The following are two common questions from new electric car owners and potential electric car owners: “Should I charge my EV every night?” and “Can I leave my EV plugged in overnight?” I’m going to tackle them both in a special BOGO/two-for-the-price-of-one article.
The answer to the first question is variable, depending on one’s circumstances and preferences, while the second question is a simple yes/no question and the answer is: yes — you can certainly leave your EV plugged in overnight, and most people do. It’s understandable that many people (most people?) initially wonder whether it’s okay to keep the car plugged in while you sleep. One could worry about fire risk, or about the chance that the car could keep drawing power and wasting money if you leave it plugged in. Neither concern is worth spending any mental energy on, though. Fire risk is phenomenally low. And once the car reaches the battery level you’ve set the car to charge to, it will simply stop drawing electricity. Think of it like your air conditioner — when the house is too hot, the AC turns on and sucks up electricity; when the house is cool enough, it shuts off again.
As far as the “Should I charge my EV every night?” question, well, that really just depends on how much you drive and how much range your car has. If you have a car with 200 miles of range and you drive 100+ miles a day, you surely want to plug in and charge every day. The average in the US, though, is to drive 40 miles a day. In that case, it really doesn’t make sense to plug in and charge every day. And from my experience covering this industry for a decade and talking to countless EV owners, most EV drivers don’t plug in every day. They plug in every other day or every third day. (Note: This discussion is assuming access to home charging. Not having home charging can complicate things.) While it’s the norm to not charge every day, there’s no harm in doing so. Also, there are some benefits.
If you do plug your car in every night, it becomes a strong habit and you are much less likely to forget to charge when you need to. If you don’t charge every day, it’s much easier to forget to charge on a night when you need to. (Been there, done that.) Don’t want to forget to charge? Plug in every day when you get home and make it something you don’t even think about.
Another benefit of charging your EV every night is that if something unexpected does come up and you need to drive much more than previously planned, your car should have a good state of charge for that abnormal day. I’ve previously written about my preference of keeping our car between around 30% and 70%, or 20% and 80%. The problem with that approach — which I’ve run into in minor ways a handful of times — is that you are sometimes at 20% or 30% and then your plans change (or you forget about certain plans until the last minute). Then you don’t really have the ideal amount of charge for your day’s needs, and you may not have time to charge up to the ideal level. Like I said, I’ve only had minor problems with this kind of slip-up in my 4 years of EV ownership, but it’s not fun when it happens and it’d be easy to avoid by simply plugging the car in every day. Actually, I probably would just plug the car in every day except for the fact that I have 70,000+ free Supercharger miles that expire in about a year (I will not be able to use the vast majority of them with my 10,000-mile-a-year driving habits 🙁 ).
The one thing you don’t want to do (unless you have a LiFePo battery) is charge your car up to 100% every day. In fact, I would avoid ever charging to 100%. The more you keep your car’s battery around 50%, the better. That actually goes for your phone battery, computer battery, and other batteries as well. Batteries degrade more the closer they are to 100% or 0%, especially if sitting there for long periods of time. To be practical, people often recommend keeping your battery between 20% and 80%, but if you’re extreme and it’s easy enough for you, you could even keep it between about 40% and 60% as much as possible. In any case, if you are going to plug your car in every day to charge while you sleep, eat, work, watch TV, or chill in other ways, just be sure to set the charge limit to 70%, 80%, or 90%, not 100%.
Any other thoughts on whether one should charge their EV every night or whether or not to leave their EV plugged in overnight?
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