Monday, January 19, 2015

Stress Free EV Driving

If you drive an electric vehicle you are probably well aware that the quiet, smooth ride can create a "zen-like" experience which can help reduce stress especially while sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. But this is not what this post is about.

Driving in neutral is way of driving that is stress free for the battery pack. We all know that the pack has a limited life. It has a limit to how many times it sees the same electron passing back and forth from its cells so although regen is a great way to extend the current charge's range, it is not a great way to extend your battery pack's overall life.

Now, don't get me wrong; Neutral will not allow you to gain any extra charge cycles or anything like but we don't really judge longevity like that anyway.  Its all about the miles.  So it makes sense that the easier the miles on the car, the more miles you will get, right?

Now some will argue that Neutral driving is dangerous and if you feel that way, please comment below as to why you feel that way because I simply do not understand why anyone would think that.  The brakes still work in neutral so the only thing I can think of that might be considered dangerous is the diversion of one's attention to the road to shift.

Now, maybe its because I have been doing it so long (Also did it in the Prius just not nearly as much) that I have simply become efficient at it from practice but I don't have to divert attention from the road while shifting. As long as I am traveling over 8 mph or so, I shift to Reverse which automatically kicks it to neutral except without the delay. The shift happens immediately. The other thing is that neutral driving requires a much higher level of attention to the traffic and its flow. This should increase your awareness and your level of safety.

But all this can be a lot of work especially if the gains are minimal. I think that if you are in the right situation and know your terrain well, you can go a significant amount of miles this way and all with minimal wear on the battery pack.

I found that coasting in neutral does not hold up traffic especially if taking advantage of slight declines. Even the gentlest of downhill slopes allows the LEAF to maintain speed very well.  Like all new processes, there will be a learning curve to overcome but I think the benefits far outweigh any risk.

8 comments:

  1. Gave this a try on my commute today, 2012 Leaf going 25 miles to work in 9 degree weather, and I was able to keep the first battery bar for 12 miles. I was pretty pleased seeing the GOM at 73 Miles for most of that time. Sadly the last 10 miles of interstate killed any apparent difference, got to work with the usual 39 miles left. I will hit the LBW in my driveway or a half mile from it tonight.

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    1. But you made it! that is the important thing and keep in mind LBW happens at 48 GIDs or roughly 3½ Kwh usable remaining. Even in very cold weather that is at least 6-7 miles. Granted not a lot of room for errands on the way home but no matter how low you are getting home, you will still leave the next morning with a full charge!

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    2. Thanks for the info! I just finished setting up my Level 2 charger so I can make the leaf my daily commuter for the hilly 50 miles! (Level 1 only couldn't make it since I am only home parked for 9-10 hours.)

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    3. Hey not a problem! On my 2011 LEAF, I managed with a Level 1 charger for 2 plus months. Getting Level 2 was MUCH nicer. Now, I could get home (which was usually early afternoon) plug in an hour or two and be ready for errands later like Dinner, etc.

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  2. I met a teacher from Nehalem yesterday who arrived at Banks with 0%. She had been using neutral. Later in the day I did roughly the same route using ECO and arrived in Banks with 24%. (I did better than that on the east to west leg.) There are many, many variables and while I am sure neutral works under some circumstances, I usually like the benefits of regen for extended range crossing mountain passes, lowering brake wear, and making stop and go driving in the metro areas less dicey when cars are bumper to bumper. Pat, Vancouver, WA

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    1. On the highway, Neutral provides little benefit. It is simply a better way to maintain speed without putting less strain on the battery. As far as the difference between you and this other person, it could be a million factors before I would blame neutral driving. Besides, neutral driving does not replace regen and should only be used when its a better option

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  3. I did this trick during the summer prior to getting charging at work last fall. I commuted a round trip of 142km, with some ups and downs. I haven't ever gone back through my data to verify, but I do think it saved me a few hundred watt hours. Now that I have charging at work available, I get to work with between 35-45% (depending on weather), and leave with anywhere between 75-90%... so I don't really bother with hypermiling tricks anymore and just drive with the flow of traffic. This has actually lowered my stress level quite a bit, since I don't have people on my tail the whole time. Cheers from Andrew; Nelson, BC

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    1. Andrew; the huge variances you see on oft repeated commutes will make it nearly impossible to determine how much if any improvement you are seeing with neutral driving. I use it purely because I believe that it is less stress on the battery. less cycling and most importantly; the LEAF coasts so effortlessly in neutral. I blogged about this last Summer, but once I coasted from Highway 18 interchange in I-5 all the way to the Port of Tacoma. I occasionally shifted into drive to slow down due to traffic but the very gentle slope was enough for me to maintain speed. Granted the "speed" was all under 35 mph. But it was 6-7 miles that was "free" in the battery degradation clock!

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