Can you start an EV?


Proponents of electric vehicles will tell you that electric cars are like regular cars. For the most part, they are correct. You step on the right pedal and the car rolls, you turn the steering wheel and the car spins, and the only real difference is what kind of fuel is used in it. We say things like that all the time, in fact – if we’re being completely honest, it’s only principally true. 99% of the time the only difference is in the type of fuel used in the car, but the latter percent probably needs to be explained.

To provide this explanation, we’re running an “Electric Car FAQs” segment to answer those bizarre questions that come up one percent of the time. The question of the day : Can you start an EV?

Electric car faq: can you start an electric vehicle?

Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

It’s a common experience: you drive to your car on a cold winter morning and it won’t start. Maybe it lasts a second or two before you hear that dreaded “tick-tick-tickickick” and then nothing. Your battery is dead and you will need a jump to start.

If you have an internal combustion engine (ICE) car, you don’t have to wait for roadside assistance or a futuristic tow truck to show up. All you need is another one and a set of jumper cables. Then it’s red-red, black-black, turn the key, and that’s it – you can get to where you need to go (which, at this point, is probably a place that sells car batteries) . Again, we’re not covering any new ground here, but what happens when the car with the dead battery is electric? Can you start it?

The answer is “it’s complicated”.

You see, conventional ICE-powered cars have a single 12V electrical system. That means their 12V car battery powers the lights, power windows, heated seats, on-board computers, and – its heaviest load – the electric starter that starts the engine.

Hybrid and electric cars work a little differently, however, in that they have of them electrical systems. The first is a 12V system that would be familiar to most shade tree mechanics, since its battery does the same thing as the 12V battery in a gasoline car. It powers the lights, the seats and the on-board computers … the same on-board computers that both turn on the car and handle the charge of the huge 48V batteries you probably think of when you hear the words “electric car battery”.

It is the long way of saying that if your 12V battery dies, it is not going to power the ECU and CAN bus, and there is a good chance that you will be stuck, unable to convince your car to move on its own. This is the bad news. The good news is, yes, you can Quickly and easily “start” the 12V battery and, assuming you have electrons in the “tank”, move on. Plus, it’s done pretty much the same as the ICE car you’re probably used to.

How to start an EV

  • The first thing you need to do is make sure your EV is disconnected from the charger. Repeat, NOT try to start the 12V battery while the car is plugged into a socket or – worse! – a DC fast charger. This could cause serious damage to people and property. Unplug the car.

  • Assuming you are using another car (not a “jump box”) to start your EV, place the two cars close enough to each other so that the cables can reach the two 12 V batteries, but not touching each other. .

  • Make sure that both vehicles are off, in “park” (or, in a manual transmission car, in neutral) and that the parking brake is applied. If you are using a jump box, just go to the next step.

  • Turn off everything. That means the headlights, wipers, interior lights – anything that will use the battery.

  • Connect one of the RED positive (+) clamps to the positive (+) terminal of the “dead” car battery. Being careful not to let the black and red connectors touch each other, attach the other RED positive (+) clamp to the positive (+) terminal of the “good” battery.

  • Next, place the negative BLACK clamp (-) to the negative (-) terminal of the “good” battery, then connect the negative BLACK clamp (-) to the negative (-) terminal (or to a grounding point. ) on the “battery.

  • Make sure the cables are clear of any moving parts (we’re talking about an EV here, so there shouldn’t be a lot of them) and that the clamps are securely attached to the battery terminals on both cars.

  • Start the “right” car and let it run, or “run”. To note: If the “good” car is powered by ICE, don’t just sit there cranking the engine – just let it idle, as the alternator should provide more than enough current to blow up the “dead” battery.

  • Finally, try to start the VE with the “dead” battery. Once it’s running, you can disconnect the jumper cables (as before, be careful that the clamps don’t touch each other until both batteries are disconnected).

It should be noted that this process will work on a PHEV or Mild Hybrid as well – it’s the same series of steps, except you’ll hear a “Vroom” when the ICE engine starts. In a pure BEV, if there was any juice left in the 48V battery, you should be able to go to your local auto dealer / parts store and get a new 12V battery with no problem.

I did it all, it’s still dead

Let’s face it, there’s no right time for the 12V battery to completely discharge or drop to zero. In an ideal scenario, you’ll have a residual charge in your vehicle’s larger 48V battery and still have some range – but what if the 12V dies at the worst possible time, and you really don’t? no autonomy to speak of? Or, like, not at all?

Image courtesy of Lightning Mobile.

Mobile charging stations capable of bringing you a DC fast charger exist, and they are becoming more common in dealer service and tow fleets as the market for electric cars grows. Last year, we covered a solution from Lightning Systems equipped with 192 kWh of high energy density, liquid cooled DC batteries designed to be installed in a vehicle or trailer for rapid mobile deployment. This system, marketed to Fleet Services, helps keep vehicle availability high, but could be adopted more widely as commercial fleets (think “taxis” and “rental cars”) become more common. in addition electrified.

For big events like tailgate parties or e-mobility festivals, Tesla has developed a trailer-based DC fast charging bank that will bring its excellent network of superchargers wherever a crowd of electric vehicles might show up – and this technology. will just get smaller (and cheaper!) over time. You can check it out for yourself below.

Once the big battery is charged, you should be good to go where your needs take you. Keep in mind that a 12 V battery that shuts down may not be able to hold a charge, even after it jumps. You will definitely want to visit your local auto dealership or store to have it tested and / or replaced as soon as possible.

We hope this answered your Electric Car FAQs for today. You will be able to read more FAQs as we expand the series (this is the first of them), and if there is a question about the electric car that we haven’t answered for you. and to which you will be dying to know the answer, scroll down to the comments section and share it with us. Until then, drive safely and drive clean!

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