Is It Okay To Leave Your Electric Car Plugged In?


Electric cars are becoming more and more popular and bringing along with them many questions pertaining to their proper care. As we all know, electric cars must be charged to drive and function, but is it okay to leave your car plugged in for long periods of time? 

Is it okay to leave an electric car plugged in? In most cases, it is okay to leave an electric car plugged in. It is actually encouraged by many electric car companies that you keep your car plugged in while not in use. The surest way to know what is best for your electric car is to consult your owner’s manual.

However, most cars come with built-in battery management systems which will prevent your car from receiving any damage from remaining plugged in after it has been fully charged, so no serious damage will occur from leaving an electric car plugged in. Electric cars are a big purchase and of course, you want to make the most out of them. 

Electric cars are full of new technology and components that many people might not know exactly how to take care of. In this article, we will be discussing how to ensure that you are making the most out of your car’s battery and what you can do to help avoid any damage to it. 

Why It Is Okay To Leave An Electric Car Plugged In

As mentioned earlier, most electric cars are sophisticated enough that they come with built-in battery management systems. These systems allow the car to fully charge and then remain plugged in without having the battery overcharge. 

Though you can leave your car plugged in, it is suggested that you keep your car’s battery charged between 30 and 80 percent for optimal performance. This is due to the fact that most electric cars are using lithium-ion batteries and it is best to not charge your lithium-ion battery all the way. This is so you get more life out of it in the long run. 

Of course, if you need the extra charge to get to your destination then by all means charge it to 100% the night before.  But battery life and reliability will be extended if you make it a regular practice to only charge to 80%. Each electric car has a menu to let you choose what charging percentage you want to get to, and the battery management system will ensure your battery’s safety whether you target an 80% charge or a 100% charge.

Cons To Leaving An Electric Car Plugged In

Like with everything there are pros and cons that go along with keeping electric vehicles plugged in. Though leaving your electric car plugged in after it is fully charged for a short period of time, for example, overnight, will not have noticeable negative effects on your car. Leaving your car at full charge for extended periods of time can cause your car’s battery to begin to degrade slightly quicker. 

The lithium-ion batteries that they have in electric cars have difficulty maintaining a 100% charge for long periods.  The same is true for cell phones.  Therefore, if you have your car is plugged in without any limits set on the charge it can increase the rate that your battery will deteriorate, leading to a costly battery repair down the road.

Are There Some Models That Should Not Be Left Plugged In?

According to pluginamerica.org most electric car companies including Chevrolet, Ford, BMW, and Tesla actually suggest keeping your car plugged in if you are leaving for extended periods of time.  

Nissan suggests otherwise for their Nissan Leafs. If you have a Nissan Leaf and leave it plugged in for a few weeks there is a chance it might drain your 12-volt battery. If this occurs though it is not a major problem and you can easily jump-start this battery like you would jump-start any other car. 

Most models in fact have built-in settings where you can set your car to charge to a certain percentage. Most cars’ batteries and systems are sophisticated enough that manually you can set the battery to charge to a certain percentage or it will regulate the charge automatically. Use this feature if your car comes with it, it is there for a reason!

Some companies like Tesla actually suggest setting the car’s charging target to 50% and leaving it plugged in before leaving for extended periods of time. This suggestion is also made with models like Chevrolet and Kia. The best advice we can give you would be to see what your owner’s manual suggests for your specific make and model.

What Is The Maximum Amount Of Time You Should Leave Your Car Plugged In? 

While there is no universally known limit to the amount of time you can leave your electric car plugged in, you should again consult your owner’s manual to know what is best for your car. There is no damage that will come to your car from leaving your electric vehicle plugged in for a period of one night or even a few days. 

Many people might go on long vacations and be gone for several months.  Leaving your electric car plugged in for that amount of time will not damage your car’s battery system if you set the charging target to around 80%.  Being plugged in for several months at 100% charge could have negative effects because all those electrons in your battery are just being constantly packed in as tightly as possible, which can cause heat and decreased battery life expectancy.

If you know that you will be letting your electric car sit for long periods of time, set limits for how much your battery charges, I would suggest 50 to 80 percent. As a general rule, you want to keep your car charged enough that it doesn’t drop below 30% and doesn’t stay at 100% for long periods of time. 

You can think about letting electric cars sit similar to regular gasoline-powered cars, if you let a gasoline car sit for a few days or even a few weeks there won’t be much of a problem but letting your car sit for months on end may begin to cause problems with the car, but not necessarily the electrical system. 

Letting an electric car sit for months is going to affect things like your tires more than your battery.  Just like all rubber, if tires don’t get flexed and used then they become brittle and crack. If you are ever faced with a situation where you have an electric vehicle that has been sitting for over a month, take it out for a drive to make sure all of the systems and parts are still functioning properly. 

How To Optimize Charging On Your Electric Vehicle (EV)

Now that we have talked about if it is alright to leave your electric vehicle plugged in I’ll quickly talk about some tips on how to optimize the charging on your EV. Kia.com gives some great tips on how to optimize the charging and lifetime of your battery. 

One of the biggest suggestions to help your battery stay in tip-top shape is to avoid leaving your car in the heat. Batteries and electrical systems have certain temperature ranges at which they operate most effectively. Most electric vehicles have built-in systems that try to regulate the temperature of the environment where all of the electrical components are found to optimize your vehicle’s performance. 

This means that if your car is left parked in the sun or you drive for an extended period of time in hot temperatures your car will have to use more of its battery to try to cool everything down, this includes when charging your vehicle.  Try doing things like parking under overheads or by trees to provide shade for your car to avoid battery usage as your car tries to regulate temperatures for optimal performance. 

My second biggest tip would be to avoid fast-charging stations. Even though fast charging can be a great help when you are in a hurry, you are actually hurting your battery. Fast charging can hurt your battery because the batteries aren’t built to receive such a high level of electrical current in such a short period of time, this can lead to quickened degradation of the battery. If you stick with standard charging you will see an extended battery life compared to a battery that is fast charged all of the time. 

Another suggestion made by many car companies and electric car enthusiasts for helping optimize your vehicle’s battery is to avoid letting your vehicle’s battery charge drop below 30%. Allowing your vehicle’s battery to drop below 30% can decrease your battery’s overall lifespan. To help yourself avoid this make sure to plan out your trips on the road and be aware of places you can stop to recharge your vehicle without having to risk dropping to very low battery levels.  

Again, the most credible source for information on your specific car is in the owner’s manual, so be sure to always look there first when you have questions. Just like regular cars, electric cars are all made with their own unique characteristics and features and your owner’s manual can help you become a master of taking care of your electric vehicle.

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