Driving an electric car for the first time may seem like a new world, but there is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, in many ways, electric vehicles (EVs) are easier to drive than conventional petrol or diesel cars.
In this article we will discuss the process of driving an electric vehicle for the first time and how to get the most out of it with regular use. After obtaining a car licence, it is important to internalise certain recommendations, and the differences between an electric car and a fuel car.
How to drive an electric car: the basics
The way to drive an electric vehicle is virtually the same for all models. From the driver’s seat, press the “Power” button on the dashboard to start the car (or simply turn the key in the Polestar 2). Then select Drive, usually via a traditional gear lever, similar to that of an automatic car.
Some cars, such as the Volkswagen ID range and the BMW i3, have relocated the drive selector to the dashboard. On the right-hand side of the dashboard, turn the selector towards the windscreen to go forwards and towards you to go in reverse. Other electric vehicles may have a rotary dial with gear markings around it. In these cases, simply turn the dial to select forward or reverse.
In gear, there is no need to worry about gears or the clutch pedal. Just “stop and start” with the brake and accelerator pedals. Electric vehicles are impossible to stall. They are also very smooth and quiet. The instant torque of their electric motors provides rapid acceleration (extreme in some high-end EVs, such as Tesla). Be very careful: you may need to control your speed.
EVs use regenerative braking, which harnesses kinetic energy to recharge batteries. This means that an EV may brake more than you expect when you take your foot off the accelerator. However, you can take advantage of this.
How to maximise the range of an electric car
As with any car, driving smoothly and anticipating hazards is key to conserving energy. This is especially important in an electric vehicle.
Saving as much energy as you can and recharging the battery using the kinetic energy from regenerative braking will preserve available range, which means you will need to charge the car less frequently. The easiest way to do this is to ease off the accelerator when approaching junctions. It may feel strange at first and you may end up stopping before you reach the junction, but over time you will get used to modulating your EV’s regenerative braking. Driving downhill or on motorways are other ways to save energy.
Most electric cars have an adjustable regenerative braking system, which is selected using the paddles behind the steering wheel or the buttons near the gear selector. This allows you to adjust the level of regenerative braking force. The more powerful settings are useful for stop-start city driving.
Many electric vehicles also have a ‘one pedal’ option, which uses regenerative braking to bring the car to a complete stop. This means you only have to use the accelerator – hence the name “one pedal” – to accelerate or brake.
Conditioning the battery and car interior to optimum temperatures before leaving home (ideally while charging) also saves energy and increases range. This process, called pre-conditioning, can often be initiated and controlled via a smartphone app. It is common sense that the more electrical devices you switch on in the car, the more energy you will consume. So be aware and only use what you need. If you are travelling alone, use the ‘driver’ setting on the air conditioning, if there is one, or better still, turn it off.
If it is installed, activate the heated seat and steering wheel, as they only heat the objects you are in contact with. Infotainment screens also consume power, but are usually necessary to access navigation and charging settings. Today, almost all EVs come with a smartphone app that allows you to monitor available range, find the nearest charging points and set pre-conditioning controls.
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