Electric vehicles are becoming part of our lives at a decent speed. Most likely, you’ll know someone who has bought one in the last couple of years, or perhaps you’ve bought one yourself. However, this new way of mobility is not perfect, and has several defects. One of the main ones if shorter ranges, which is the result of battery charging being a much longer process than the traditional fueling of internal combustion cars in conventional petrol stations. This can lead to what is called “range anxiety”, which makes ourselves charge our car as much as possible in order to have at every moment all the mileage that the car can support.
Have you found yourself charging your car during the whole night, and wondering whether this is actually the best routine to take care of your battery life? Or perhaps you have some security concerns in mind? In this post we will go over all of these, and will explain the way in which this should be properly done. It includes safety, cost, environment impact and a routine analysis of your car usage.
Is it safe to charge your electric vehicle every night?
At present, batteries being used in electric cars have enough capacity to provide over 370 miles of power. But large autonomies mean longer times connected to the electric network. In electric vehicles (EVs), battery capacities can go up to 75kWh (Tesla Model S), and in plug-in electric vehicles, capacities hover around 15 kWh (Mitsubishi Outlander).
You might have wondered whether so many hours of charging might translate into possible accidents with such powerful batteries. In a nutshell, no. Batteries are equipped with charge controllers, which ensure the battery is disconnected before suffering any damage. However, charging your car overnight might not be the ideal solution.
Storing energy in batteries has evolved enormously in the last decades. Nickel-based batteries are rare nowadays and Li-ion (lithium-ion) batteries are largely found among battery powered devices instead. Cell phones, solar power storage, electric bikes or electric cars are some examples of their widespread use. Li-ion technology provides a durable way of storing energy and that is the main advantage which has led to its extensive production. Nevertheless, lithium-ion batteries suffer a decay in lifespan depending on two factors: the undergone number of cycles and the time spent above 80% and below 20%. Charging your car every night will increase the number of cycles, perhaps unnecessarily, and leaving the battery outside the 20-80% (both extremes are equally harmful) will also hurt its lifespan, resulting in a range decrease. If your car is plugged in the whole night, it is most likely that it will reach its full capacity, negatively affecting your batteries.
Is it cheaper to charge overnight?
Many countries have electricity bills which depend on the network’s demand. During the night, general electricity demand is lower, which can result in much lower electricity bills than the equivalent day charge. Depending on your region this might apply in a stronger way, or perhaps it might not be such a deciding factor, as regulations, providers and supplies tend to change fairly often, and can also largely differ between different countries.
However, if every single car owner were to charge their EV after work hours, the network would sense a high demand peak instead, increasing the cost of charging your vehicle. Not only does this affect your pocket, but it can also result in a harmful behaviour towards the environment.
EV are a great solution to internal combustion engines and provide a giant step in mobility and sustainability. However, if electric networks are loaded with this entire demand at the same time, the environmental impact of EVs would be much more reduced.
In order to solve this problem, at the moment, charging your car during night hours can mitigate the effect of the need for electric supply. Batteries connected to the outlet and being fully charged can damage them as we have seen before. However, once charged, the charge controller (also called “battery regulator”) will switch off the charger, resulting in a stop of consumption.
Do you really need your car fully charged every day?
As studies show, most of the drivers use the car for less than 40 miles per day. PHEVs (plug-in electric vehicles) offer a range that can cover this mileage, relying on combustion engines for longer distances, if needed. EVs offer ranges that surpass the mark of 370 miles, which widely covers the usual commute. This leads to the question regarding your charging habits. Is it necessary for you to have your car fully charged every night? Does your car have the sufficient range for your daily needs? The last question can bring some light into the matter. If your car has enough capacity for fulfilling several commutations, it is better for you to keep the battery over 20% and below 80% to take care of it and prolong its life as much as possible. Nonetheless, if your car struggles to handle your requirements, charging points are becoming more popular and they can be found easily in several cities and countries. Planning where you will park during your working hours can help you to keep the battery level between the desired range.
Of course, there are certain times where you will need your car to have a fully charged battery. For example, a bigger commute than usual, or a longer trip to the beach or the mountain. This is completely fine. As long as these cases are punctual in nature, your battery should not suffer any major damage by going over 80% charge overnight.
The final verdict
As we have seen, many issues come into play when considering our routine for charging our electric vehicles. Conservation of the batteries plays a major role, but cost and environment awareness have some importance too. Charging EVs with regular outlets is possible, but the charging time can rise to 12 hours with high capacity batteries. The regular way of charging the car involves a wallbox that can reduce this time, obtaining results ranging between six and eight hours. For solving all the previously described topics, the best way of charging your car during the night is to add a regulator that allows you to choose the time that your car spends connected to the network. If you are up to doing some calculations, you can find out how much time you will need to charge your car to the desired level once you have answered the questions described in this post. Finding the lowest electricity demand hours will lead you to save some pennies per charge and be more environmentally friendly. To do so, you can add to your plug an automatic switch that controls the time and provides your charging routine with the desired behaviour. Some wallboxes include intelligent sensors that can allow you to do this configuration deeply and from your cell phone. Selecting charging hours, levels of battery or power supplied are some features that can be found in these devices. If you have one of them, we strongly encourage you to give it a go and configure it in order to get the most out of your car!