Should you charge an electric car 100%? (Explained)

We can all admit that there is nothing more satisfying than watching the fuel indicator of your car pointing towards full. (Even though I barely maintained my gasoline-driven vehicle at that level!). With electric cars, it’s effortless to charge them to full capacity. You plug it in your garage and let it be for a few hours. Even though it feels right, but for most people, this may not be a good idea.

Is it bad to charge your EV to 100%? Electric cars run on Lithium-Ion batteries. Keeping these batteries consistently at an extreme charge (0% or 100%) is detrimental to their health. It would be best if you keep it under 80% unless you require its full range. 

The optimal charging limit for your vehicle will depend on your usage and vehicle. Let’s explore this in detail so you can have a healthy battery for years to come.

EV Battery Explained 

Well, we can’t talk about battery life, maximum charge, minimum charge, etc., without understanding a few basics about the omnipotent lithium-ion battery!

Lithium-Ion batteries use lithium ions to carry and store the charge. Lithium has one of the smallest ion sizes amongst atoms (it’s the 3rd smallest after hydrogen and helium). This allows it to store more charge per unit of area.

These batteries can last a long time and easily go through thousands of charging cycles without any significant effect on their capacity.

However, these batteries can’t last forever, and eventually, they won’t be able to deliver you the miles you need.

If you use them properly, you might never have to find out the price of a new battery for decades. We will discuss optimum charging habits as well. However, our primary focus would be the optimum charging levels.

How full should I charge my EV?

First, we need to address something fundamental, the 100% indicator in your car’s battery life does not necessarily mean that it is the battery’s maximum capacity.

Most manufacturers install a buffer that prevents you from reaching the actual 100% capacity of your vehicle. However, they don’t say how much they are withholding.

An excellent way to know that is by going through their websites and manuals. Based on my research, general motors and Nissan are pretty chill about letting their users reach 100%.

Tesla is quiet on that, so I am assuming they are also cool with it.

Volkswagen and Ford ask you to be a little cautious and use the full power of your battery when you are going on a long road trip. They ask you to maintain the battery level around 80% for everyday use.

According to a 2020 study by the University of Michigan, you should maintain the charging levels of your battery between 20% and 80%

Can I leave my EV plugged in overnight?

Most EV owners are opportunistic chargers (Including Me!). We try to add in those extra miles whenever and wherever we can. However, most of us don’t have to be that anxious. If you look at the statistics, most Americans drive 35 Miles every day. Even if you have a level 1 charger at your home that powers up your battery at a pretty low speed, a good nights charge is sufficient for most.

Keeping the EV plugged all the time is not only a hassle, but it can also negatively affect your battery. A constant charge will mean that you will regularly reach the 100% level and stay at it, which, as we discussed above, is damaging for the battery.

Charging levels

The duration of the charging also depends on the EV charging level. Most electric car owners know that not all charging points are created equal. Based on the level of your charger, the charging time varies considerably. Let’s take a look at these. 

Level 1 charging

When you charge your EV using a standard 120 Volt charging port, it is known as level 1 charging. This is the slowest way to charge your car. For most vehicles, you are looking at around 4 to 5 miles (6.5 to 8Kms) of range in one hour. This is mainly used in North and South America as the rest of the world mostly use 220 Volts electric supply. 

It might appear slow, but for most people who will use their cars for office commutes and chores, it will be sufficient. 

It can take up to 60 hours for an EV to reach complete charging on a level one charge, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally charging it up to the full.

Level 2 Charging

When you utilise the electric supply that’s over 200 volts, we call it level 2 charging. You can expect to get 12 to 60 miles (19 to 96Kms) of range for one hour of charging. If you are wondering about the wide range ( like I did), it’s because some chargers put out more power than the others and sometimes it is based on the ability of EV to utilise that charge.

In most cars, if you kept them plugged in throughout the night, you can easily reach 100% charge. 

So if you have a level 2 charge, you have to do some optimisations on your charging schedule.

Level 3 Charging

Level 3 charging is a bit different. Instead of alternating current, direct current is used here. These chargers are capable of delivering around 800 Volts to your car. These chargers can push your battery to 80% in merely 20 to 30 minutes.

These chargers can easily cost upwards of $50,000 to set up. So I am assuming that most people reading this article do not have one of these installed at their homes!

Anyways, if you are using a paid rapid charging station, you have to keep an eye on the charging levels and try not to overshoot them unless you are going for a long drive.

Final Thoughts

It would help if you tried to maintain the charging levels of your EV between 20% and 80% for optimum battery performance. However, you shouldn’t worry too much about charging the battery to full once in a while.

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