Caravan at sunset
Mobility

10 unusual questions about electric cars

Mobility

10 unusual questions about electric cars

May 28, 2019

What happens when I drive my electric car through a car wash? Can I charge my car at public charging stations when it’s raining? And do I need special tyres for my electric car? Some questions about electric mobility seem pretty simple at first glance and may feel silly to ask. But then you start thinking. To help you out, we’ve put together the answers to ten unusual questions about electric cars.

Discover here:

  • How an electric car responds to water and bad weather
  • How to bypass the starter battery in electric cars
  • What our sound designers think about for electric cars
  • What affects an electric car’s power consumption

1. Can I take my electric car through a car wash?

This is a common question in online forums. Most of the responses are somewhat patronising but it’s a legitimate question. After all, you have to watch out for any form of contact between electricity and water. However, an electric car in a car wash is not the same as a hair-dryer in the bath. Just like cars with a combustion engine, an electric car’s electronics system and battery are very well protected against moisture. So, you can feel confident in putting down your sponge and heading to the nearest car wash.

2. Does the battery in an electric car ever wear out?

While many smartphone batteries are out for the count after two years, it takes a lot longer for an electric car battery to lose its effectiveness. Because manufacturers produce different batteries, there is no sweeping statement for how long the battery in an electric car will last. However, many manufacturers will provide the number of years or kilometres you can travel before the battery has a charging capacity of at least 70 percent in their warranties. Good for your bank account: if your battery ever starts to lose capacity, you can simply have the individual cells replaced at the workshop. According to the German Automobile Association the ADAC, this is much cheaper than having a new battery installed.

3. Charging your electric car in the rain – is that even possible?

Close-up of a rainy car window

When it’s howling a gale and the rain is pelting down, you would probably prefer to be at home than out at a charging station. But you can’t always guarantee these things, right? But we’ve got good news: you can still charge your electric car without any hassle, even when it’s raining cats and dogs. The charging connections on electric cars are designed to make sure the power doesn’t start flowing until contact between the charging plug and electric car is securely sealed and no water can get into the connection. So, if you are charging in the rain, you shouldn’t keep the plug out in the fresh air for too long: if the charging connector is wet, nothing will happen – to you, but nothing will happen in the charging process either.

4. What happens if my electric car is struck by lightning?

An electric car does not attract lightning any more than a petrol or diesel car does. Just like all other closed vehicles, the Faraday cage also protects an electric car from up to one million volts in a lightning strike. The car’s closed construction means that voltage only occurs on the surface, which is then conducted evenly across the exterior surface and into the ground. However, the vehicle’s on-board electrical system may be affected, just like in any other vehicle. Nevertheless, the probability of being struck by lightning is extremely low.

5. Do I need special tyres for my electric car?

This is a classic response of yes and no. As long as the tyres meet the car’s specifications (size, load to be carried, etc.), you can theoretically use any type of tyre. However, specific electric car tyres often have a low rolling resistance. And the lower the rolling resistance, the more energy efficient the car is and the further you’ll get on a single battery charge.

Close-up shot of an e-Golf's tyres

6. How do I override an electric car?

You can’t – well, that’s the short answer, provided you are talking about the big main battery. The 12-volt starter battery fitted in both combustion cars and electric vehicles can be easily overridden, even in electric cars. However, it is very unlikely that this little battery will go flat as it is constantly recharged by the high-voltage battery. The actually battery itself cannot be charged using energy from another car.

Some manufacturers offer a free tow-away service. And the German automotive association the ADAC is also on hand to help with their team of technicians trained to deal with electric cars. While these technicians aren’t actually able to do anything on the spot, they can transport you and your electric car to the nearest socket or workshop. Breakdown services with specially trained staff are important for electric cars. There are a few things to look out for when towing and lifting an electric car with a jack or loading crane. For instance, there must be no high-voltage components near the attachment points. So, if you need to call a breakdown service, always ask for the specially trained staff.

7. How can an electric car sound like a sports car?

e-Golf parked in a sound lab

With a lot of work on the sound design, you could just about imitate the unique sound created by a sports car fitted with a combustion engine. However, electric mobility has not set out to make sure that electric cars sound like conventional ones. The low noise level is one of the electric car’s unique selling points, significantly reducing noise levels over the long term, particularly in city centres. The main purpose of artificially generated noises is to protect the safety of other road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists. “It’s a bit paradoxical,” says Professor Hugo Fastl from Munich Technical University to the website “Gründerszene.de”.Opens an external link “After spending 20 years trying to make cars quieter, they now have to be louder.” One idea in this area is to have the number of decibels achieved by the car adapt to that of the ambient noise. The louder the ambient noise, the louder the electric car is to attract attention to itself.

8. How far is it to the nearest charging station?

For many people, the journey to the nearest charging station doesn’t go further than their own front door as many electric car owners charge their vehicles at home. Everyone else can travel to the 13,900 or so charging stations in Germany (as of 6 March 2019) and this figure is rising all the time. Larger cities tend to have more charging options. In the countryside, electric charging points are slightly further apart. However, one thing is certain: if you’re looking for power, you’ll always find one, be it using your sat-nav, for instance, or using special navigation apps.

 

9. Can electric cars pull caravans?

There are very few electric cars out there that would be able to pull the weight of a caravan without quickly hitting the red battery range. So if you want to take your electric car on your caravan holiday with you, you may have to be patient. It will take a while longer for caravans with electric self-powered axles to go into series production. One example is the e-home Coco. The caravan with its own motor that also acts as an energy store was created by Dethleffs but is currently still a prototype. As an alternative for camping with an electric car: Volkswagen offers owners of an e-Golf (power consumption, kWh/100 km, combined: 13.8 – 12.9; CO2 emissions combined, g/km: 0; efficiency class: A+1) or an e-up! (power consumption in kWh/100 km: 12.9-12.7 (combined); CO2 emissions in g/km: 0; efficiency class: A+1) the option to switch to a conventional vehicle for a total of 30 days a year. 

A dog stands in a field with a caravan in the background
The ideal camping trip: pulling your caravan with an electric car – a possibility for the future.

10. Does your speed affect energy consumption?

Yes, the quicker you drive, the quicker your battery runs out. Air resistance rises exponentially as the speed increases. This means that the amount of drive energy needed rises, too. At speeds up to 110 km/h, you can maintain a good balance between speed and range. This will get you further on the motorway. In towns and cities, you’ll have to brake more often – and that’s great! Why is stop-and-start traffic so good? Every time you brake, you recover energy that flows straight back to the battery (recuperation).