Electric cars

Can you trust the quoted range of electric cars?

Range is one of the major considerations when purchasing an electric car. Knowing how far you can drive on a single charge can alleviate any lingering “range anxiety” you have.

Tesla Model 3 range

© Provided by Motoring Electric
Tesla Model 3 range

All new electric cars come with a range specified by the manufacturer. This is the number you should expect to reach. However, there are a number of factors that eat away at this “official” mileage.

Before exploring the many variables, it’s worth taking a step back to see how the quoted range is calculated.

The WLTP test

a car parked in front of a sign: WLTP

© Provided by Motoring Electric

The World Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) is the current method of measuring fuel consumption, electric range and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of new cars. Figures should be shown for all cars registered after January 2019.

As explained here, the WLTP cycle was developed using real driving data from around the world – so it is relatively realistic. The battery should be fully charged at the start of the bench test. Immediately after testing, engineers reconnect the electric car to a charger using a cable fitted with an electric meter.

The good news is that the electric range estimates are much more accurate than they were in the old New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) tests. However, they should always be used as a guide – you will need to adjust your driving habits to reach the numbers quoted. In addition, certain influencing factors are beyond your control.

What factors affect the range of electric cars?

a car covered in snow: Nissan Leaf in the snow

© Provided by Motoring Electric
Nissan Leaf in the snow

You can expect to go between 100 and 350 miles on a single charge, depending on the electric car in question. For example, the Seat Mii Electric offers a claimed 160-mile electric range, while the Tesla Model 3 could travel up to 348 miles.

How close you come to those numbers depends on the following factors:

  • Temperature – cold can reduce electric autonomy by about 40%. Tests in the United States have also found that high temperatures can negatively impact battery life.
  • Speed – the faster you drive, the more energy you consume.
  • Charged – if you are driving with three passengers and their luggage, the electric motor will have to work harder, reducing the range.
  • Embedded technology – using the air conditioning, recharging your smartphone and enjoying a heated seat will erode the stove. Use technology in moderation.
  • Ground – if you live in predominantly flat Norfolk or Lincolnshire, you are more likely to reach the listed range than a driver from Devon or the North Yorkshire Moors. The hills are the enemy of electric autonomy.
  • Driving style – testing these Tesla 0-62mph times can be fun, but the range of the car will suffer. Slow and steady wins this particular race.

How to maximize electrical autonomy

a car parked in a room: Tesla Model 3 in a tunnel

© Provided by Motoring Electric
Tesla Model 3 in a tunnel

Considering the above will help get you closer to the stated range, but there are other things you can do to maximize mileage.

  • To slow down – driving at a constant speed of 40-50mph will allow you to go further with a single charge
  • Take it easy on options and accessories – but not at the expense of comfort and safety. Driving in the rain without wipers or windshield demisting is not recommended!
  • Regenerate if possible – recovering braking energy should be part of your driving routine.
  • Tire pressures – make sure the tires are inflated to the correct pressure.
  • Avoid large alloys – the larger the alloy rims, the less efficient you are. Think about it when specifying your new electric car.
  • Choose an ecological route – some GPS offer a ‘green route’ option. This should be your choice if you are hoping to get more out of the battery.

Our advice would be to use the figures cited as a starting point. Browse online forums and ask other electric car owners for more accurate predictions.


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