There’s nothing worse than taking your car out of storage only to find that it won’t start or runs worse than it did before you put it away. If you want to avoid these kinds of problems with your electric car, you’ll need to know the best storage protocols. So where and how exactly should you store your electric vehicle and why is it so important.
If you know you’re not going to be using your car for a while and you want to find the best place to store it, you’ve come to the right place. In the following sections we’ll begin by scouting out what a storage place should have to be ideal for your EV. Then, we’ll move on to talk about what steps you can take to further protect vital parts of the car like the batteries and the tires.
Why Do Electric Cars Need Special Storage?
So why exactly should you go through the trouble of finding a special storage place for your electric car? What’s wrong with keeping it in the driveway like you normally do?
If an electric car is left out in the open, as is from the last time you drove it, a number of issues can crop up that will be inconvenient and potentially costly to you in the long run. The surface of the car can take damage, batteries can slowly lose their power, and your tires can deflate rather quickly from the weight of the rest of the car.
All of these issues need to be addressed by where you chose to store your EV and how you go about doing it.
Is It Okay to Store My Electric Car in My Garage?
Choosing the right place to store your electric vehicle can be challenging. If for nothing else, this is because a specific type of location–like your garage, for example–may or may make a good storage space depending on its own unique attributes.
For example, one garage with a residential charging station and good insulation could be just the right spot, while another with a leaky roof and no power going to it, could end in damage.
Instead of giving you a list of generic places or telling you that you should or should not use your garage, we’ll lay out the conditions any storage space should have to safely store an EV. If your garage fits these suggested requirements, then it is indeed a great place to store your car. If it does not however, you may want to look into other storage options.
The Best Conditions for Storing Your Electric Car
Essentially, the best place to store an electric car is one that is sheltered from too much sun and bad weather. This is so no surface level damage happens to the car’s exterior and so that the batteries will be protected from too much heat.
Depending on the weather where you live and how long you’re leaving the car out, you may want it to be an enclosed space like a garage or a storage space. If you live in an area with a moderate climate that doesn’t really get much extreme weather, you could get away with keeping it in an open carport. That said, it’s always better to play it on the safe side if you can.
It’s also always a good idea to have access to electricity if you want to use something like a trickle charger to maintain your battery’s power (we will break this process down in more detail below).
Why and How to Protect Your 12 Volt Battery
Electric cars have a 12 volt battery for a number of reason’s. It’s this battery that will maintain the safety features of your car in case the high voltage lithium-ion battery goes out. It’s also used for many of the more minor electrical features such as your locking system, radio, inside lights etc (please note this can vary by car). Therefore, it’s important to properly store it.
What you should do to preserve your 12 volt battery is largely determined by how long you plan on storing it and what equipment you have. You can use what is called a trickle charger to maintain a steady flow of power to the battery or you can simply disconnect it entirely. Whichever route you take, you’ll be ensuring the battery has power after long disuse.
If you’re storing your electric car for less than roughly one month, you should consider using a trickle charger, so it’s fully charged and ready to go when you start it up again. If you’re storing your electric vehicle for longer than one month, it’s most likely okay to simply disconnect the battery entirely.
Below we have provided you with guides that explain how to disconnect a 12 volt battery and how to use a trickle charger, so you can be ready to go right after reading this:
How to Disconnect Your 12 Volt Battery
The 12 Volt battery is essentially the same type you would find in a typical gas powered car. Therefore, if you’re familiar with that process you may want to skip this section. If you’re not familiar or you want a brief refresher before you actually do it, welcome.
Before you begin you’ll need a socket and optionally, some insulated gloves for safety if it’s your first time and you want to take extra precautions.
Below we’ve outlined step by step how to disconnect your 12 Volt Battery before you store your EV:
- Find the battery: The 12 volt battery is generally found under the hood where it would be in a typical gas powered car. Please make sure you don’t mistake the lithium battery for the 12 volt, as it could be potentially dangerous.While this may be obvious to you if you’re into cars, it could pose a danger to someone learning for the first time.
- Disconnect the negative terminal: The negative terminal is typically connected by a black cable.There’s also usually a minus symbol on the battery itself near the contact point. It’s very important that you disconnect this terminal first, as doing the positive instead could cause an electrical short. Use the socket to loosen the nut.
- Disconnect the positive terminal: The process is the same here except the cable should be red/orangish red. There may also be a plus symbol on the battery, near where the cable connects. Once the cables are both disconnected, please do not touch them together, as whatever charge is left in them can come exploding out and shock you.
- Position the cables for storage: Now you just need to wedge the cables in a place where you’re confident they won’t slip and touch. You don’t actually have to take the battery completely out of the car as long as the car is stored in a temperate place, free from the elements.
As you can see, disconnecting the battery is fairly simple and straightforward. It likely won’t take you longer than a few minutes but it could save you a lot of money in the long run and extend your 12 volt batteries lifespan.
What is a Trickle Charger and How Do You Use One?
You can keep your electric car’s 12 volt battery ready for use by using a trickle charger. Trickle chargers are devices which attach to your car battery in the same manner as jumper cables. They provide a steady charge to prevent the battery’s power from becoming depleted after long periods of disuse. For this reason, they are sometimes also referred to as battery maintainers.
Trickle chargers work by always keeping the amount of electricity they provide the battery about equal to the electric discharge the battery lets off on its own. In that way they will never over charge the battery but rather maintain whatever charge the battery always has.
On average these can be purchased at most automotive stores for anywhere between $20 to $60.
Follow each of these steps and you’ll have your trickle charger maintaining your batteries life in no time.
