Electric Seepage II

  • October 14, 2023

Would it bother you if you got in your car one morning – after having filled it up the evening prior – to find that instead of a full tank you had a less-than-full tank?

This is what you’ll find if you leave a battery-powered device unplugged overnight. Whether it’s a small one, like your smartphone – or a big one, such as an EV. But there is an added element to consider as regards the EV.

Several, actually.

The first is that you can’t recharge the EV on the go – as it needs to be charged in order to be able to go. If the EV is low on charge, the only way to charge it back up is to wait for it – wherever it is you’ve decided to (or are able to ) plug it in.

That can be at home, at work – if your employer allows it and has facilities for it – or at a commercial “fast” charging station, where the wait is only five times as long (to get a partial charge) as it takes to pump a full tank of gas into a vehicle that isn’t a battery-powered device.

But the take-home point is having to wait. Sooner (due to less range) and (probably) longer (due to less charge).

The second – and related – issue is that unlike small battery-powered devices that can go all day on a charge, most EVs can generally only go a couple hundred miles or so on a full charge. The ’24 Genesis GV70 I’m test driving this week, for instance, has a fully charged range of 236 miles.

It’s also much less than that – for me – because it had lost a significant percentage of its fully charged range by the time it was dropped off at my house, which is located about 30 miles away from the nearest commercial “fast” charger. The delivery driver stops there first and charges it. Then he drives it – up the roughly 2,000 foot elevation gain from the Roanoke valley (where the “fast” charger is located) to my place up (literally) in the Blue Ridge mountains. Thus, the electric GV70 had only 174 miles of range left by the time it was dropped off at my house the other day.

That’s equivalent to about a third of a tank of gas – in terms of how far that much gas will allow the typical vehicle (as opposed to device) to go before you run empty.

But wait – there’s more.

Well, less.

The morning after the GV70 was dropped off, I went outside to see how much range was left after leaving it sitting overnight. I place the latter word in italics to emphasize the point that I did not drive the vehicle. It just sat.

But it seeped.

Overnight – just from sitting – the range remaining had dipped by five to 169 miles. This is not abnormal. It is typical And that’s when it’s still warm outside. When it’s not – as in winter, rapidly approaching – the seepage can be much more. It’s not because the battery is leaking, though what you’re dealing with here is similar in its effects to having a gas tank with a bad seam or something like that.

Rather, it is because the battery is powering – even when the EV isn’t running. Electricity – charge – is consumed by the battery’s thermal management system, which is always on (as it must be) to keep the battery from getting too cold or too hot. This is very important for what is styled “battery health” – meaning, how long it lasts before it begins to noticeably lose its fully charged capacity – and also for keeping the battery from spontaneously combusting.

But the point here is that batter-powered devices are always burning power – an interesting fact given that gas-burning vehicles burn nothing when they are parked and turned off. You can leave a gas-burning sitting for a week and it will still have a full tank of gas when you return – assuming you left it with a full tank.

Not so an EV. Here’s what happened to the GV after I left it sitting outside for a second night. I did this deliberately, to see what would happen without my having done anything with the vehicle, such as driving it.

Well, it now has only 166 miles of range remaining. I’ve lost  eight. And I’ve driven it zero miles so far.

166 miles isn’t 166 miles, either – in an EV. It is maybe that – depending on driving conditions/outside temperatures; your actual range can and often will be 10-30 percent less, which doesn’t leave much. Especially when you subtract from that the remaining charge you’re probably going to want to keep in reserve – so you don’t run out range before you can get to where you can charge (and have the time to charge).

But to get back to the seepage issue.

It can be compensated for by keeping the EV plugged in when it’s not being driven. This way, the battery charges as it discharges. But – leaving aside the serial, twice-daily (or more) hassle of having to plug it in, then unplug it, find/ stow the cord, etc. – weren’t these battery-powered devices supposed to reduce the gratuitous burning of hydrocarbon fuels? How do they do that when they must be constantly kept plugged in – because they are constantly burning power?

I own an old muscle car with a V8 that burns a great deal of gas – but only when it’s running. It burns no gas – and causes none to be “emitted” – when it is not.

What do you suppose the aggregate load imposed by let’s say 50 million or so battery-powered devices – which would amount to about 20 percent of all the cars (non-electric) there are in the United States – continuously drawing power to avoid seepage and maintain their charge – would be? How large a plume of the deadly inert gas carbon dioxide – recently rebranded as “carbon” so as to conjure thoughts of dirtyness – would arise from hydrocarbon fuel-burning utilities to generate the power to keep powering up these battery powered devices?

The good news is it will probably never get that far, in part because the truth about battery-powered devices is rapidly going mainstream, just the same the truth about “masks” – and those who pushed them – already has. You don’t see many “maskers” around anymore.

You are going to be seeing fewer EVs around, soon, too.

. . .

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