Charging electric vehicles: what you need to know

Charging an LCV; Alphabets eMobility solution AlphaElectric

For all of you who already drive (or have ever driven) electric, regularly plugging in the charging cable is a “must”, so to speak, to ensure your electric vehicle (EV) is ready to roll next time you need it. But what if it were possible to charge the battery without being tied down by a cable and to set location? What if the car itself doubled as a fuel station? Unveiled at the 2016 Geneva Automobile Salon, the Fuel Station of the Future Concept, the exciting vision of EV manufacturer Nissan and the architecture, engineering and design studio, Foster + Partners, seeks to provide EVs a flexible, cable-free charging infrastructure using induction technology.

Now that I’ve teased you with the prospect of ultra-flexible charging, it’s my duty to do a reality check: for now, this cable-less charging concept is just a glimpse of what the future may bring. Today, when you’ve got to charge, the cable is your best friend. But by following some good charging practices, you can make the most of the time you have left with the maybe-one-day-archaic charging cable. Here are my top 4 tips for choosing the right charging solution.

1. Aim for reliability
Just like you’d refill a combustion engine car before a trip or when the fuel light flicks on, an EV should be charged to ensure it’s ready to go when you need it. The charge should be sufficient for the range you’re going to drive.

2. Put safety first
However you charge, ensure the solution is safe – for the person charging, the vehicle and the electrical installation. Rule of thumb: you should be able to charge for a few hours per day without affecting other equipment plugged in to the same electrical installation. Unsure? Consult a professional!

3. Optimise energy consumption
By taking a few precautions, you can charge in a way that reduces your carbon footprint – and energy bill. This includes opting for automatic load shedding to exceed your utility contract’s maximum power threshold and scheduling charging for off-peak hours to take advantage of lower utility rates.

4. Introduce priority charging
Fleet managers should ensure EVs needed for strategic assignments are charged first. Your drivers will be very grateful.

Speaking of fleet managers and drivers: a nifty new online tool, the eMobility Advice Tool, determines if it make sense for a person to drive electric. All you have to do is fill in some info about your driving habits and the tool tells you if you should consider switching to a hybrid or EV. If you haven’t already, check it out now! And yes, the tool is free of charge.

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