Everyone knows it isn’t safe to leave a gas-powered vehicle running while filling it up at the pump.
But what about electric cars – can you leave them on while charging, or is it just as unsafe?
Electric vehicles can be on while they’re charging. They work much like smartphones and other electronics, and there are no safety issues with turning them on while charging.
Charging Electric Vehicles Safely
Most electric vehicle owners charge their car whenever it’s parked for an extended length of time, such as overnight or during the day while at work.
Unlike gas vehicles, which cannot be on while fueling, electric cars are safe to turn on while being charged – you won’t start any fires or cause any problems with the vehicle.
Many electric car owners turn their cars on remotely when plugged in to run the air conditioner or heater or defrost the windows before getting in the vehicle.
There are only two things to remember before powering up your vehicle while it is charging:
First, you can’t drive it while it’s plugged in. As a safety feature, the computer senses when the vehicle is charging, disabling the drive chain so you cannot put the car in drive or step on the gas.
This feature prevents you from accidentally taking off and damaging the vehicle, the charger, or other components that shouldn’t be used when the car is plugged in.
Most internal systems should otherwise work normally, including the stereo, heating, air conditioning, and computer.
The other thing to remember is that the vehicle will take longer to charge if it’s running. The more features you use (AC, radio, navigation, etc.), the longer it will take.
If you’re in a hurry and need to charge it quickly, you probably shouldn’t turn the car on while it’s charging.
Also, if you aren’t charging your vehicle at home, remember that charge stations are usually priced by the minute. Using the car while it’s plugged in will add time and cost.
Is it Safe to Sit in an Electric Car While It’s Charging?
Yes, it’s absolutely fine for you to sit inside your electric car while it’s charging.
In the unlikely event that a major failure happens in the battery or electrical systems, you will still be fine.
Engineers have meticulously insulated the vehicle and have gone over everything that could go wrong with the systems in the electric car.
The only time you shouldn’t sit in the car while it’s plugged in is if you have specific medical devices implanted in your body.
There will be warnings in your owner’s manual about specific medical devices, but if you have any that can be affected by electrical currents (e.g., a pacemaker), you should avoid sitting in your car while it charges.
What Happens if My Electric Car Runs Out of Battery?
If your car runs out of battery, your vehicle will stop.
The car will shut down its electrical systems, and your engine will turn off.
From here, you’ll have to call a tow truck to take you and the vehicle home or to a charging station.
Luckily, your electric car won’t die out of nowhere.
Your vehicle will warn you when you start to run low on power. The closer you get to a dead battery, the more persistent the warnings will get.
Many vehicles will also have some sort of battery-saving mode that can make you pull over before the car dies.
In addition to low power warnings, the vehicle can also give you directions to the nearest charging stations.
Can You Charge Your Electric Car in a Normal Outlet?
All normal electric vehicles have an additional power cord that can plug into a standard outlet.
As long as your outlet and cables are in good shape, it’s perfectly safe to charge your car in a normal electrical outlet.
The downside of charging in a standard 110-volt outlet is that it’s slow. You can charge for eight hours overnight and only get around a 40-mile (64 km) range.
Using 240-volt chargers is much more efficient. It charges much faster, meaning you get more miles with the same amount of charging time.
If you don’t have another option and don’t drive far each day, you should be fine using a normal outlet.
The best choice is to purchase and install a charging station in your garage. When you buy your electric car, you should be given the option of a charging pack.
These are commonly referred to as Level 2 chargers. They’re essentially converters installed on the wall that act as outlets running at the efficient 240-volt threshold.
It’s perfectly safe to turn on, sit in, and use your electric car while it’s charging.
You won’t be able to drive off when it’s plugged in, and you should keep in mind that turning it on will take it longer to charge.