Electric cars are the future but since they’re still technically new, a lot of questions about EVs remain unanswered. If you’re planning on buying an electric vehicle then you may be wondering if electric cars overheat as a safety concern.
The simple answer is; yes they do overheat but it’s usually not as extreme regular ICE (gasoline) vehicles and there are ways to control the problem if it does happen.
If you want to learn a bit more, read on!
Can Electric Cars Overheat?
While electric cars can overheat, they do not get as hot as gas engines do. The concept is simple, anything that produces energy gets hot after a point. However, overheating is usually not a concern when it comes to EVs.
This is because most electric vehicles come with a small cooling system that works to keep the motor cool.
The cooling system ensures heavy acceleration generates only a small amount of heat, hence it does not get problematic. However, not all EVs contain a cooling system and not all cooling systems are effective.
How Hot Can Electric Vehicles Get?
It can be difficult to answer this question because how hot a vehicle can get depends on a variety of factors including your driving pattern, the materials used in the production, and the age of the vehicle.
Older and poorly managed vehicles tend to overhead rather quickly. There are a number of moving components that result in a flow of energy that also produces heat.
If this heat is not properly dissipated then it would result in the vehicle getting hot. Also, we must mention that it is natural and okay for a car to get hot. You can’t have a ‘cool’ car all the time. When your electric car gets hot, it is not always the battery giving off heat, it could be the internals.
How Does the Cooling System Work?
The battery needs to be both cooled and heated to ensure it maintains the right temperature range. This is managed with the help of a battery management system, more popularly known as a BMS.
The job of this system is to ensure the battery does not get too hot or too cold. It uses a variety of tricks to maintain temperatures. In most cases, the system will activate the cooling system to manage heat.
Electric Ford Focus and The Ford, for example, have an active battery thermal management system that is effective in cooling the batteries down.
It works in the same way as the cooling system in your traditional car – it pumps antifreeze over the hot batteries to a radiator that’s cooled by a fan. However, the system only works when the car is operational or running.
In addition to this, the AC system can also help cool the interior and exterior of the vehicle. Plus, some reports suggest that insulation can also be effective in maintaining temperature.
What Causes Overheating?
Before we talk about how to prevent your electric vehicle from overheating, it is important to know what causes a vehicle to overheat.
Here are some of the factors to consider:
1. Geographical Location
This may sound strange to some but outside temperature can cause the battery to heat up especially if there is poor insulation. A report by some Volt enthusiasts concluded:
“Since outside air temperature was hotter than battery coolant temperature this actually resulted in heating the battery.”
This is why battery heating is common in regions that are very hot. Since you cannot control the surrounding temperature, you must take steps to improving cooling and reduce exposure to hot temperatures.
2. Charging Habits
If you charge the vehicle four to five times a day then it will end up being too hot. Plus, where you charge the car also has an impact on battery performance.
Most manufacturers recommend heating indoors to prevent the car from being exposed to outside temperatures, especially if it’s too hot.
“It’s Hot Outside–Plug Vehicle in When Not in Use” read Ford electric cars according to this post.
3. Driving Habits
Your car will begin to heat up if you drive it constantly for hours at a fast speed. It is important to give your car a break after every 100 miles or so.
4. Battery System
Different manufacturers use different cooling systems but not all are effective. A poor system will cause overheating problems, hence this factor is of huge importance.
How to Prevent Them Overheating?
Here are a few steps you can take to prevent overheating:
Upgrade the Cooling System
If your car does have a cooling system or if the cooling system is not effective then consider upgrading it. There are a variety of cooling systems including fan cooling, air cooling, phase change material, and liquid cooling.
The first three options are not suitable for electric vehicles, hence consider liquid cooling. A reliable cooling system can be expensive but it’s worth the money since it can play an important role in making your car safer and more durable.
Batteries with no thermal management systems tend to have poor life spans due to increased thermal pressure.
Know When to Charge
You do not have to charge your car unless it’s needed. Charging the battery every now and then can cause it to heat up and sustain damage.
It is best to keep Li-Ion batteries between 20% and 80% state of charge. If you do not travel long distances then up to 70% may be enough as well. You do not always have to hit the 100% mark.
Be Careful About Driving
Some cars have a feature known as the ludicrous mode. It helps improve performance and keeps the battery regulated. Consider activating it, especially when driving long distances.
Be Careful About Where You Park Your Vehicle
If you’re going to store your vehicle for an extended period of time then it may be a good idea to cover it and disconnect the battery.
Some experts also suggest keeping the charger connected so that the BMS can continue to work if you’re going to park it for a few days but that may not always be recommended.
Also, always park your car under a shade, especially if the temperature is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Can I Know If My Vehicle’s Battery is Too Hot?
Most electric vehicles come with a system that will warn the driver if the battery gets too hot, i.e: goes above the acceptable limit.
If you see such a warning then it is important that you give your car a break and let it cool down as driving a vehicle that’s already too hot can be very risky.
If you see no such signs then pay attention to the performance, if the battery life begins to deteriorate then it may be due to overheating.
Is Overheating a Serious Problem?
Yes, overheating can affect performance and also cause your car to malfunction. In addition to this, some reports suggest that overheating may result in fires that may cause serious damages.
Even if your car does not get ‘too hot’ or reaches a point where it’s very dangerous, the fact remains that overheating affects battery life and may push you to replace your electric vehicle’s battery sooner than later.
Nissan’s manual warns that excessive exposure to temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit would degrade battery capacity.
In order to receive and supply peak power, your car’s battery must be within a specific temperature range – between 100 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this range depends on manufacturers as it is based on the battery chemistry.
We suggest that you get in touch with the manufacturer or go through the official manual to get the exact figures.