Electric car range

  • A guide to understanding what electric car range is and how it's calculated
  • How to get the most out of your electric range
  • Compare electric car ranges in the market today

Electric range is arguably the most important factor when in the market for an electric vehicle (EV). Fortunately, electric range has come a long way since the first iterations of electric vehicles.

The inaugural Nissan Leaf had a ‘claimed’ range of 48 miles. Even though the average UK motorist drives less than 20 miles a day, the lack of infrastructure, combined with this estimation, gave rise to ‘range anxiety’.

Now we’re in 2021, electric cars have a much greater range. Tesla Motors has led the way in extending range, topping 350 miles until this year, when Lucid—a US-based luxury EV start-up—blasted onto the scene with a 520-mile Lucid Air.

Even at the other end of the EV spectrum, the Nissan Leaf now offers over 230 miles and its longest standing competition, the Renault Zoe, tops 250 miles.

Select EV mode

Factors that can affect range

It’s not all as straightforward as it sounds though. That’s because the mileage stated depends on other factors, such as how and where you drive the car, the temperature of the day and how loud you have your music.

How and where you drive

Electric car technology brings to motoring the magic of regenerative braking. Being able to capture the kinetic energy generated by slowing down, braking or going downhill is nothing short of genius and means electric vehicles are really suited to frustration-inducing stop/start nature of cities and the hilly topography of the countryside.

Driving on motorways is possible, and cruising definitely helps slow down the rate of depletion, but essentially, a concrete miles-long channel is just a juice drain for EVs.

Opting for cross country routes can be taking a slower, yet shorter route, but for EVs, it’s preferable than a longer, faster route, since fast can mean needing to recharge sooner.

It's worth noting, some car makers' navigation systems will try and be clever, calculating the route via a charging point, even if it's out of your way. This is because the car is programme to not leave you without charge (which is sound logic). However, going ten miles up a motorway out of your way is definitely more wasteful of the battery energy than cutting across country if the total distance is going to get your home/at your destination with two or three miles of charge.

The temperature of the day

In cold weather your battery will not take you quite as far. It’s not so much that Jack Frost steals energy, but the battery chemistry is a bit fickle like that. Also, you’re much more likely to have your car heater on full throttle, so that eats into the car’s energy supplies too. Just like having the air-con on drinks more fuel in an internal combustion-engined (ICE) car.

How loud you have the audio on

Similarly to the climate control, other car features can use the battery, reducing the mileage the car is capable of. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not by mass amounts, but if you’re finding yourself a bit short on battery, you’ll find the car will automatically cut some non-essential functions to make sure you can make it to the charge point. Regular top-ups help keep the battery in tip-top condition, so this shouldn’t be a problem. Yet, it’s still worth mentioning when it comes to the conversation about range.

Plug-in EV

So how do car makers calculate range accurately?

It is a great question. The honest answer is, they don't. Car makers refer to the WLTP range, which stands for Worldwide harmonised Light vehicle Test Procedure. That mouthful essentially means the car is hooked up in a laboratory, and put through a standardised test to establish the maximum range in could achieve in a specific set of conditions It's called 'real-world'.

Like everything though, the real world is not laboratory-controlled conditions and while a WLTP range is helpful to provide a benchmark against which to compare vehicles' ranges, it doesn't necessarily give a true 'real-world' figure. The gap between WLTP and genuine real-world figures has closed over recent years. The fact remains, the average driver only needs 20 miles a day to drive, so this should arguably be less of a concern than the media makes it.

What is Long Range?

With intentions to both reassurance the public nervous about 'range anxiety' and appeal to fleet managers, many of whom have drivers in nomadic key roles roaming the country, car makers have created 'long range' or 'range extending' variants of some models. Sporting bigger batteries, these models often top out 350 to 400 miles of range on a single charge, lending themselves well for more motorway driving. Of course, that bigger battery comes with a bigger price tag, but the hope is they'll hold their residual values a little better.

If you were wondering why you were finding the most rapid chargers at service stations, these long-range efforts will be why. Intererested? The key models to research are below.

Comparing electric car ranges

>> Audi e-tron range: 209-271 miles
>> Ford Mustang Mach-E Extended Range (Long range): 248-379 miles
>> Honda e range: 136 miles
>> Hyundai IONIQ 5 range: 193 miles
>> Jaguar i-Pace range: 248-292 miles
>> Kia e-Niro range: 180-282 miles
>> Peugeot e-208 range: 217 miles
>> Polestar 2 (long range) range: 273-353 miles
>> Porsche Taycan range: 248-300 miles
>> Renault Zoe range: 238-245 miles
>> Tesla Model 3 Long Range (long range): 278-360 miles
>> Nissan Leaf range: 180-216 miles
>> Volkswagen ID.3 Tour (Long Range): 216-336 miles