Before investing in a vehicle of any kind, one must always take the time to learn about the challenges and potential expenses such an investment would involve both short and long-term.
When it comes to electric vehicles, a great deal of attention must be paid to a car’s charging speed, operating range, and to the quality of its battery.
Unlike combustion engines, you can’t really fill up an EV’s ‘tank’ in a matter of minutes and go about your business. Instead, the (re)charging process takes a couple of hours at least, meaning that there’s always a risk that you’ll end up stranded somewhere if you don’t time your recharge properly.
And if you’re wondering “do electric cars lose charge when parked”, the answer is yes. Although the charge that’s being lost is negligible, if parked for extended periods of time, an EV may very well lose all of its power. Let’s find out why!
Why Do Electric Vehicles Lose Charge When Parked?
Before we delve into why these vehicles lose their charge when parked, we should first take a moment to understand how electric car batteries function and why they differ from traditional batteries.
First of all, electric cars employ lithium-ion batteries that for the most part, work similarly to any other battery in that they operate according to the same basic principles. That said, know that lithium-ion batteries are far more efficient than pretty much any other type of battery out there.
When compared to your average car battery, an EV battery showcases a much longer-lasting charge due to its battery monitoring system – a standard feature for most electric cars nowadays.
For those of you who don’t know, the battery monitoring system is responsible for safeguarding against overcharging or discharging while also monitoring the overall condition of the battery in use. Because the system uses power when running, it will drain power from the battery ever so slightly over time.
Interestingly enough, if the battery level is above 70% or so, the discharge will occur a lot slower over time, whereas batteries that are only half full will drain out gradually in a shorter period of time. Ambient temperature also has an effect on a battery’s natural discharge, but we’ll talk about that later on.
How Much Charge Does An EV Lose When Parked?
Considering the fact that electric vehicles have come a long way over the years, current batteries are much better suited to deal with the loss of charge than they were just a few years ago. Even so, electric discharge does happen and it is to be expected.
A Matter of Time
You should know that time plays an important role in regard to discharge speed. As such, an EV that you park overnight will lose less power than a vehicle that’s left unattended for several weeks. The longer you keep the vehicle inactive, the more of its battery gets drained.
On average, you can expect electric cars to lose about 2-3% of their total charge every month when parked. Over time, this also affects the battery life and health, but only if you recharge the battery at long intervals.
Battery Build Matters
Bear in mind that different types of batteries discharge at different rates. Your average electric car has an operational range of about 300-400 miles per charge, so you can expect it to lose 8-10 miles over a period of 3-4 weeks if you don’t charge it regularly. A good battery, however, will lose less than 5-6 miles a month.
How Does Temperature Affect Discharge?
You should know that temperature has a clear impact on battery life. To put it bluntly – extreme temperatures can cause your battery to lose its charge. As a matter of fact, one should try to keep an EV parked in an environment with a reasonable temperature at all times.
Due to their build and operating principles, EV batteries are negatively affected by high ambient temperatures in the short run because heat causes batteries to lose power faster. In this respect, it is better for the ambient temperature to be lower than usual (rather than higher) in order to safeguard the battery life.
Cold temperatures can also affect an electric car’s battery power, in that they force the battery’s auxiliary systems to work overtime in order to keep the battery warm enough to be functional.
If you lack the proper facilities to store an EV at a mild temperature, you should look into charging your car more often or wrapping it up in a car warming tarp/cover. Failing to do so will cause the battery to lose power a lot faster than normal.
How to Avoid Losing Charge While the Car Is Parked?
The most important thing you can do to prevent losing battery power is to keep the car safe from extreme temperatures. Remember that hot weather has a negative effect on discharge pace and that extreme heat can also mess with the battery’s connectors over time.
Avoid the Sun
On a related note, do try to keep your EV out of the sun as much as you can, by employing a car cover or using a temporary shade-making contraption. Parking your car in the shade will also reduce the damage to your car’s wheels and paint job.
Don’t Park It Outside
As we already pointed out, electric vehicles are prone to discharge caused by extreme weather temperatures. This applies to cold weather as much as hot weather, with the difference being that cold weather has a slower impact on the car’s battery.
If possible, try to park the car in a garage or any space where you can control the temperature of the room. Lacking a personal garage, you may try to park it in a shed or barn, anything that protects the car from the weather outside.
Turn Off Unnecessary Onboard Electronics
If you’re going to leave the car parked overnight somewhere, you might want to turn off any onboard systems that aren’t absolutely needed for the car’s well-being. Keep the diagnostics systems online, of course, and you probably also want the car alarm system to remain operational. Other than that, focus solely on the systems that keep your car safe and functional.
By turning off unnecessary systems, you may save up to 3% of a car’s battery over a period of 72 hours, which may not seem like a lot but will definitely make the difference when absolutely needed.
Tesla cars, for example, have a feature called ‘sentry mode’ which drains quite a bit of the car’s battery. If you own such a car, consider turning sentry mode off for the sake of your battery charge.
Use the Car’s Energy Saving Features
Although not common for all electric vehicles, some of them may also incorporate energy-saving features that you can use to save up power. Here, we find features like: Power Saving, Preset Features, and Deep Sleep Mode.
- Power Save – Some EVs incorporate a power-saving feature that’s tasked with reducing the use of power across the board. The intended purpose of such a feature is pretty straightforward and you would do well to determine whether your car has one in the first place.
- Preset Features – The goal of preset features are to accommodate the driver and the passengers with regard to temperature and other comfort-related mechanisms. By turning them off, you may end up saving a whole lot of power overall, albeit with a slight reduction in comfort.
- Deep Sleep – If you own a new(ish) electric vehicle, chances are that your car incorporates a deep sleep feature that suspends the car’s internal systems until prompted to start up. This has the potential to save you up to 5% energy per charge or even more.
Don’t Overcharge the Battery
Speaking of battery charge, try your best to avoid charging the battery past 100% if you’re about to park your car for long periods of time. Know that a fully charged battery loses charge a lot faster than a battery that’s only charged up to around 80% or so.
If you’re going to leave your car parked for more than a couple of days, try to use up any excess power and leave only 40-80% for later use. This not only prevents accidental discharge but also helps with battery management in the long run.
All Things Considered
The day may come when electric cars no longer lose charge by being idle, but that day has not yet arrived. “Do electric cars lose charge when parked?” The answer is yes, because battery technology has yet to reach a point where it can recycle energy or provide a passive charge.
Overall, you must understand that it’s in the nature of electric cars to lose charge over time regardless of whether you’re a responsible owner or not. At the very least, you can limit the discharge rate by turning off unnecessary systems and by keeping your car away from extreme temperatures.