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Can you jumpstart an electric car?

Can you jumpstart an electric car?

Yes, you can actually jump-start an electric car. But there are things to know before you are in a situation where it is needed. First of all, there is only one possible scenario where you should ever do this, and that is if you cannot even charge your car, turn the lights on or do anything else. If you can’t turn the car on in any way it means, in most cases, that you’ve depleted the 12-volt battery.

Hold on a second, the 12-volt battery?

Yes, the car actually has at least two batteries, a 12-volt, and the main 200+ volt battery.

You should NOT try and jumpstart the main battery 200+ volt battery of an electric car. The most likely scenario is that you’ll short circuit some of the electrical components or fry some of the failsafe equipment in the battery.

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The 12-volt battery, on the other hand, is pretty much just a normal car battery like found in any other vehicle. This battery often runs all systems in the car like light, radio, locks, air condition, etc. If you deplete this somehow, i.e. by leaving anything turned on overnight, you can actually jump-start this 12-volt car battery and get everything back to normal. After you’ve successfully turned the car on and charged the main battery, it should charge the 12-volt battery automatically.

I would like to state, that this is a very unlikely scenario because almost every electric cars today have fail-safes in these systems, which will keep the 12-volt battery car charged up at all times. And in a scenario where you forget to leave something turned on, it’ll probably turn itself off if it’s running low. Also, almost every electric car keeps an emergency battery or some allocated emergency cells in the main battery.

The risks of trying to jumpstart an electric car!

In most electric car manuals, you’ll find that they say not to try and jumpstart it using gasoline cars. This is because a traditional 12-volt car battery and a 12-volt battery for an EV are very similar in function but do not serve the same purpose. A battery for an electric car serves to actually ignite the engine and start the motor. This requires a huge jump/spike in power. A 12-volt electric car battery is not suited for this and can in severe cases be ruined by a jumpstart from a traditional car battery.

Please read the instruction manual, if it says that you shouldn’t jumpstart your electric car, please follow these instructions or you could lose your warranty.

Then how do I jumpstart en electric car?

If you end up in the very unlikely scenario, where you have to jump-start the 12-volt battery, you can do so very simply by using jumper cables, like on a traditional gasoline car.

Plug your jumper cables between the two batteries. One cable goes from plus to plus and the second cable from the car you want to jumpstart on minus to ground (anything metal, preferable unpainted).

Before you plug any of the cables in, make sure both engines and electrical systems are shut down.

After you’ve plugged them in, you should turn on the working car and leave it running for a few minutes. Then try to start the other car. If it still won’t turn on, check the cables and try running the working car for a few more minutes. If it still can’t turn on, the battery might be dead and needs a replacement, or something else could be wrong like a shorted circuit or a cut/loose wire.

Can you jumpstart a gasoline car using an electric vehicle?

In most manuals for electric cars, you’ll find the answer no. It simply does not have enough power to start or supply the power needed.

This is in most cases true.
But it really depends on the battery installed. You’ll find the instructions for this in the manual. Nisan Leaf and Tesla both state that you could potentially ruin the battery and if you do it, you’ll lose the warranty.
If I ever get in a scenario where my battery needs a jumpstart, I’ll probably only do it EV to EV.

Can I jumpstart a hybrid electric vehicle

A hybrid can be jumpstarted from any normal gasoline car.
This is because it uses traditional 12-volt car batteries instead of any special EV battery. I need the 12-volt car battery to ignite the gasoline/combustion engine. When you’ve successfully jumpstarted your hybrid, you should be able to turn on the engine again.

Author: Morten Pradsgaard

Morten has been working with technology, IoT, and electronics for over a decade. His passion for technology is reflected in this blog to give you relevant and correct information.

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