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The Ultimate Guide To Range

Curious about electric car range? Our ultimate guide provides you with all the in’s and out’s of electric car range…

Route planning flourish

Range and driving

What’s the range of an electric car?

When we talk about range for electric cars, what we’re really asking is: ‘How far can you drive with a full charge?’

So if you’ve got 100% charge, will your car travel 150 miles, 200 miles or more? 

If you’re used to a petrol or diesel car, you might be used to thinking about range a bit differently: how many miles you can travel with a full tank of fuel. 

How much range do electric cars have?

Most electric cars have about 100 to 400 miles at the moment, with an average range of almost 260 miles.

This is ideal for a local runabout: popping to the shops and visiting friends and family locally. You’re not limited to local travels, though: you’ll have enough range for longer trips from time to time. You’re looking at a small-ish car here: something like a Nissan LEAF has a real world driving range  of 143 miles, Fiat 500e Cabrio 42 kWh of 160 miles or Mini Electric of 110 miles. This is dependant on driving style, weather etc. 
150-200 MilesThis might be the sweet spot for those of us who aren’t putting in mega miles. You won’t need to charge as often and you’ve got more options for longer trips. You’ve got a wide choice of cars including family hatchbacks and compact SUVs. This category includes cars like the Audi e-tron S 52 kWh which has a real world driving range of 160 miles, Vauxhall Mokka-e 160 miles and Hyundai Kona 39 of 155 miles. This is dependant on driving style, weather etc. 
200-300 MilesThe perfect choice for most long-distance travellers who want to go electric. This sort of range makes longer distance and international journeys much more comfortable and practical. Some of these vehicles are a bit larger than lower range vehicles. You’ll also see long-range variants of other vehicles fitted with a bigger battery for more miles – like the Hyundai Kona 64 which has a real world driving range of 245 miles or the Skoda Enyaq iV 80 of 260 miles. This is dependant on driving style, weather etc. 
300+ MilesAre you happiest when you’re on a road trip? Then look at these big-battery options – but be prepared to spend a bit more for the privilege. These mile-munchers tend to be premium brands like BMW, Tesla and Mercedes, helping you cover long distances in comfort.
Do bear in mind that most drivers only charge to 80-90% most of the time to keep their batteries healthy – so your day-to-day range might be a bit lower. 

How much range do I need?

This really comes down to how you’ll use the car. It’s well worth doing some sums before you decide.

Most drivers’ first thought is to buy the longest-range car they can. After all, you don’t want to run out of charge.

That’s not always the smartest choice, though. Long range vehicles need bigger batteries, which are heavy to haul around and so make the car in-efficient. They also make a car more expensive – so it’s worth asking what sort of range you’ll really use.

In the UK, the average journey length in 2019 was just 8.4 miles, with drivers making an average of 18 trips a week. So if the average driver had a Nissan LEAF with a 145-mile range, that would just about cover their weekly driving from one charge.

We recommend keeping track of how far you’re driving in a week and how often you’re parking somewhere you can charge. This will give you a better idea of your ideal range.

Can I do a long trip in an electric car?

Absolutely – people regularly travel the length and breadth of the country in battery-powered cars. They’re a delight to drive on longer trips because they’re much quieter without the engine noise of petrol or diesel cars.

Just plan out how far you’re going, what your range is, and where you’re going to stop and charge. As more and more charging stations are built, it’s getting easier to top up when you need – but it’s still worth planning your trip.

Lots of apps let you enter a route and then suggest charging points. Some will even let you enter your specific car and then tell you where to stop based on your range and charge level. 

What is range anxiety?

It’s something we hear a lot about – it’s the worry that drivers are going to run out of charge before they reach a charging point.

The good news is it’s easy to cure. Almost everyone loses their range anxiety when they start driving an electric car regularly.

Why? Because now there are plenty of chargers (and more popping up all the time). Also, cars’ range meters are getting more and more accurate. It’s not like a petrol or diesel car where you top up when the fuel needle drops into the red. Instead, you can get a fairly accurate prediction of how far you can travel. 

If you’re worried, you can even turn on an eco mode to make the most of your remaining juice. This clever mode reduces your car’s acceleration to help you reduce your power consumption.

image of an MG-ZS electric car

Range and cars

What sort of electric car has the most range?

Generally, bigger cars have a longer range because they’ve got room for bigger batteries. But it’s a bit more complicated than that because it’s not just about battery size: it also depends on how efficient the car is. Generally, though, the longest-range cars will be saloons and SUVs with room for bigger batteries.

