Can you trust the quoted range of electric cars?

Range is one of the most important considerations when buying an electric car. Knowing how far you can drive on a single charge can ease any lingering ‘range anxiety’ you may have.

All new electric cars come with a range quoted by the manufacturer. This is the figure you should expect to achieve, but there are a number of factors that eat away at the claimed mileage.

Before we explore the many variables, it’s worth taking a step back to look at how the quoted range is calculated. 

The WLTP test

WLTP

The Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) is the current way of measuring fuel consumption, electric range and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for new cars. The figures have to be quoted for all cars registered from January 2019.

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

The good news is that the electric range estimates are far more accurate than they were under the old New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) tests. They should still be used as a guide, however – you will need to adjust your driving habits to achieve the quoted figures. Furthermore, some influencing factors are out of your control.

Which factors affect electric range?

Nissan Leaf in the snow

You can expect to achieve between 100 and 350 miles from a single charge, depending on the electric car in question. For example, the Seat Mii Electric offers a claimed 160 miles of electric range, while the Tesla Model 3 could deliver as much as 348 miles.

How close you get to those figures comes down to the following factors:

  • Temperature – cold weather can reduce electric range by around 40 percent. Tests in the U.S. also found high temperatures can have a negative impact on range.
  • Speed – the faster you drive, the more energy you consume.
  • Load – if you drive with three passengers and their luggage, the electric motor will have to work harder, reducing the range.
  • In-car technology – using the climate control, charging your smartphone and enjoying a heated seat will eat into the range. Use tech in moderation.
  • Terrain – if you live in mostly flat Norfolk or Lincolnshire, you stand more chance of achieving the quoted range than a driver in Devon or the North Yorkshire Moors. Hills are the enemy of electric range.
  • Driving style – testing those Tesla 0-62mph times might be fun, but the range will suffer. Slow and steady wins this particular race.

How to maximise electric range

Tesla Model 3 in a tunnel

Taking the above into account will help you get closer to the quoted range, but there are other things you can do to maximise mileage.

  • Slow down – driving at a steady 40-50mph will ensure you get further on a single charge
  • Go easy on the options and accessories – but not to the detriment of comfort and safety. Driving in the rain without wipers or windscreen demisting isn’t recommended!
  • Re-gen when possible – harvesting energy from braking should become part of your driving routine.
  • Tyre pressures – make sure the tyres are inflated to the correct pressures.
  • Avoid big alloys – the larger the wheels, the less efficient you are. Think about that when you’re specifying your new electric car.
  • Choose an eco route – some sat-navs feature a ‘green route’ option. This should be your choice if you hope to get more from the battery.

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

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