Your Electrified Life: When car tech and smart home tech collide

Whether you're going full-on EV or hoping to control your smart home from your car, here are some tips that'll take you farther and keep you connected.

There are more electrified cars on the market today than ever before, and more choices means more reasons for you to ditch your gas habit and experience the joy of emissions-free motoring. Or, if you're not quite ready to go cold-turkey, you can go with a plug-in hybrid, which will give you a taste of that EV lifestyle without saddling you with a case of crippling range anxiety. 

While you're taking on new technology in your car, you might also find it spilling over into your garage and your home. From maximizing your EV range, charging on the road and at home, to bringing your car online and getting it communicating with your smart home, the crossover between car tech and home tech is getting more robust by the day. 

Over the next five weeks, we'll explore the ins-and-outs of electric vehicle ownership and automotive-specific smart home tech through a series of videos. Check back here every Wednesday for the latest installment.

Maximize the range of your electrified car 

 Whether you go hybrid or full EV, you're going to want to get the most range out of your batteries.


    Crank the heat while it's still plugged in.

  • EVs or plug-ins don't like extreme heat or extreme cold. Chances are if you're uncomfortable outside, they are too, and that means less range. Some cars with advanced thermal management systems, like the latest Tesla Model S for example, might only see range losses of 20% or so when the temperature drops below freezing. On simpler cars like the Nissan Leaf, we've seen range estimates go down by upwards of 50% on a cold day. 
  • Preconditioning is a great way to minimize the impact of cold temperatures. Almost all EVs and most plug-ins have some way of turning on the car's heating or air conditioning systems remotely, either via a smartphone app or perhaps via a timer set through the car's dashboard interface. The initial heating or cooling uses a huge amount of electricity, and if you can do that without using any power in the battery that'll definitely give you a noticeable increase in range.
  • Turning up the heat when it's a little chilly means wasting power in a car that's just running on electricity. Instead, reach for the heated seats and, if your car has one, the heated steering wheel. Heating you directly is far more efficient and effective than blowing hot air around.
  • Any car uses the most energy when speeding up and wastes energy when slowing down. The solution is to maintain a steady speed, but even tiny adjustments to the throttle can have a noticeable impact on range. Whenever it's safe to do so, set the cruise and let the car keep speed on its own.
  • Make sure you have the right tires fitted on your car, ideally the ones that the manufacturer recommends. Many EVs and electrified cars have special models with lower rolling resistance. Whatever tires you choose, make sure the pressures are right. All modern cars will tell you if your pressures are dangerously low, but you might not get an alert if they're only off by a few PSI. Make a habit of checking regularly.

Install an L2 charger at home 

The L1 charger included with many EV or hybrid cars is the path of (yes) least resistance for charging at home. To ensure you start each day with a full battery, consider adding an L2 charger to your garage or to the exterior of your home. 

  • An L1 charger will work on standard residential 120-volt wiring, although you might need an adapter depending on the outlets you have in your garage. On a 120-volt line, you can expect roughly four miles of range added to your battery per hour. For some electric cars, that could mean days of charging time to replenish an empty battery.
  • If your garage has an existing 240-volt line, perhaps from an old dryer, or you're willing to have an electrician add one, you can install an L2 charger. An L2 charger will charge at a rate of 25 miles of range per hour. That will bring your battery to full within a few hours. 
  • The L2 charger itself can cost between $500 to $1,000, on top of any additional electrical work, but it's a worthwhile investment to minimize day-to-day range anxiety.
  • Some chargers like the ChargePoint Home Flex in our video can connect to the internet so you can control things like scheduling charging times against your local peak usage hours to save you some money. That's a useful feature, but some EVs include their own apps with similar features, so don't pay extra for a connected charger if you don't need one. 

Keep your battery healthy

Sure, you change the oil in your car regularly, right? But do you know how to take care of the battery in your EV or PHEV?

  • Try not to fully charge or discharge your battery every time. Instead, try to cap your charges to about 80% and don't run your car down below 20%. This'll keep your car's cells healthier for longer.
  • Going on a long trip? Make sure your EV has a decent charge before you head out. Batteries will slowly drain while sitting and, if your car gets down to zero, that could be bad news. So, charge it before you go or, better yet, leave it plugged in.
  • When you do park, even just for a day, try to keep your car from baking in the sun or freezing in the cold. Modern batteries aren't nearly as sensitive as those even from a few years ago, but still, a little climate control will keep your car's battery healthier longer.
  • While quick-charging is great when you need it, don't rely on Superchargers or DC fast-chargers every time you need a little juice. They cause battery packs to get hotter than normal charging. Over time, that can have a detrimental effect on performance. 

Smarten up your garage door

A smart garage door opener lets you open and close your garage door from your phone or via a voice command. Here's what you need to know.

  • You can buy smart openers that are built into the garage motor controls, but retrofit options are plentiful, easy to install and usually cost under $100 for a comparable set of features.
  • Chamberlain's MyQ opener is the most established brand. Its controller pairs wirelessly with your existing opener, making it very easy to install.
  • Wired options from Tailwind and others are pricier and require you to run wires to the opener and the open/close sensor. Installation usually takes about an hour. The benefit over Chamberlain is the wired options often have more advanced features, like automatically opening the garage door when you pull in. They're usually freer with their support of voice commands, too. 
  • Make sure you have a strong Wi-Fi signal in your garage to ensure the smart opener will respond when you want it to.

Survive your first EV road trip

Road tripping gets a little more complicated when you need to stop to charge every couple-hundred miles. Here are a few tips to make your electrified journey go a little more smoothly!

  • Be realistic about range. You're scheduling a disastrous trip if you can't make it as far as you think you can. Take things like weather and terrain into account.
  • Make sure you factor in enough time for charging. Sure, a DC fast-charge can get you to 80% in just 30 minutes, but that last 20% can take another hour or more!
  • Check out charger reviews on sites like Chargepoint. That'll give you an early heads up if a charger is out of commission, working poorly or simply hard to find.
  • Fast charge as often as you can. Yes, as we mentioned above, fast-charging isn't exactly good for your battery, but if you're going a long way then now's the time to do it.
  • Finally, try and pick chargers that aren't just sitting on the side of a highway. Go for places that will let you go for a walk, do a little shopping or maybe just hit a restaurant you want to try.

Add a voice assistant to your car

A voice assistant like Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant in your car works the same as it does from a smart speaker, including letting you control connected devices in your home. Ready to dive into Android Auto or Apple CarPlay

  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto let you connect your iPhone or your Android phone to your car's infotainment system via a USB cable or a Bluetooth connection. 
  • For Alexa, you'll need to buy the Echo Auto device, which also connects to your car via Bluetooth or your car's aux input. 
  • Once you have a voice assistant connected, you can ask basic questions, get weather information or cue up streaming audio with your voice. 
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will also mirror certain apps from your phone to your car. This is a great way to integrate Apple Maps or Google Maps, which you can then also control with your voice.
  • Just yesterday, Apple CarPlay added the ability to find a ChargePoint charging station.
  • If your car doesn't support CarPlay or Android Auto, you can add them via an aftermarket infotainment system.
  • Some carmakers such as Lexus, Honda and Volvo offer deeper integrations with the various voice assistants, including from smart speakers inside your home. For example, you can ask an Echo Dot to remote start, preheat and check fuel levels for cars that support that feature. 
  • Google is also rolling out Android Automotive, a new system that will have Google Assistant built-in, no phone needed. It's designed to act like a native car operating system, which manufacturers can then use to give you access to all of a car's different systems, like AC and window control, along with the standard Android features in your phone. 

First published Oct. 15.