We’ve all been on the giving or receiving end of a jump start at some point in our lives. Sometimes you’re stranded in a parking lot hoping some good Samaritan will come along. Other times you are the good samaritan with a handy pair of jumper cables. But chances are you’ve jumped or been jumped by a gasoline car. Electric vehicles make things a bit more complicated since the entire car is also the battery. Is it possible to jump-start a gas-powered car using an electric car, and can they jump-start you?
Can you jump-start a gasoline car using an electric vehicle?
The short answer? No, you can’t. If you’re just looking for advice, there it is. If you’re curious as to why then take a seat, because you technically can jump-start a car with an EV, but shouldn’t.
For starters, it’s important to understand that electric cars and gas cars both have 12-volt batteries in them, but they’re used for very different reasons. The 12-volt battery in a gas car powers the starter motor, which takes a lot of juice. However, the 12-volt battery in electric cars simply has to “switch on” the car and power your onboard equipment. Specifically, the sensors that monitor your lithium-ion battery pack.
Analyzing the charge and range of your electric car takes significantly less power than actually starting a gasoline car. Before starter motors, there were physical cranks that had to be turned with so much force, people would often break their wrists trying to start the car. That’s why the 12-volt batteries in electric cars are typically smaller than the ones in gas cars.
And many electric car owners’ manuals explicitly state that jumping another car using your EV can cause damage and void warranties. And while some people might do it in a dire emergency, it’s best to keep your EV away from jumper cables.
Can you jump-start an electric vehicle using a gasoline car?
Now let’s flip the script for a moment and ask the opposite question: can you jumpstart an electric car? Yes, the 12-volt battery in electric cars can die. No, you can’t jumpstart an electric car to give it extra range. In fact, according to Kelley Blue Book, you should never try to jump your car’s lithium-ion batteries. That said, if the 12-volt battery in your electric car ends up dead, most gasoline cars on the road today can give you a jump.
The process of jump-starting your electric car doesn’t differ all that much from jump-starting a gasoline car. The order you clamp the jumper cables in doesn’t change either. The way I like to remember it is: red to dead, red to alive, black to alive, black to dead. It’s easy because red to dead rhymes, but be sure you put it on the positive terminal of the dead battery first, then the positive terminal of the charged battery, then the negative terminal of the alive battery, and finally, the negative terminal of the dead battery.
After your EV starts up again, take off the clamps in the reverse order (Black to Dead, Black to Alive, Red to Alive, Red to Dead). You never want to cross your jumper cables, which can be cause fires, damage the batteries, and injure you).
How to prevent dead batteries in the first place
All these complicated issues could be prevented if the battery didn’t die in the first place. Of course, all car batteries will bite the bullet, getting old and deteriorated as time goes by. But there are simple measures you can take to keep your car’s battery healthy and alive.
The most overlooked problem is the interior cabin lights. We’ve all forgotten, so here’s another friendly reminder to turn those off when you’re done. Unplugging your USBs, even if they’re not charging anything, is also a good practice.
If your battery is starting to die, you’ll surely notice. It’ll take longer for the engine to crank or electrics to whirr to life. Your headlights may flicker and dim. Even your car horn may sound quieter. Consider purchasing a 12-volt battery tester, that way you never find yourself stranded and can jump on replacing the battery before it becomes a problem.
For the safety of you and your car, never use an EV to jumpstart a car. The batteries simply aren’t compatible. Even if it seems like the right thing to do, you don’t want to unnecessarily damage your car trying to help someone else. Call for a tow, or phone a friend with a gas-powered car to help them out instead.