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How Long Can An Electric Car Sit Without Charging?

Many who grew up driving gas or diesel-powered vehicles learned to check the gas tank fill level before they backed out of a parking space.

Modern vehicles tell us approximately how many miles we can expect from what’s left in the tank.

An electric vehicle offers us this information as well, but if you need to store a vehicle or let a vehicle sit for an extended period of time, protecting the battery gets a lot more expensive in an electric vehicle.

How Long Can An Electric Car Sit Without Charging?

The Time Limit

You can leave your electric vehicle sitting for months as long as you are careful about your management of the 12-volt battery.

If you need to store your car long-term, factors such as ambient temperature and moisture exposure can cause problems when it’s time to start the car and get back on the road.

The big worry when storing an electric vehicle is the high-voltage battery.

However, if you need to store your car long-term, it’s important to plan to also protect other features of the vehicle that can be damaged by heat, sunlight, or moisture, including

  • the rubber in your tires
  • paint and exterior finish
  • the seals around doors, windows, and your trunk

Any vehicle that needs to be parked for a time should be left under cover or indoors.

charging an electric car

More than One Battery to Care For

Your electric vehicle has a primary or high-voltage battery and a 12-volt battery. When it comes time to store your electric vehicle or just let it sit for a time, you will want to charge the main battery to 80% and leave it unplugged.

Your 12-volt battery is no different than the starting battery in a gas or diesel-powered vehicle.

If you need to leave your car sit for an extended period of time, this is the battery to carefully disconnect if you need to leave your electric vehicle sitting for an extended period of time.

12 volt car battery

Stay Between the Lines

An electric car owner may be tempted to charge their car to 100% before putting it into storage or leaving it sit for an extended time.

However, the expert recommendation is to reduce battery availability to 80% before leaving the car sit. A battery at 100% with no discharge option can actually be damaged if left to sit.

You can be confident that a battery at 50% is ideal; if your battery is at 20% or lower, you may damage it if you leave it sit.

electric car charging in driveway

Ambient Temperature Considerations

It is very unlikely that your HV battery will be damaged by sitting unplugged. In fact, some electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf enter deep sleep mode when left unplugged.

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However, heat can damage the 12-volt battery that powers

  • lights
  • wipers
  • starter
  • electric door locks

Lead-acid batteries are fairly easy to charge if your alternator or charging system are functioning effectively.

However, once a battery starts to suffer heat fatigue, it will fail to hold a charge.

If you store or leave your electric car sitting for a time and come back to a dead car and it’s been warm, your 12-volt battery is probably the culprit.

white electric car sitting in sunlight

Watch the Cables

Since you probably have a home charger for your electric vehicle, take care to coil and store your cables so they don’t get knocked around when not plugged into the car.

Damaged cables may lose the ability to make all the necessary connections to charge your HV battery.

Review Your Manual

There are some older models of electric or hybrid cars, such as an older Toyota Prius, that need started and run for a set number of minutes each week or month.

Of course, the Prius is a hybrid and the gasoline engine charges the battery. Electric vehicles need cables to power up the battery and get you back on the road.

It is recommended to reduce the battery charge to 80% before letting the car sit for a period of time.

The Mechanics

Once you have your electric car charged between 50% and 80%, you can park it in your garage and leave it unplugged.

It may be wise to go ahead and unplug your 12-volt battery to reduce unnecessary draw. There is no risk that your HV battery will be wiped out by draw pulled through the 12-volt battery. There is risk when unplugging a 12-volt battery.

Even if you leave it in place, take care to remove the negative terminal first. Drape the cable outside the car so the metal terminal that was attached to the battery doesn’t touch any part of the vehicle.

Next, you can unplug the positive terminal. Again, keep this away from the body of the car and the negative terminal.

electric car battey

The Storage Situation

Something to keep in mind when parking your car for an extended period of time is that electric cars are heavier than a gas or diesel-powered vehicle.

If you need to put your electric vehicle on a trailer for any reason for an extended period of time, make sure the trailer has the capacity to safely hold your vehicle until you are ready to drive it again.

In the end, storing an electric vehicle isn’t all that different from storing a gas or diesel-powered vehicle.

Protecting the starting battery is necessary in both cases, as is protecting the vehicle from heat, moisture, and excess sunlight.

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