- Assess your battery: Not all trickle chargers are meant for car batteries or batteries of the same voltage and/or amps. Ensure you don’t pick up one meant for things like motorcycles and lawn mowers by mistake. What you want to look for specifically is a 12 volt trickle charger.
- Match the power of the battery: On your battery you should find a range of voltage and amperage that it gives off. On the trickle charger, you should adjust its voltage to whatever the middle of that range is. This will prevent the batteries natural fluctuations in power from causing it to actually increase its charge.
- Ground and connect the cables: You want to first ground the cables from the trickle charger. Then you connect it backwards to the way you would disconnect the battery. First attach the red (positive) cable, then attach the black (negative) cable. Again, make sure not to touch the cables together or the battery after you’ve connected.
- Plug it in and turn it on: Now you just need to plug in your trickle charger and then turn it on. It’s important that you don’t plug it in until everything is connected to reduce the risk of accidentally getting shocked. If no sparks start flying and it looks like it’s working properly you’re all ready to go!
It’s important to note that you should regularly check on the trickle charger to make sure that nothing has slipped or gone awry. If that does happen and it goes unnoticed it could at the very least damage your car and the charger and at worst start a fire. This is also why it’s a good idea to make sure the cables are firmly connected when you first attach them.
What to Do About the High Voltage Lithium-ion Battery
Fortunately, the high voltage lithium-ion battery that primarily powers your EV, doesn’t have to be disconnected or stuck on a charger like the 12 volt.
Before you store your high voltage battery, you’ll want to make sure that it is at least 10% charged. Ideally it will be closer to 80%, which is why it’s convenient to have a residential charger nearby where you’re storing the EV if you can. This is because
Many electric cars have features that may not actually turn off, even when the car is parked, and these can slowly drain your battery. Your owners manual should let you know if there are any features like this and how to turn them off. Unfortunately, if you don’t manually turn these off they will stay on throughout the period of storage.
Do You Need to Do Anything About Your Tires?
If you’re storing your electric car long enough, the tires will begin to deflate. You might think this is no big deal because you’re not using the car and you can just refill them when you get the EV out of storage. This is a common false assumption that could actually cause damage to your tires and depending on how long they’re stored, dramatically reduce their lifespan.
You see, as the tires deflate, the pressure the car puts on them flattens them out and can eventually cause damage. At the very least, it will be frustrating for you when you go to get your car out of storage only to find the tires are flat and you can’t just jump in and take it for a spin.
Three Methods to Maintain Your Tires During Long Term Storage
So, what exactly can you do to make sure your tires don’t flatten in the weeks or months that your car is in storage? Well, there are a number of ways you can tackle this problem.
We’ve got you covered below with three easy methods you can use to ensure your electric car’s tires don’t go flat during long storage:
- Take short drives: If you’re not using your car but you’ll still be around, you can take it for short spins to rotate the tires and keep them from deflating as quickly as they would if they were just stagnant.
- Store the tires separately: You can remove the tires if you want to be extra cautious. Make sure you store them in a dry environment, with an inflation pressure of around 15 psi if the temperature is expected to drop. It’s also best to keep them raised above the surface of the ground when storing them indoors.
- Use Vehicle Lifts: If you’re not familiar with them, vehicle lifts can be used to raise your car off the ground. There are multiple types, some mainly intended for more parking space and others for easy access to the undercarriage. You can use one to take the pressure off your tires. The only downside is that lifts can get relatively expensive.
Checklist for When It’s Time to Take Your EV Out of Storage
Now that we’ve covered how you can store and preserve your electric vehicle, let’s briefly discuss what to do when you’re finally ready to use it again. Hopefully, if you followed the steps and all went as planned, your car will basically be ready to go out the gate.
Just to be safe, we’ve got you covered with this checklist of things you should inspect and do when you take your car out of storage:
- Reconnect your 12 Volt Battery if you disconnected it: If you disconnected your battery you’ll want to reconnect the cables in reverse order; positive (red) cable first, negative (black) cable second.
- Disconnect your trickle charger if you used one: First turn off and unplug the charger itself, then move to disconnect the cables. Like with the battery, you’ll want to disconnect the trickle charger in the reverse order of how you connected it. Remove the negative (black) cable first, then remove the positive (red) cable second.
- Check your tire pressure: You don’t absolutely have to do this but it’s a good idea, especially if you stored your car during the winter months. Fortunately, you may not even need a tire gauge as most electric cars have sensors which will tell you onscreen your tire pressure.
- Check the charge of your high voltage battery: You’ll also want to make sure that your high voltage lithium-ion battery is ready to go. If you forgot to turn off some draining background features or you left it for a long time, it may be closer to needing to be recharged than you think.
- Take it for a spin: There’s no better test for how well your car held up in storage than actually getting in and using it. Refamiliarize yourself with it and take it for a spin around the block!
If all goes well, you will have successfully stored your car without nearly as much risk of problems!
So Really, How Do You Store an Electric Car?
When you know you’re going to put your EV in storage for a decent amount of time, you really want to focus on key parts of the car that could take damage due to stagnation. Keep the car itself in a moderate, enclosed environment.You’ll need to take the steps outlined above to make sure your batteries don’t lose charge and your tires don’t deflate from the weight of the car.
While this may sound like quite a bit of work just to put a car away for a while, always remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You won’t ever have to be the guy or gal who left their car out, only to come home and find flat tires and dead batteries. You’ll be cruising down the highway with a little extra cash in your pocket you didn’t have to spend on repairs.