A ten-pack of know-how: the top e-car hacks

7 min reading time
What does “preconditioning” mean, what are BMW Points, and what tricks can you use to get the most out of your battery, while at the same time conserving its energy storage as best as possible? We’ve put together ten e-car hacks – quick tips especially for drivers of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

15 December 2020

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Life hacks – these little tips, secrets and tricks to make life easier have already become a discipline in their own right on social media. Such hacks may be creative solutions developed by improvisational people facing everyday problems or small emergencies, or they were born out of the experiences of individual users with technical products or processes. Once released into cyberspace, they are often improved and refined by the hive mind. Life hacks can make everyday life easier in almost every sphere – if you know them. Which begs the question, Are there life hacks for electromobility, too? (➜ Read more: The electric vehicle concepts you need to know) Yes, there certainly are, and we’ve put together a list of 10 hacks for e-car drivers (quite a few of them work for plug-in hybrid owners, too). We’ve called them our e-car hacks. Let’s get started!

1) Route planning – totally chilled

There has been notable progress in the range that electric vehicles (EVs) can drive and that progress continues. Most battery electric vehicles – or BEVs – today have a range of over 185 miles (300 kilometers), and the battery can easily handle everyday traffic. Longer journeys, such as vacations, will of course benefit from some thinking ahead. A little planning is therefore essential to avoid unpleasant surprises – but you can do that from the comfort of your couch at home, for example with the My BMW App. With the BMW Charging service, a constantly growing and supra-regional network of public charging stations, including high-power charging stations from various providers, can be viewed and sent directly to the vehicle. You can search for AC and DC charging points and also view useful additional information such as plug type, opening hours and availability. There’s never been an easier route planner for driving your EV.

2) Fast charging: unplug at 80 percent

Charging at high-performance DC charging stations is convenient and there is basically no alternative for long-distance journeys – your battery can be recharged in the time it takes for a relaxed coffee break. Fast-charging stations with 150 kW charging output can charge a BMW iX3’s battery enough for a range of 60 miles (100 kilometers) in under 10 minutes according to WLTP with (➜ Read more: WLTP: New times, new rules). And in about 34 minutes it can be charged up to 80 percent. On long journeys with intermediate charging at HPC points, the travel time including charging time is reduced substantially if the battery is only charged to 80 percent. (➜ Read more: All about charging electric cars). The navigation system suggests just the right cafe near the charging station to pass the waiting time in comfort. And with the My BMW App, you can always see an overview of previous charging cycles. You will also receive a push notification when your vehicle’s battery is fully charged.

3) Preconditioning: set off optimally prepared

Big word, simple effect: preconditioning means bringing the charge level of an EV battery (➜ Read more: The life cycle of a battery) and the temperature of the vehicle interior to optimal values before setting off. This is because air conditioning the passenger compartment while driving uses electrical power, which would come at the expense of the range of an electric car. Cooling or heating the interior is therefore best done during charging, such as with your home EV charger. The corresponding settings can be selected via the vehicle menu or simply via the My BMW App – which means you don’t even have to go to the car to do it. This way, the ideal operating temperature and the desired charging level for the battery, and the selected temperature for the vehicle interior are reached in perfect time for your planned departure. This is particularly important in cold weather, where the car battery can be warmed by the battery heater to ensure optimal operation.

CO2 emissions 0 g/km (combined)
Fuel consumption 0 l/100 km (combined)
Power consumption 17,8-17,5 kWh/100 km (combined)

4) Exchange information, use the hive mind

If you drive electric you’re a pioneer of future mobility (➜ Read more: The key concepts of shared mobility) – and pioneers are particularly active when it comes to exchanging information. As an example, there are numerous forums and blogs that have sprung up from the BMW i3 community, and the owners and drivers of the first all-electric BMW enjoying, sharing and discussing their diverse experiences of these. There’s nearly always someone who has already answered a query or solved any problems you have – and this hive mind is a gift horse not to be looked in the mouth. This applies not only to model-specific experiences of EVs or plug-in hybrids, but also to know-how about the charging infrastructure. Lots of well-informed EV drivers like to share their driving hacks and offer tips on planning a long-haul trip or information about newly installed or planned public charging stations.