Which electric car has the longest range?

Only a handful of cars can top 300 miles of range at the moment – and most of those are large luxury sedans. The Mercedes EQS 450+ is currently top of the list with a range of 395 miles. In fact, the company has managed to produce a one-off research prototype car which has covered 747 miles from Stuttgart in Germany to Silverstone in the UK without needing to top up.

Measuring range

How is range measured?

There are two ways of measuring range. The first is WLTP: a standard laboratory test that’s most useful for comparing cars like-for-like. The second is real-world range: a more realistic figure that drivers find out by driving a car and keeping track of how much energy they use.

What is WLTP range?

WLTP (or (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) is a series of tests to measure a vehicle’s emissions – and range is one of the factors it measures.

Every model of car is taken to a test centre and put on a rolling road – a computer-controlled set of rollers that can simulate different speeds and surfaces. The laboratory is set to a temperature of 23°C and sensors are hooked up to measure the battery’s current and voltage.

The test includes ‘driving cycles’ – simulations of four different types of driving, including stop-start city driving and open road driving up to 81mph. It also includes constant driving at 100km/hr until the car runs out of charge and slows down.

WLTP range is great for comparing two cars. So if car A has a 220 mile WLTP range and car B has a 240 mile range, you know you’ll get further in car B before you need to charge.

What about ‘real world’ range?

This means how far you can drive on real roads on a full charge. You don’t need a climate-controlled rolling road here: it’s something you work out with a pencil and paper by recording your consumption over time.

The problem is that while it’s useful for planning your own travel, it’s tough to compare vehicles. That’s because everyone who works out their own range does things differently. 

So while one driver might live in central London and spend most of her time in stop-start traffic, another driver might live in hilly countryside and mostly drive on twisty lanes. No two drivers’ day-to-day driving is the same – and they’ll all get different real world range numbers.

Why are ‘real world’ and WLTP ranges different?

Tests have found that real world range is on average about 15% less than WLTP range. That’s because real world driving has more variables than a test lab. Temperatures may be lower, which means batteries work less efficiently. You won’t have air con or heaters on during a WLTP test, which all use power. If you’re on the motorway you might travel faster for longer. And drivers in the real world try to avoid running their batteries flat like in a test.

What is EPA range?

You might see this in car reviews – it’s the American equivalent to WLTP range. It’s a slightly different test which tends to give a slightly lower overall range figure (often a bit closer to real world range). 

image of a small white electric car

What affects range?

How does average speed affect range?

As a rule, the faster you drive, the lower your range. Why? It’s mostly down to air resistance. The faster you’re travelling, the more air your car has to force out of the way every second. This all takes energy, so you’ll use more by travelling at speed.

How does acceleration and braking affect range?

Heavy feet on the pedals will eat into your range. Every time you accelerate or brake sharply to slow down you’re reducing your range – either by using battery power to speed up, or by losing speed from braking.

Regenerative braking really helps, which is when your car recovers energy you’d usually lose from braking and uses it to top up the battery. 
Instead, try to think smooth thoughts, put on some easy listening music, and keep your speed as constant as you can!

How does the weather affect range?

Bad weather can make a big difference to range for three reasons. First, batteries are less efficient when they’re cold. Second, cold air means cold air which is denser which means it takes more energy to drive in rain, wind and snow. And third, you’ll probably have the heaters on to keep you warm if you’re driving in winter – which uses battery power too.

How does vehicle weight affect range?

More load means less range, which is why car manufacturers try their hardest to keep vehicles as light as possible. More people in the car or a boot full of luggage will eat into your overall range.

How do air conditioning and heating affect range?

Heating and cooling both eat into your range as they use the battery to heat or cool the air. Adjusting your settings so they aren’t working as hard can make a difference if you’re trying to up your mileage.

How do tyres affect electric car range?

The bad news is that batteries can lose a bit of capacity over time. The good news, though, is that modern cars use sophisticated battery management and cooling technology to keep the problem to a minimum. But it does mean that over time you might notice a gradual reduction in your overall range.

How does regenerative breaking affect range?

Electric cars recover some of the power you’d normally waste from braking and use it to top up the battery. Regenerative braking makes a big difference: you can recover about 64% of the energy you’d lose without it.

What is battery preconditioning?

Preconditioning is a fancy electric car feature that makes your journey’s start more pleasant in cool weather – and bumps up your range.

