A parking lot filled with lots of parked cars.

Do electric cars lose charge when parked?

Planning to park your car for a long time? We explore battery drain.
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Summary
  • Most electric cars will only lose about 2-3% of their charge a month while sitting idle.
  • That means that if you had a car with a 220-mile range, you could expect to lose about 4.5-7 miles out of your whole charge over the course of a month.
  • Avoid extremely high or low temperatures to help preserve charge.
  • Keep your electric vehicle between 20-80% charged when parking it for a long time.
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One of the main concerns prospective electric car subscribers have is how long an electric car stays charged. 

After all, when you’re used to keeping your eye on a fuel gauge, it makes sense to be anxious about battery life too. 

In truth, it’s not that complicated! If you can take care of your mobile phone, you can probably manage an electric vehicle. All you need to do is learn a few basic principles of lithium-ion battery care.

Let’s get a grip on the basics of electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries and explore the topic of battery drain.

How long does an electric car battery last per full charge?

Most recent electric vehicles will travel anywhere from 150 miles on a single charge, though some can reach 400 miles. 

This distance is increasing all the time, with rapid advancements in efficiency and battery life. However, lithium batteries will degrade slowly over the course of their estimated 10-year-plus lifespan.

How long does an electric car battery stay charged?

A fully charged electric vehicle will provide power for 260 miles of driving, on average. 

How frequently your electric vehicle will require charging depends on your average weekly use. For optimum battery health, always keep your electric vehicle charged between 20-80%.

EV battery drain when not in use

Electric car batteries will drain (drivers like calling this "vampire drain") even when not in use, though this will usually be minimal (a few percentage points per month, depending on environmental factors). 

This is because power is still needed to maintain the various electric systems of the vehicle.  

Ensure you do not fully charge your electric vehicle before storing it away. It’s recommended that most electric cars are stored at about 50% charge. 

In this condition, your vehicle should happily sit idle for months without significant drainage!

Even when your electric car is parked, it is often still powering several electric systems in your vehicle. 

Due to these systems, electric vehicles will lose very small quantities of charge when parked.

Won't need a car for a long time? One of the many benefits of car subscriptions is that you can cancel your membership and return the car. That way, you don't pay for a car you don't use. You can then sign up again and book a new vehicle to be delivered. So, with subscriptions you don't really have to worry about battery longevity.

How long can an electric car sit without charging?

High voltage and high temperature are both enemies of inactive lithium-ion batteries. To preserve the charge and protect the health of your EV, it’s crucial to consider those two factors.

Keep your electric vehicle parked in cool and shady locations; avoid rooftop parking and sunny driveways. 

For short stops, park your electric vehicle with 30-70% charge. For longer periods of inactivity, your lithium-ion battery should be charged to approximately 50%.

Charging your electric vehicle to 100% in direct sunlight is about the worst thing you could do for your lithium-ion battery!

What temperature is considered too hot for an EV that is Parked?

According to the AAA’s director of automotive engineering, “lithium-ion batteries like the same sort of temperatures that we do, around 70 degrees [Fahrenheit]”

That’s 21 degrees celsius! Lithium batteries begin to perform with reduced efficiency at around 32 degrees. 

A lithium-ion battery will survive 500 degrees before ‘Rapid Disassembly’ (a cute way of saying battery-exploding-into-flames) occurs.

A busy underground car park at night.

Maximise battery life and conserve power while parked

There are three easy ways to preserve the charge of your parked vehicle. Most electric vehicle manufacturers offer some or all of these features:

Power save

Most electric vehicles will have some kind of energy saver setting. Power Saver or Energy Saver modes limit the number of systems that your parked electric vehicle will run. 

This stops systems like GPS or Tesla’s Sentry feature from automatically running and updating when you park your car.

Preset features

You can turn off individual presets if you don’t want to use a blanket setting such as Power Saver Mode. WiFi, GPS, or other non-essential preset features can be easily toggled on and off too.

Deep sleep

Let your car really relax with a nice deep sleep! 

Deep Sleep modes deactivate all but the most basic security features. Doing so gives your car a nice uninterrupted rest (stay off companion apps, etc.) and significantly extends your EV’s battery life.

What happens when an electric car runs out of charge?

If you’re driving and you run out of charge, most electric vehicles will lose speed and come to a gentle stop. 

You can then call a flatbed breakdown truck to get you to the nearest charger or even receive roadside charging. 

Letting your electric car battery go flat doesn’t result in any immediate damage to your vehicle.  Check out our rundown of the best EV apps - some of them help plan roadtrips by showing you where and when you can stop to top up your battery!

Just remember that any time your lithium-ion battery dips below 20%, you are gradually reducing the length of its lifespan!

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