip to the petrol station and fill a can of electricity like you can with conventional cars, it’s more worrying to think about running out of power in an electric car. Particularly if you’re out the back of Bourke.

It’s becoming less of an issue with each new generation of electric cars, while high-end models like the latest Teslas can exceed 500km.

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Ultimately, the fear of running out of power is the same as it is in a petrol or diesel car – you’re looking at the gauge on the dash which tells you how much is remaining, and worry about reaching a place to refuel or recharge with the amount you have left. With proper planning, it ought to never be a problem. Yet sometimes things can go wrong.

Luckily, apps like Charge Fox or built-in sat navs can navigate you to the nearest charging point, and also show if the station is available to use. They can even show you how much it’s going to cost and what connectors are available there.

What happens when you run an electric car battery to empty?

11 mercedes eqs580 2021 fd charging infoLike running a conventional car to empty, using all of your EV’s charge can damage the car. Running completely out of power is known as ‘deep discharging’ and can lead to the battery deteriorating, reducing its performance and ability to hold charge. If you have less than 10-20 per cent charge left, it’s always best to recharge if possible rather than letting it dip further.

How far can an electric car go?

This depends entirely on the size of the batteries on board, the type of driving you’re doing, the weather and even traffic conditions. Electric cars come with a range indicator on the dashboard that tells you the realistic, real-world mileage you can expect from your car as you’re driving. This real-world range differs between cars. A 40kWh Nissan Leaf can do over 250km in the real world, while a Tesla Model S P100D can do over 500km thanks to its 100kWh battery.

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Everything from having headlights on, the air-con and driving style will effect how much battery energy is used.

Can you tow an electric car?

On the off chance you do run out of electricity, contact your roadside assistance provider and ask for a flatbed truck to take you to a nearby charging station. Electric vehicles shouldn’t be towed with a rope or lift, as this can damage the traction motors that generate electricity through regenerative braking. Different manufacturers give different advice. Tesla and Renault, for example, advise owners to only use a flatbed truck for recovery. However, Nissan says that the latest Leaf can be towed with the front wheels raised, as this avoids damaging the traction motor. However, a flatbed is always the safest choice.

What about portable power?

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Although in its infancy, there are some portable charging options coming. ZipCharge has revealed its first portable device and its 8kWh battery can provide around 30 to 60km range. But it charges slowly and by the time you have been towed to proper charging stations you might be back on the road a lot faster. There’s also the fact you might be further away than it can charge from a charging location.

What’s the best way to prevent an electric car from running out of battery?

Planning and charging when you can, even if it’s slowly for a few hours, will keep you ahead of the game. As faster charging and larger – or longer-range – batteries come out, it will be easier to have hundreds of kilometers of range on tap. But if you have a car with a 300-400km range, be mindful of plugging it in whenever there’s a chance and for longer trips make sure you can charge it properly along the way or near the destination.

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Joe Holding with Automotive Daily

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