Range Anxiety and Battery Abuse
Car pundits always cite range anxiety as a reason more people don’t rush out to buy electric vehicles (EVs). But as I have followed the travails of Nissan Leaf owners in Phoenix, I’ve gleaned a few warnings from MyNissan Leaf, an owner’s forum, and LivingLeaf, an individual owner’s blog. It is possible that range anxiety may be leading some Leaf owners — even early adopters and fans — to unwittingly abuse their batteries.
As the battery ages, its capacity will decline — but it will decline faster if abused. How and when one charges a battery matters a lot. And some of the worst things to do are counterintuitive to someone who is worried about having enough range and who is used to thinking that having more gasoline in a tank is always better.
Cycling the battery from 100% charge down to automatic shutdown (called turtle) is abusive.
Quick charging while the battery is very hot is abusive.
Quick charging in general is more abusive than trickle charging.
Even trickle charging while the battery is hot is abusive.
Charging immediately after driving is abusive. Let the battery cool.
Charging to 100% when you still have 80% or more capacity is abusive.
Leaving the battery on the charger after reaching 100% is abusive.
Leaving the car with a very high or very low charge for several weeks is abusive.
Letting the battery discharge past turtle is abusive.
I am reminded of a scene in a great Western film, The Searchers. After being drawn away from home by a Comanche feint, Martin (Jeff Hunter) wants to immediately ride back to protect his family, while Ethan (John Wayne) grimly insists that it would be pointless to ride before resting and watering the horses. Martin rides his horse to death long before he reaches his loved ones. Having grown up with internal combustion engines, we have the mindset that we should be able to drive and refuel whenever we want. EVs require more forethought than ICE engines, though.
Hot local weather exacerbates many of these issues. Nissan did not include a Temperature Management System in the Leaf battery, which in hindsight appears to have been an unfortunate decision for early adopters in hot areas like Arizona and Texas. Even so, the same warnings will also apply to driving the Leaf in a cooler climate, and probably to driving any sort of plugin EV.