First-Time Tips: Six Ways to Prepare Your Electric Car or Plug-in Hybrid for Fall

Starbucks is selling its seasonal Pumpkin Spice Late, we’ve just passed the September Equinox, the trees have started to shed their leaves, the clocks are ready to go back and you’ve probably exchanged shorts and t-shirts for sensible shoes and a jacket.

Yes folks, if you’re among the majority of our readers who live in the more northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere, the chances are you’re preparing for another beautiful Fall. Or, as those of us in Europe prefer to call it, “Autumn.”

iMiEV in Dorset

Are you ready for Autumn?

If you’ve been driving a plug-in car for a number of years, the chances are you’re already well-prepared for the coming season, but given the number of new plug-in cars sold across the world this year, we figure there are also a lot of first-time EV and plug-in hybrid owners who may not know about some of the things you can do with your plug-in car to make life easier as the temperature drops and those long, summer evenings become a distant memory.

To help you, we’ve come up with five things you should do this week to prepare yourself and your plug-in car for the changing season. They’re all pretty simple and easy to do, but you’ll find following our advice will make sure you get the very best out of your new car.

1) Set your car’s charge timers — and remember the clock change!

If you’ve owned a plug-in car for any length of time, the chances are you’ve already found out how to use charge timers to ensure that your car is always ready to go every morning for your work commute.

If you have a fairly short commute and don’t always use a full charge every day, forgetting to plug in or set the charge timer still probably meant you could make to work or perhaps even back home again without running out of charge. But as the weather cools, you’ll likely use more energy on every trip if you’re the kind of person who likes the inside of your car to stay a warm, toasty temperature. Moreover, electric car range tends to naturally fall as the mercury does, as electric car battery packs perform best in temperate weather.

As a consequence — and to make sure you’re prepared for any detours caused by bad weather — you should get into the habit of plugging in  your car every night, and letting it charge overnight when electricity is cheaper.

Even most base-level plug-in cars have on-board charge timers you can set.

Even most base-level plug-in cars have on-board charge timers you can set.

Which brings us nicely to time-of-use metering. Depending on where you live in the world, it’s likely that your clocks will go back at some point in the next month. For the U.S., clocks in most states go back on November 2, while Europe tends to switch its clocks back on the last Sunday in October. If you make use of time-0f-use metering (which gives you cheaper electricity at night-time to charge your car) be sure to check with your utility company to see if TOU metering is effected by the change in clocks.

In the UK, Economy7 cheap rate tariff operates all-year on Greenwich Mean Time, meaning your car’s on-board charge timer will need to be changed after the clocks go back in order to continue benefiting from the cheapest possible electricity.

(If you’re not sure when or if your country puts its clocks back an hour, this handy site should help you figure it out)

2) Set your car’s climate control or preconditioning departure times

Do you have to park outside? Do you hate scraping ice off your car’s windscreen every morning when the temperature drops?

If the answer is yes and you happen to own a plug-in car, you’ll be pleased to know that the majority of plug-in cars on the market today come with a programable on-board heating system that can precondition your car for you on a cold, frosty morning — and frankly, not having to scrape ice from your car’s windows in the winter is one of the best-kept secrets of plug-in car ownership.

Some cars will ask you to enter your desired departure time, while others will ask you to input the time you’d like the heating system to come on, so be careful to make sure you read your owners’ handbook carefully to determine which time you’ll need to input. Here at Transport Evolved, we advocate you allow for at least 30 minutes of pre-heating before you get in, as not all cars are particularly quick at clearing their windows.

While most people won't see snow until winter starts, autumn is the perfect time to start using preconditioning controls.

While most people won’t see snow until winter starts, autumn is the perfect time to start using preconditioning controls.

You’ll also need to ensure that your car has time to fully charge before you set the climate control on, or you may find your car isn’t completely charged when you get to it.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to set the preconditioning every day, you’ll find many cars offer remote preconditioning with the smartphone app that came with your car. In some cases, you can even activate it with the remote control.

