A better way to power up your electric car

Dear Tom and Ray: I’m traveling an unusual amount of distance in a vehicle that is not electric. How can I make it slightly easier to re-juice at the end of the day? I…

A better way to power up your electric car

Dear Tom and Ray: I’m traveling an unusual amount of distance in a vehicle that is not electric. How can I make it slightly easier to re-juice at the end of the day? I have a Chevy Bolt that travels about 30 miles on its standard charge. I look forward to saving gas, but I find that whenever I refuel the Bolt, I’m faced with a 12-hour wait. Any thoughts on how to solve this problem? Thank you. — T.B.

RAY: What you’re seeing are the battery cells in your car. They’re underperforming. They’re not charging right now. We have to put so much voltage through them, there’s a lot of bumping and bobbing and other forms of vibrational energy that doesn’t get reflected back to the pack, so the cells are not charging.

TOM: If you’re running on gasoline, the tank is normally full, so the battery cells are starting to run low. You can swap them for newer ones, or you can change the battery to a different chemistry that will give you an immediate boost. The fuel economy in a car is perfectly fine.

RAY: But the bigger problem is that you’re using only 30 miles on a charge. There are only so many hundreds of miles you can cover on an emergency charge. But you can get to your destination faster if you have the car plugged in.

TOM: And if you can recoup any lost charge by running short errands or just keeping it charged for a few more minutes every time you go out, you won’t ever use that used-up charge. You’ll just add more to your energy budget.

RAY: So the sooner you plug the Bolt in, the sooner you can run on cheaper juice. It’s cheaper to use the morning power you just got, and you just caught it while it was still in use, rather than sucking down another hour of charge when you go out for coffee or lunch.

TOM: The important thing here is, plug your truck in to charge overnight. You could even make sure that it’s plugged in to your home’s electrical system, so you never leave it alone.

RAY: Another idea is to install a second- or third-level rear plug that can be used while you’re still in your driveway. Just keep it there, so you can run that charge when you’re at home. Or run an outlet in your garage to run the charger for the car while you’re at home.

TOM: The thing is, even that $750 Bolt that you own isn’t cheap enough to run at home. So there’s always the option of going on a road trip — traveling half way to Hawaii and back, or anywhere else you’d like to go in the interim. And you can get electric cars that are a lot cheaper than the Bolt: really low mileage, but with much better battery packs.

Got a question about cars? Visit the Driving for Dollars Road Test archive at drivingforfinances.com.

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