page title icon What is the range of an Electric Car?

Range of an electric car is a hotly discussed topic on the web! So what is the range of an electric car?  The answer is, it depends. Here’s our guide to the figures and the factors which affect EV range.
 
The range of a particular electric car depends on these key factors:
  1. Capacity of the battery
  2. Cold weather
  3. Driving mode, style and speed
  4. The efficiency of the car’s motor and control system
Manufacturers’ Published Range Figures (Test Cycles)
First let’s look at the different official test-cycles used to calculate the range of electric cars. These are the figures that will be published in the manufacturers’ brochures and websites.
 
There are different standards in the US and Europe
USA – the standard is called EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). This is limited in that it only takes cars to a top speed of 60 miles an hour, which for many people is not realistic. But despite this the EPA figures are fairly close to the actual use experienced by owners.
 
Europe – the older standard was the NEDC (New European Driving Cycle). These showed massively optimistic range figures which we still see being quoted by some electric car websites. As an example the original Nissan Leaf Mk 1 with a 24kWh battery has a 124 mile NEDC range, but any owner will tell you that 80 miles is typical.
 
The NEDC test has been replaced by WLTP (World Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure) which is a lot more realistic but still 15-20% over what you can expect in real use. The WLTP test is conducted at 23 degrees which is a pleasant summer day, and doesn’t use the air conditioner.
 
The other major factor is that none of these tests consider the effects of cold weather which has a major impact on the range of an electric car.
 
So what does all this mean? Well you can ignore the WLTP range figures and we recommend you use the EVchoice ‘real-world range’ published on our site. This shows you what you can expect most of the year and also a guide to what the range drop will be in winter, based on our own and other owners’ experiences in actual use over a number of years.
 
1. Capacity of the Battery
This is the major factor in how far you can go on a full charge. The capacity of an electric car’s battery is measured in kWh (kiloWatt hours). Think of this as the equivalent to gallons in your gas or petrol tank – the higher the number the greater the capacity. See this page for a detailed explanation about battery capacity and the terminology used.
 
Battery capacity has been increasing year on year (approx 11% PA). Early mainstream electric cars had much lower capacity than the equivalent new models. In the first Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe models the battery capacity was 24 or 22 kWh, whereas in 2019 the typical minimum is now 40kWh with many cars being 60kWh or above.

 

This is with the exception of Tesla which invested massively in its own battery technology and was able to offer ranges of over 300 miles from launch. Obviously this amount of range comes at a price premium!
 
Example Real World ranges (Spring – Summer – Fall/Autumn)
 
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*BMW doesn’t use kWh to indicate the battery capacity. Instead they use Ah (amp/hours)! BMW i3 120Ah battery = approx 42 kWh.

2. Cold Weather
Cold temperatures have a negative effect on battery performance. ALL batteries perform poorly in cold weather, regardless of whether they are lithium or lead-acid. In winter temperatures, say up to around 7 deg C or 45 F, range will typically reduce by around 25% but below freezing this can increase further. In a gas/petrol car you get free cabin heat via the waste heat from the engine, but in an EV that heat needs to come from the battery which is a futher drain.

If you are planning to rely on your car in the winter for a specific trip (e.g. daily commute) you need to take this into consideration. There are however ways to improve and mitigate this during the winter.

 

3. Driving mode and style
Electric cars have different modes (minimum of 2) which provide differing levels of regeneration. Instead of using the brakes to slow down the vehicle uses the braking effect of the electric motor, which then transfers power back into the battery. In this way you can maximise the amount of range available.

There will also be an ‘ECO’ (or similar) mode, which typically reduces the amount of power by limiting the throttle response. Disengaging the eco mode provides more performance, which you will probably need on the highway, but in urban/city environments most people will be quite happy cruising around in ECO.

As with any gas or diesel car, if you are really heavy on the accelerator and brake sharply you’ll find this reduces your range. But because electric cars are much smoother and quieter than gas/petrol cars you’ll most likely adopt a more relaxed driving style, which helps your range. Your EV display will show you how much power is going into the battery and you quickly learn to drive so that this is maximised. High speed continuous freeway / motorway driving also affects range.

 

4. Efficiency of the battery and motor system
All manufacturers are competing with each other for the most efficient car, but this isn’t something that is widely advertised. The EV equivalent to MPG (or l/100km) is miles per kW (m/kWh). The higher the number of miles, the more efficient it is, which means more miles from the same battery pack. And usually slightly better 0-60 times as well.

In general you can expect a worst case of around 2.5m/kWh (heavy footed fast driving in the depths of winter) to 5m/kWh best case (smooth driving in summer). Most car & driver combinations will fall into the 3.5-4m/kWh range. I’m ‘captain slow’ these days and we average 4.10m/kWh.