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May 13, 2020

How to Self-Isolate Your Hybrid or Electric Vehicle

The COVID-19 crisis means many of us are using our vehicles much less frequently, or in some cases not using them at all.

Owners of battery-powered vehicles might be wondering how much charge they should keep in their batteries? And will it start if not in use?

So we asked our battery expert Bob Taenaka, senior technical leader, Battery and Cell System Development, for some tips on how to keep an electrified vehicle in top condition while self-isolating.

Make sure your EV's 12-volt battery is charged

Taenaka says the most important thing is to make sure your 12-volt battery stays charged and that your high-voltage battery has adequate charge – 10 per cent or more – to prevent it from potentially draining to zero per cent. If you have driven and/or had your vehicle on plug for a total of at least eight hours within the past month, the 12-volt battery should be adequately charged. For longer periods of time between driving, you should also take additional steps – your owner’s manual has specific instructions on “Vehicle Storage” for longer than 30 days.

Make sure your EV's high-volt battery has 10% charge or more

If you’re storing your battery electric vehicle without plugging it in, Taenaka recommends keeping it at a state of charge between 10 per cent and 80 per cent. Ford hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles are designed to stay above a 10 per cent state of charge during normal operation.

A high-voltage battery above 10 per cent state of charge can go for more than six months without scheduled/regular maintenance, but the 12-volt battery will drain much faster, especially when connected to the vehicle.

How to store your hybrid or electric car for over a month

If you do not plan to drive your electrified vehicle for longer than 30 days, Taenaka recommends following these steps for the sake of your 12-volt battery:

  1. Disconnect the negative terminal of the 12-volt battery, if you are familiar with and comfortable doing so. If not, proceed to one of the following two approaches
  2. If it is a plug-in hybrid or battery-electric vehicle, leave it on plug
  3. Connect your 12-volt battery to a standard 12-volt battery charger and leave it on a continuous slow charge

If you are storing your vehicle for longer than 30 days without use, we recommend disconnecting the negative terminal of your 12-volt battery. This avoids depletion and potential damage to the battery, which runs the internal systems such as heating, without the need for monthly maintenance.

If disconnecting the 12-volt battery, these details are important to know: be sure to have your key fob and digital owner’s manual (on your smartphone/tablet or printouts) with you outside of the vehicle, because you may need to use the physical key (inside the fob) to lock and unlock the vehicle, plus the owner’s manual will be handy for further reference. If the vehicle is in a locked garage and the 12-volt battery is in the boot, leave the boot open. Once you have disconnected the 12-volt power, you can lock and unlock your vehicle with the physical key. And finally, if your 12-volt battery is in the boot, but you are not storing the vehicle in a locked garage, you will need another 12-volt source. Follow the “jump start” instructions in the owner’s manual to restore 12-volt power to the vehicle in order to reopen the boot.

With warmer temperatures on the way, your vehicle and its batteries are designed to handle long-term storage outside in direct sunlight. Taenaka says that if you are experiencing extreme hot weather and the vehicle needs to be stored for more than 30 days, if practical for you, store your vehicle in a garage or in the shade to preserve battery capacity and extend its life span.

Refer to your owner’s manual for additional details about storing your vehicle and removing it from storage.