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Should you charge your electric car every night? Can I leave my electric car plugged in overnight?

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Below are two common questions from new electric car owners and potential electric car owners: “Do I have to charge my electric car every night?” and “Can I leave my electric car on overnight?” I’m going to tackle them both in a special BOGO/two-for-the-price-of-one article.

The answer to the first question varies according to circumstances and preferences, while the second question is a simple yes/no question and the answer is: yes – You can of course leave your electric car plugged in overnight, and most people do. Understandably, many people (most people?) first wonder if it’s okay to keep your car plugged in while you sleep. One may worry about the risk of fire or the possibility that the car may continue to use energy and waste money if left plugged in. However, mental energy should not be wasted on either. The fire hazard is phenomenally low. And once the car reaches the battery level you set it to charge, it will simply stop using electricity. Think of it like your air conditioner – when the house is too hot, the AC kicks in and draws electricity; when the house is cool enough, it turns off again.

Photo by Zak Shahan | CleanTechnica

As for “Do I have to charge my electric car every night?” question, well it really just depends on how much you drive and what range your car has. If you have a car with 200 miles of range and drive more than 100 miles a day, you definitely want to plug in and charge every day. However, the average person in the US needs to drive 40 miles a day. In that case, it really doesn’t make sense to plug in and charge every day. And from my experience covering the industry for a decade and talking to countless EV owners, most EV drivers don’t plug in every day. They connect every other day or every third day. (Note: This discussion assumes access to home charging. Not having home charging can make things more difficult.) While it’s normal not to charge every day, there’s nothing wrong with that. In addition, there are some advantages.

If you do plug in your car every night, it will become a strong habit and much less likely to happen to forget for charging when you need. If you don’t charge every day, it’s a lot easier to forget to charge at night when you need to. (Been there, done that.) Don’t want to forget to charge? Connect every day when you get home and do something you never even thought about.

Another benefit of charging your electric car every night is that if something unexpected happens and you have to drive a lot more than previously planned, your car should have a good state of charge on that unusual day. I’ve written before that I prefer to keep our car at about 30% to 70% or 20% to 80%. The problem with this approach—which I’ve run into a few times in trivia—is that sometimes you’re at 20% or 30%, and then your plans change (or you forget about certain plans until the last minute). Then you really don’t have the ideal amount of charge for your daily needs and you may not have time to charge to the ideal level. Like I said, in my 4 years of electric car ownership I’ve only had minor issues with these misses, but when it happens it’s no fun and could easily be avoided by just plugging the car in every day. In fact, I’d just plug the car in every day except for the fact that I have 70,000+ free Supercharger miles that expire in about a year (I won’t be able to use the vast majority of them with my 10,000 mile a year driving habits 🙁 ).

The only thing is you no need (if you don’t have a LiFePo battery) you want to charge your car to 100% every day. Actually, I would avoid it ever charged to 100%. The more you keep your car battery around 50%, the better. Actually this applies to phone battery, computer and other batteries. Batteries deteriorate the closer they are to 100% or 0%, especially if they are there for a long time. To be practical, people often recommend keeping your battery between 20% and 80%, but if you’re extreme and it’s easy enough, you can even keep it between 40% and 60% as much as possible. In any case, if you’re going to plug your car in every day to charge it while you sleep, eat, work, watch TV or otherwise relax, just remember to set the charge limit to 70%, 80% or 90% instead of 100%.

Any other thoughts on whether you should charge your EV every night or leave your EV plugged in overnight?


 

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