Oh, and make sure you plug-in every night, or you’ll find the pre-conditioning will eat up some of your car’s range.

3) Check your tires

With lose leaves on the road, rain, mud and other dirt to contend with, this season is particularly tough on car tires, especially if you live in an area which has been extremely dry for a long time.

With that in mind, now is a great time to give your car’s tires a thorough inspection. In addition to checking the tire pressures (which you can find on the sidewall, door jamb or in your owners’ manual) you should ensure your car’s tires are free from any heat-related cracks, have a good, uniform tread that complies with local laws, and are not showing signs of damage.

Look after you tire,s and they will look after you as the roads get slippery, wet, and grimy.

Look after you tire,s and they will look after you as the roads get slippery, wet, and grimy.

To check your tire pressure, invest in a good quality tire gauge to keep in your car’s glove box, and be sure to check pressures when the tires are cold and the car is parked on a flat, even surface.

Moreover, while some electric car forums may advocate over-inflating your cars’ tires to improve range, we’d advise sticking to manufacture-recommended pressures, as deviating from this can affect handling and ride, as well as make you more susceptible to tire blow-outs.

4) Check your lights

Most modern cars come with some form of light bulb warning system designed to let you know if there’s a failure in the lighting system. But having owned several cars with these systems, we know that sometimes, they can fail.

So we’re going to recommend you get a friend to help you check out all of the lights on your car in the old-fashioned way: by illuminating each in turn to ensure they’re working as required.

As well as the usual headlights, brake lights, turn signals and markers, be sure to check fog lights (if fitted), along with license plate lights. While it might seem like an overkill, correctly functioning lights can help you see and be seen clearly at dusk and dawn, keeping you and other road users safe.

5) Replace any worn wiper blades

Your condition of your car’s wiper blades is essential to being able to see clearly this fall and winter, especially if you live in an area known for its stormy weather at this time of year.

Wiper blades that haven’t been used much over the summer may be cracked and worn, so be sure to visually inspect each wiper blade independently and ensure that they provide correct wiping action on the screen. If they don’t — or they leave streaky marks — treat yourself to a new set.

It’s also worth checking the level of your washer fluid — a legal requirement in many countries — to ensure that it is full of the correct washer fluid for the time of year and in the correct concentrations. Don’t be tempted to empty a new bottle of undiluted concentrate into the reservoir however, as this can prematurely age your cars’ wiper blades!

6) Give your car a wash — and a wax

As the weather deteriorates towards the winter and our roads start to accumulate a combination of mud, dirt and grime, you’ll probably find yourself stuck in a perpetual loop of trying to keep your car clean. You may even wonder what the point is of giving your car a good clean.

But as well as the practical benefits of giving your car a good wash before the outside temperature really starts to drop, you’ll find giving your car a thorough clean inside and out will help it tackle the winter months far more easily.

That’s because a good quality wash and wax will help form a protective barrier on the outside of your car to protect the paintwork from the corrosive properties of the rock salt many countries and states use in the winter to help prevent black ice and poor grip.

As for the inside? That’s a nice-to-have that helps you feel warm, clean, and dry when the world outside is anything but.

(Bonus for Twizy owners) Dig out those gloves!

Driving Renault’s two-seat pocket rocket is fun whatever the time of year, but as the temperature drops you’ll be more aware than others of the effects of wind chill.

With no heater, make sure you invest in a good pair of gloves, a motorcycle jacket or ski jacket, a hat, and perhaps even a blanket to cover our legs. There’s no reason you can’t drive a Twizy in the winter, but you just have to make sure you really wrap up, as our two models below will demonstrate:

No, we're not kidding. This is how we ride in a Twizy.

No, we’re not kidding. This is how we ride in a Twizy.

What do you do?

If you’re a plug-in owner and you have a regular fall routine to help prepare for the winter months, why not share it? Have we missed an important tip? Or perhaps you’ve got a tip to keep your car’s battery pack full and your toes warm, whatever the trip?

Share your tips and thoughts in the Comments below.


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