We all know by now that a lot of things can affect the range you get out of an electric car. Quite a few of these are things that affect the economy in a combustion-engined car, but there are a good few others that specifically cause problems with EVs. Add all these up and the actual range you get out of an EV can really differ from what the manufacturer claims.
What impacts the range of an EV?
The ambient temperature can play havoc with the range of an electric car. Cold weather can reduce range by up to 40% and hot weather causes the range to be reduced too. This is something that can also affect combustion-engined cars, but nowhere near the same level as it does with electric ones. If you live in a climate where things get very cold or very hot, you should definitely take this into account if you’re running any kind of EV.
As with combustion-engined cars, your driving style plays a big factor in how far you’ll be able to go without charging. If you’re heavy with the throttle and heavy on the friction brakes, the range really will suffer. You should try to be as smooth as possible with your inputs and use as much regen braking as possible to help put power back into the battery.
How fast you’re driving can have a big effect on the range too. Driving faster uses more energy, as more power is needed from the motors to keep the car going at speed. The most efficient speed to keep a constant speed in an EV is between 40-50 mph. It also goes without saying that driving over the speed limit means that you’ll be consuming more energy!
The terrain plays a big factor too, much like with a combustion-engined car. Hills are a real enemy of electric cars, so driving through an area where you’re going up a lot of them can cause you to use a lot more energy. You can get a decent amount of regen from going down them on the other side though if you’re lucky!
How many loads are you carrying in your car? If you’re carrying a lot of stuff in the back as well as several people, it causes a noticeable effect on your range. Like in a combustion-engined car, it has to work harder to do the same job when there’s a lot of weight inside the car versus when it’s just one or two people and not very much baggage (if at all).
Lastly, using in-car tech and facilities can drain power. Using climate control to keep the temperature in check, charging your phone inside the car and using heated seats in cold weather all eat into the battery’s charge.
What are the manufacturer ranges and how are they tested?
There are two main standardised tests you’ll see quoted by manufacturers for the range of an EV. The first is the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) cycle, which is what you’ll see globally on manufacturers’ claims. This replaced the old New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) test, which had been around since the 1980s, in 2017.
The other is the EPA’s test. This only tends to be shown on manufacturers’ claims in the USA, as the EPA is a department of the US government. All EVs sold in the USA have to be range tested by the EPA before they go on general sale there.
Both of these tests are different in the way that they test a car’s range. Because of that, they often end up with noticeably different results. This is especially the case with the EPA’s tests, as sometimes the real-world range of the cars ends up being higher than what the EPA says. One of the most memorable examples of this is the Porsche Taycan, which has a claimed range of 202 miles using the EPA’s tests but has achieved over 320 miles in real-world conditions!
The difference between the EPA’s tests and the real-world ranges of certain cars has been highlighted very well by this investigation by Edmunds. Several cars including the Taycan, the Mercedes-Benz EQS, the Hyundai Kona Electric, and the Volkswagen ID.4, all ended up having better real-world range than the EPA’s claims!
Which cars have the biggest (and smallest) range drops?
There have been quite a few tests done in recent years where the real-life range of EVs compared to the manufacturers’ claims has been measured. One of those was organised by the European awards organisation AUTOBEST. The ECOBEST challenge, as it was called, took a variety of different ‘affordable’ EVs out on a run in real-world conditions to see how close they matched their claimed ranges.
The car that came closest to its claimed range was the Dacia Spring, which achieved 98.6% of its claimed range in the challenge. Another impressive performer was the Kia e-Niro, which achieved 95.2% of its claimed range.
The Citroen e-C4, meanwhile, only achieved a dismal 74.5% of its claimed range. The Cupra Born, Peugeot’s e-208 and e-2008 and the Honda e also achieved less than 80% of their claimed ranges. Interestingly, the Cupra Born’s sister car the Volkswagen ID.3 achieved 80.4% of its claimed range.
WhatCar also did a similar test last year where they tested a wide variety of EVs, ranging from affordable to luxurious. One of the biggest winners in terms of a minimal range drop was the Porsche Taycan, which had a range that was only 3% less than Porsche’s official claims! It was, however, the least efficient car in the test. That’s something you’d expect from a very high-performance car, though!
The most disappointing performer WhatCar tested was the all-new all-electric Fiat 500, which had a drop of nearly 30% in the range from its claimed figure. That’s really not a good look for anyone who wants to use the Fiat beyond city driving!
How do you save range whilst you’re driving?
A lot of those range-saving tips are ones I’ve already mentioned earlier. Be smoother with your driving, don’t go over the speed limit, and be mindful of both the weather and the terrain. Using the in-car tech as little as possible helps a lot too, but don’t do it at the expense of comfort or safety.
You should use regen braking as much as possible when you’re driving an electric car. Regen braking feeds energy back into the battery and is a lot more efficient than using friction brakes. You do still need to use friction brakes though to bring the car to a complete stop or in an emergency, so don’t rely on regen too much!
If the weather is nice, it can be a good idea to drive with the windows open instead of using climate control. Doing this at lower speeds is more efficient than having the windows up and the climate control on and you’ll get better range. If you’re traveling faster than urban speeds, though, it’s more efficient to do the latter. Having the windows open increases the car’s drag. This makes the motors work harder to keep the car’s speed maintained and results in poorer energy consumption.
Something that often isn’t thought of when it comes to saving range on an EV is the size of the wheels. Typically, electric cars with bigger wheels have a shorter range than those with smaller wheels. When you’re choosing your next EV, you may want to consider going for a smaller wheel size as it could have a genuine impact on the range!
Perhaps most importantly, make sure your tyres are correctly inflated. If your tyres aren’t inflated properly according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and for what kind of load you’re carrying, it causes serious problems and not just to do with efficiency.