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How far can an electric car go?

Curious to learn more about the range capacities of electric cars? Read our cinch guide to learn more

a white smart car parked next to an on-street electric car charger

With new technology comes learning and improvements, and electric cars are no exception.

Range anxiety is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but should you worry about how far an electric vehicle (EV) can go on a single charge?

Many factors affect the range of an electric car battery, and sometimes the confusion can make people hesitant about switching to greener transport.

From driving style to weather conditions, we’ll take you through what affects how far your electric car can go, and ways to ease your range angst.

What is electric car range? 

Put simply, electric car range is the number of miles an electric car can travel on a single charge. It’s the equivalent of the mpg figure of a petrol or diesel car.

When you’re looking to buy an electric car, you’ll see a ‘maximum driving range’ figure.

This is the manufacturer’s number for the maximum distance possible in perfect driving conditions.

But these days, you also get a Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) figure. This is a much more realistic range figure that's based on real-world driving.

It considers things like the car’s weight and design, weather conditions, urban vs. non-urban driving, temperature and acceleration to name a few.

Basically, you’ll get a slightly lower but much more applicable range estimate.

We’d recommend always basing any electric car range-dependent buying decisions on the WLTP range figure quoted.

a red Tesla Model S driving through a town

How far can an electric car go? 

In the same way, mpg differs depending on the engine size of different car models, electric cars will have different range figures for different variations of the same model.

This is because manufacturers will make long-range versions with bigger batteries to maximise the number of miles an electric car model can go.

Electric cars can go anywhere between 100 and 450 miles on a single charge. EV range is constantly improving, but the average figure for the UK is around 212 miles.

The range of an electric car is usually – although not always – tied to the size and category of the car.

Small city cars suited to urban driving will have shorter ranges – usually between 100 and 250 miles – while large saloons or SUVs with family life, long holidays and motorway driving have longer ranges that fit a more varied driving life.

The Mini Electric is a typical city EV with a claimed 143-mile range, while the Fiat 500e has a WLTP 199-mile range.

Some recent smaller electric cars have a very impressive range, like the MG4, which has a WLTP of 281 miles. You don’t have to sacrifice range for compact size.

If you’re looking for the maximum range when buying an electric car, look for ‘long range’ versions.

The Tesla Model S Long Range covers 405 miles on a single charge, while the luxurious Mercedes EQS has a huge 453 miles of range.

On average, UK drivers only cover a 23-mile roundtrip, so even the EVs with the lowest range will easily cover the daily running around.

What factors affect driving range? 

The efficiency of EVs depends on a handful of factors and some will be like fuel cars like tyre pressure and suspension.

But there are a few that are more important to consider than others:

There are three parts of how a car is manufactured that affect driving range:

Vehicle weight

Electric cars are notorious for being heavy, but the car’s weight and size affect the potential range of an EV.

The heavier the car, the more kWh per mile the car will use or need, so larger cars that weigh more won’t be able to travel as far on a single charge.

Vehicle design

Ever wondered why electric cars are designed to be so sleek with blanked-off grilles?

The answer is to make EVs as aerodynamic as possible, to help maximise range.

If there’s less air resistance then less energy is used, and the car will be able to travel further per charge. It’s just good old physics.

Battery size

This is one of the most – if not the most – crucial aspect of car range. The bigger the battery size, the more kWs, so the more miles your car will go on a single charge.

This works in the same way as a smartphone with a bigger and more powerful battery – it will give you more hours of power.

Different EVs have different battery sizes. The price of the car does tend to lead to a bigger battery but that isn’t an ironclad rule.

Batteries also lose capacity or ‘battery health’ after years of use. This sounds much more drastic than it is, as batteries have on average 8-10 years warranty and last as long as 15-20 years.

The range you lose will be minimal, especially if you look after your battery health.

One of the ways to do this is by considering your driving style.

Driving style

Steady, economical driving without harsh braking and accelerating will get you the most miles out of a charge, maintaining range.

Motorway driving at higher speeds depletes the range faster, so you might need to rapid charge to compensate.

Using the AC on max in the summer and the heating in the winter also uses up extra battery range, so utilise the apps that come with your EV to pre-set the car temperature while your car is charging, so you don’t use up range before you depart.

A Kia Niro 2 and Kia Niro 3 parked in front of fields

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

This is a how-long-is-a-piece-of-string question. How long it takes to charge an electric car entirely depends on the car in question, the percentage of charge you want to top up and the type and power of the charger used as well as the battery percentage.

These days there are lots of different charger speeds, including ultra-rapid chargers. You can charge from a 7kW home charger to a 350kW ultra-rapid motorway charger.

The average electric car with a 60kWh battery takes up to eight hours to charge from 0-100% on a 7kW charger. Most smart home electric car chargers run at 22kW.

The ever-popular Nissan Leaf takes about six hours on a 7kW charger while a Tesla Model S takes 11 hours because its battery size is bigger than the Leaf’s.

There's no doubt that the Tesla Supercharger network is up there with the best, and the brand is slowly allowing non-Teslas to use them, so we'd keep an eye out for that.

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