You just set a time to start your journey. Then your car gets itself ready: in cold weather it’ll warm up the cabin and the battery and defrost the windows for you. Because the car is still plugged in, it can use mains electricity and so keep more range in the battery. Starting warm also keeps your battery in better condition.

What if I run out of charge?

It’s very rare to run out of charge. Most drivers soon work out when to charge up – just like petrol drivers knowing when they need to fill up the tank. Modern electric cars have very accurate range meters and they’ll give you plenty of warning if you’re running low. And most cars have a reserve low-power mode that’ll give you a few more miles to get to the nearest charger.

If the worst does happen, though, just get yourself somewhere safe and call for recovery. Most of the time you’ll get a flatbed truck that can take you – and your car – to the nearest charger. 

Sometimes breakdown trucks carry battery-powered emergency chargers. Think of them as the electric equivalent of a petrol can: they’re big battery packs that can give you up to 10 miles of range to get you to a mains-powered charger. 

If you want to know more about electric car charging, read our comprehensive guide at The Ultimate Guide To Electric Car Charging

Family loading up the electric car

Range and efficiency

How can I increase my range?

The simple answer is to drive more efficiently. That means you’ll get further from your battery’s charge. Some simple ways to do that include:

  • Drive smoothly – accelerating gently is far more efficient that launching yourself from the traffic lights every time.
  • Drive slower – you’ll see big gains in range by travelling at 60mph or less. Faster than this and more drag means less range.
  • Use regenerative braking – if you’re slowing down, try to stay off the brake pedal and let the regenerative braking do its thing,
  • Turn down climate controls – heating and cooling both use energy, so turning them down or using heated seats instead will give you more range.
  • Check your tyres – under-inflated tyres will sap your range, so check your pressures regularly.

The most common measurement is miles per kWh. To work it out, divide your car’s range in miles by its battery capacity in kWh.

How do you measure efficiency?

The least efficient vehicles are in the 2-3 miles per kWh range. For example, an Audi e-tron S offers just 2.2-2.4 mile per kWh.

At the most efficient end you can expect 4-5 miles per kWh. For example, a car like the Hyundai Ioniq electric can give about 4.7 miles per kWh.

And if you want a real electron-guzzler, the GMC Hummer gets about 1.5 miles per kWh – and it’s such a huge vehicle that its battery alone weighs more than a Honda Civic!

You might see some other measurements. ‘Watt-hours/Wh per mile’ pop up sometimes: you can just divide the number by 1,000 to get miles per kWh. You might also see ‘mpg equivalent’, which helps petrol and diesel drivers to compare their car’s efficiency against EVs – but it’s a lot less useful than getting to grips with miles per kWh.

How does efficiency affect electric car range?

A more efficient car will have a longer range for the same battery size. After all, if the motor’s having to do less work to travel at the same speed, the battery’s going to last longer. So if you want to travel as far you can on a charge, you should try and travel as efficiently as you can.

What is ‘hypermiling’?

Hypermiling (or eco-driving) means driving as efficiently as possible to coax the maximum range from your vehicle.

Some people take it seriously – and results can be staggering. The team at armed-forces charity Mission Motorsport managed to set a record-breaking 9.14 miles per kWh in a Renault Zoe E-tech which was completely unmodified (apart from fitting faster-rolling tyres). That was 475 miles from a car rated for 230!

While most of us aren’t going to enter range-busting marathons, there are some tips we can all follow to make a difference: driving smoothly, not carrying more weight than we need and checking your tyres are at the right pressure. 

What is a guess-o-meter?

It’s a nickname for the predicted range that an electric car shows on the dashboard. The reason for the joke is because while it’s a useful tool, it’s almost never entirely accurate.

The guess-o-meter bases its calculations on how you’ve been driving, how warm it is, how much charge is left in the battery and more. While it can give a very helpful guide to how far you’ve got left in your battery, it’s never going to be 100% accurate. And calling it a guess-o-meter helps drivers remember this.

What makes an electric car efficient?

It comes down to how efficiently your car can turn energy into movement. Electric cars are really efficient at this, converting about 86-90% of the energy in their battery into movement at the wheels. Petrol and diesel cars are much less efficient, only converting about 16-25% of the energy in their fuel into motion.

Some electric cars are more efficient than others, though. The main factors are:

Wind resistance: aerodynamic cars have less wind resistance so they’re more efficient. This is why you’ll see electric cars with flush door handles and flat, disc-like alloy wheels.

Rolling resistance: a lighter car creates less rolling resistance, so is more efficient. Your tyres also make a difference: narrower tyres with less chunky treads are more efficient because they waste less energy.

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