Jump Starting an Electric Car

This article investigates the topic of jump-starting an electric car, including safety measures, recommended equipment, and a step-by-step guide on how to jump-start your EV.

By the end of this guide, you should be well-equipped and well-informed in case you ever need to jump-start your EV.

Ford mustang electric with the bonnet open

Can you jump-start an electric car?

Yes, you can jump-start an electric car, but it’s not the same as jump-starting a normal petrol car. Electric cars have two batteries, one is a high-voltage battery that makes the car go and the other is a separate 12-volt battery that powers systems such as lights, infotainment, and other electronic components. When you are jump-starting an electric car, you’ll be jump-starting the 12-volt battery, not the high-voltage battery pack.

Jump-starting the 12-volt battery will not give your car more charge if the EV is totally out of battery. However, it may be that a totally flat 12-volt battery is preventing the main battery of the EV from charging, so, therefore, a jump start is the first step towards fully recharging the vehicle

Can you jump-start a petrol car with an electric car?

Yes, it’s fine to jump-start a petrol car with an electric car, as long as the electric car has a 12-volt battery, which most electric vehicles do. When jump-starting, you will be using the 12-volt battery of the electric car to provide a boost to the petrol car’s discharged battery.

Can you jump-start an electric car with a petrol car?

Providing you are still using 12-volt batteries then yes, you can jump-start an electric car with a petrol car. However, as already mentioned, it’s worth noting that you are not jump-starting the main battery of the EV that makes it drive, you are just jump-starting the 12-volt battery. So if your EV is completely out of battery a jump-start will not help you get back on the road.

Is jump-starting an electric car the same as a petrol car?

Jump-starting an electric car is similar to jump-starting a petrol car in that you will be focusing on the 12-volt auxiliary battery. The process of connecting jump-start cables and transferring charge between vehicles is essentially the same, where you use just leads or a portable car jump starter pack, however, there are some things to be aware of that are specific to EVs that we will run through in our step-by-step jump-starting guide:

A step-by-step guide to jump-starting an electric car

  1. Ensure both vehicles are turned off
    Make sure both the electric car with the dead 12-volt battery and the donor vehicle (another electric or petrol car with a working 12-volt battery) are turned off and parked close to each other, without touching. Also make sure that no electric cars are connected to chargers during this process, if they are connected when you try and jump start this may cause issues.

  2. Find the 12-volt batteries
    Open the bonnet of both vehicles and locate the 12-volt batteries or the jump-start terminals if the battery is not easily accessible.

  3. Connect the positive (red) jump-start cable
    Attach one end of the positive (red) cable to the positive terminal of the dead battery in the electric car. Attach the other end of the positive (red) jumper cable to the positive terminal of the working battery in the other car.

  4. Connect the negative (black) jumper cable
    Attach one end of the negative (black) cable to the negative terminal of the working battery in the donor vehicle. Attach the other end of the negative (black) jumper cable to an unpainted metal surface on the electric car’s engine block, chassis, or another grounding point away from the dead battery.

  5. Start the car you are using to jump start 
    Start it and let it run for a few minutes to transfer the charge to the electric car’s 12-volt battery. 

  6. Attempt to power on the electric car
    After allowing the charge to transfer for a few minutes, try to power the electric car. If successful, let it run for a few minutes to help recharge the 12-volt battery.

  7. Disconnect the cables
    Carefully remove the cables in reverse order of how they were connected. Start by disconnecting the negative (black) cable from the electric car, followed by the negative (black) cable from the donor vehicle. Next, disconnect the positive (red) cable from the donor vehicle, and finally, disconnect the positive (red) cable from the electric car.

  8. Check the charging system
    If the electric car started successfully, consider checking the charging system and the 12-volt battery to ensure there are no underlying issues. If the problem persists, think about servicing the EV to identify the fault.

Can you jump-start a hybrid car?

It is possible to jump-start a hybrid car because hybrid vehicles will also use a 12-volt battery. When you jump-start a hybrid car you will follow the same process as you would do a petrol or electric vehicle, focusing on the 12-volt battery.

BMW Gran tourer out of battery with the bonnet open ready for  jump start
Jump-starting a hybrid is exactly the same as jump-starting a petrol car

How to be safe when jump-starting an electric vehicle

Safety should always be a top priority when jump-starting an electric vehicle. To ensure a safe and successful process, it is crucial to follow several important guidelines.

Firstly, be sure to read your electric vehicle’s owner’s manual for specific instructions and safety precautions, as the process may vary between different models and manufacturers.

Try and use good-quality, insulated jump start cables that are in good condition. Poor-quality cables or damaged ones can be a real safety hazard.

Before connecting any cables, make sure both the electric vehicle and the donor vehicle are turned off and parked close to each other, without touching.

Follow the proper sequence when connecting the cables: the positive (red) cable first, followed by the negative (black) cable. When disconnecting, reverse the sequence: negative cable first, then the positive cable.

Lastly, make sure the electric vehicle is disconnected from any home charging equipment before attempting a jump-start.

What equipment do you need to jump-start an EV?

All you need to jump-start an EV is a set of good-quality, insulated jump-start cables. These are the key ingredient to safely move power between two vehicles. Make sure the cables are in good condition and the clamps have no corrosion on them.

Can a portable jump starter be used on an electric vehicle?

A portable jump starter can be used on an electric vehicle to jump-start its 12-volt battery only, not to charge the EVs main battery. A typical portable jump starter is really just a small rechargeable battery pack that has safety features such as surge protection and reverse polarity protection. In order to recharge the main battery, there are portable EV battery granny charger options available, and if you don’t have a unit then the best electric car breakdown cover providers carry portable chargers in their vans. They will give you enough juice to get to the nearest charging station.

The final word on jump-starting an electric vehicle

Jump-starting an electric vehicle may feel like a new and daunting task, but the process is similar to jump-starting a petrol or diesel car – something most people are likely to have experienced.

The key thing to remember is that by jump-starting your EV you are not restarting the main battery – if this is completely out of charge then you will need to work out a solution for towing your EV back home. What you are doing when you jump start, is restarting the 12 Volt battery, the battery that powers things like the sat nav, air con, and other in-car electrical systems. If jump-starting does not get things working then it may be time for you to remove and recycle the EV battery and have an EV technician replace the battery at a service centre.

It is possible that your EV needs this battery to start charging its main battery, so it could be the first step towards a full recharge.

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