5) BMW Points – drive electric, collect points

This e-car hack is exclusively for the benefit of BMW Group plug-in hybrid drivers. The world’s first reward program of this kind rewards drivers of plug-in hybrids for locally emission-free driving by crediting them with one point for every kilometer - roughly 1,100 yards or 2/3 mile - driven electrically. In urban environmental zones and other areas defined as eDrive Zone, using EV mode they even double points – another bonus of being able to choose between different driving modes. Once they have collected a certain number of points, reward program members can convert their points for charging credit. BMW Points can be used via the My BMW App.

6) Driving style: full control over range

As different as the two types of propulsion technologies are, there is one thing that applies equally to both electric and conventionally powered vehicles: those who drive with foresight and at a moderate speed will get further. For example, driving at 70 mph (roughly 110 km/h) instead of 80 mph (roughly 130 km/h) on the freeway will significantly increase your electric car range. Individual driving style is the number one factor governing efficient electric driving and therefore e-car battery life. Not only that but in city traffic, with its many stops and starts, you can even generate energy. With energy recuperation, kinetic energy is converted into electrical energy and fed into the car battery whenever you take your foot off the accelerator. This can add miles to the electric car range.

7) Regenerative braking: gain power every time you brake

BMW is giving the all-electric BMW iX3 and future plug-in hybrids a new function: adaptive recuperation. This uses the braking process and involves the vehicle’s kinetic energy being converted back into electrical energy via the electric motor and then fed into the battery. “Adaptive” means that the intensity of the energy recovered via regenerative braking is adapted to the traffic situation, as determined with the aid of navigation data and the sensors of the driver assistance systems (➜ Read more: Overview of the main driver assistance systems). In this way recuperation is increased, for example, when approaching an intersection, a stretch of road with a lower speed limit or a vehicle in front. On the other hand, on the open road the car activates the coasting driving function as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator pedal. In addition, the driver can manually choose between recuperation levels when in Drive gear (D). And if you set the gear stick to B, recovery is particularly strong – this is a feature familiar from the BMW i3.

8) Your battery and the temperature: keep cool and avoid extremes

Generally speaking, drivers of electric vehicles need to be aware that temperature is a key external factor influencing the performance and capacity of the vehicle’s battery. This is likely to be familiar from your smartphone battery: particularly high or low temperatures can limit the device’s performance or see it consume a disproportionately large amount of energy. On the other hand, in a vehicle with an electric propulsion system, the impact of temperature is largely minimized through optimized operating strategies for battery thermal conditioning.

9) Heat pump wins: pluck more mileage out of thin air

How do I extend the range of my electric car? The answer is obvious: if you switch off as many power-consuming items as possible in the vehicle, you can use the electricity saved to travel further. Above all, air conditioning the passenger compartment naturally requires power. This can be addressed by a heat pump to disencumber the heating system – in the BMW iX3, for example, this is therefore fitted as standard. In cold weather, its use can deliver those crucial extra miles of range, without the compromise of having to shiver on your way.

10) Stay informed – using the right sources

For e-car drivers, information is almost as important and valuable as electrical power. The technology is developing in leaps and bounds, the infrastructure for electrically powered vehicles is spreading and improving rapidly. If you, as a driver of a partially or fully electric BMW, want to be always up-to-date, the BMW Charging website is indispensable. It goes without saying that the same also applies to our website BMW.com, where we regularly report thoroughly, competently and entertainingly on the various aspects of and latest developments in electromobility (➜ Read more: Busting 10 electric car myths).

Author: Frank Giese; Animations: Glenn Harvey