Leave Electric Car Running While Charging? (Basic Guidelines)

Electric cars are the most exciting and innovative technologies in the motor industry. But with all that awe comes a lot of questions in order to understand EVs more.

One of the more pressing questions about electric cars is the way they are charged and how to do it properly.

Because the battery in an EV is one of the most expensive components, you want to treat it as important. This means charging it correctly and making sure that it is performing at its peak.

Guidelines around such operations are usually unclear and sometimes depend on the model of the car.

In this article, we’ll be going through some of these guidelines and shed some light on the different processes.

Let’s get started.

Can You Start An Electric Car While It Is Running?

It is safe to start the ignition of an electric car while it is charging so that the infotainment system and climate control can work. However, cars like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV cannot be started while charging.

A lot of electric car models now allow you to start the car while it is plugged in and charging. This is so that you can operate the infotainment system or turn on climate control when needed.

Charging an electric car can sometimes take a long time and manufacturers know that people don’t like waiting. So you can listen to music, use the navigation system, and keep warm or cool whilst the car is charging.

As a safety precaution, the drivetrain of an EV is disabled so that the car is unable to move. This limits damage to the car and the charging system and its components.

Older electric cars did not have this mechanism where you could start or turn on the car whilst charging.

With development throughout the years, this was made possible with modern EVs.

It is also important to mention that the car will turn on and all electronics will function correctly, but you cannot drive it.

The drivetrain is automatically disabled when the charging port is connected and renders the car undrivable while charging.

Can You Charge a Car Battery While It Is Running?

It is now possible to charge an electric car while it is started and running. The automatic drivetrain disabling mechanism renders the car immovable during the charging process.

Even though the charging process isn’t faster or slower when the car is started, it makes it more convenient for the owner.

Some car functions such as air conditioning or the radio require that the car be turned on. This is one of the reasons why the car is able to run while plugged in and charging.

With both electric cars and traditional combustion engine cars, it is possible to charge the battery while the car is running.

The traditional combustion engine car was able to do this so that you could warm up the car just before long trips.

An average charge time for an EV is around 8 hours on a slow charger, with shorter charging times when using a fast charger. This is what brought the need to have the internal electronics working while charging.

To pass the time whilst the car charges, you can play around with the radio or infotainment system. You can also charge your phone and keep warm or cool with climate control.

Models like the Tesla Model Y now even have small apps and games built into the infotainment system. This reduces boredom while the car is charging and is designed to let the driver leave the car until fully charged.

It is also worth mentioning that it is better to leave the car to charge to about 80 percent before driving off. Just like a smartphone, an EV has limited charging cycles, so it is best to charge it until it’s almost full every time.

Do the Car Brands Recommend Turning Off the Car While Charging?

For the safety of the components and the battery in the car, some brands recommend that the car be turned off while charging.

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a good example because it has to be off before charging.

If a manufacturer recommends that the car be off in order to be charged, it is possible it’s for the health of the battery. A recommendation like that should always be heeded for personal safety and the safety of the battery.

Manufacturers also know that the EV battery is one of the most expensive parts of the car. With that in mind, they need to be able to protect the integrity of the battery.

The easiest way to find whether your car needs to be off before charging is the manual. The second best would be to go to the dealership and ask or go online to your car website.

It is in your best interest to turn off the car when charging in order for it to charge efficiently. The fewer components and functions running during charging, the shorter the charging times are.

Even though this does not actually hurt or diminish charging capacities, it is still recommended by the manufacturer. In most cases, it will be in the manual when the car is new.

Manufacturers also want you to get going with your trip in the least amount of time. As such, most of them will recommend that you keep as few components working as you can while charging your EV.

What Can Happen If You Leave the Car Running While Charging?

Just like using your smartphone while charging it, leaving an EV running while charging it has minimal damage. However, for an electric car, the charging times are not affected.

Because of the advanced technology of EVs, other owners prefer to run the car remotely while charging. This is to run the climate control and other electronics so that it is ready when you get to it.

One known disadvantage of leaving the car running while charging is that charge times will be longer. This is because you are using the power drawn from the charger to use electronics in the car.

On the other end of the scale, with the traditional combustion engine car, you cannot leave it running while gassing up. Most gas engine car drivers know that it isn’t safe to leave it running while refilling.

Even though public charging points are readily available when needed, most people charge their EVs overnight. Charging at home or at work has the advantage of long charging times.

Can You Charge Your Phone While the Car Is Charging?

You can charge your phone using the various USB ports in your vehicle whilst the car is being charged. You can also use devices that are plugged into the regular 12-volt power output.

In essence, you have all the electronics of the EV fully functioning even if the car is still charging.

A regular 12-volt output port can also be used to power up other small appliances in the car whilst it is charging.

Depending on the model and brand of the car you drive, you can expect multiple charging points and USB ports. These will all have the power and capacity to charge your smartphone or iPad tablet.

Smartphones usually don’t require that much power to charge and will likely take as much time as it takes at home.

USB charging uses as much power as about 5 volts and this is not enough draw to be a problem for the charging vehicle.

Other equipment plugged into, say, the 12-volt DC output port can only draw about 12 volts of power. This is still not enough to pose a risk to the charging of the car unless left on for very long periods of time.

Related: Can You Charge Electric Cars at ANY Charging Station? (Checked)

Can You Use AC and Fan While the Car Is Charging?

The air conditioning system or climate control system in an EV can still be used even when the car is charging. There are only a select few manufacturers that do not allow the AC to be used whilst the car is still charging.

Nowadays, EVs are advanced enough to let you turn on the AC and fan whilst the car is plugged in.

Climate control and the fans do take up some power from the battery, but not enough to hinder the charging.

With the development in technology for EVs, you can even control the internal functions of the car while it is charging. You can even use an app on your phone to control navigation from the comfort of your home.

Whilst the car is charging, some owners like to turn on the AC or climate control ahead of time. This makes sure that the car is at optimal temperature when you get to it later.

The technology can even turn off unused or unnecessary functions in the car. Similarly, it makes the charging more efficient because there are fewer components using the battery power.

With the traditional gas-powered car, leaving lights and the air con on can fully deplete the battery in a couple of hours.

With EVs, the car can automatically switch off these features if it senses that they are not being used.

Related: Why Do Charging Electric Cars Take So Long? (Explained)

Do Electric Cars Charge Faster Or Slower If the Motor Is Running?

Because of the power draw of the running motor, the car will tend to charge a tad bit slower than usual. The power is being used by the running motor and the charging times are elongated.

When plugged in, your EV charging circuitry takes precedence over other functions and components. This is why the charging time is not greatly reduced.

Manufacturers often tell EV owners to charge their cars when they won’t be used for a few hours. Just like charging the car overnight or at home, the charging is uninterrupted and more efficient.

For faster charging times, EV owners use fast chargers for a shorter period of charging. These are designed to charge the battery pack at a faster pace than regular chargers that come with your car.

With the traditional gas-powered car, it sometimes happens that the battery charges much faster when the motor is running. This is because the cells in the battery move around when in use and charge faster.

With lithium-ion battery packs in electric vehicles, the battery does not charge any faster when the motor is on. The caveat with these batteries, though, is that they lose capacity a lot faster over time.

Because the battery runs the motor and all other components in an EV, the charging time will be longer. This is because everything runs off of one battery pack without a backup.

With that said, running the motor on an EV while also charging it at the same time is not a problem. It should not diminish the charging capacity or mess with the charging circuitry in any way.

Related: Do Electric Cars Stop Charging When Full? (Answered)

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