In an electric car, every journey is powered by a battery – whether it’s the school run or a cross-country commute. Car makers have invested a lot of money in improving the electric car experience, but one aspect stands out when drivers want value for money.
The range of an electric car is how far it can travel on a single battery charge. This can depend on a number of factors, such as the make and model of the car, how you drive it as well as the size and power of the battery.
The technology supporting electric cars is getting much more sophisticated, but a combination of pricing and a perceived lack of roadside infrastructure is giving drivers so-called ‘range anxiety’ – the fear of running out of juice before they reach their destination.
If you’re exploring the possibilities of owning an electric car but are put off by range anxiety, read on to find out how the problem is being tackled.
The range of an electric car using just one charge varies depending on its battery size and the make and model.
A What Car? survey ranked 15 electric cars available in the UK based on their ‘Real Range’ - a figure based on realistic road use, instead of the stats touted by the manufacturer.
It found large variations in on-road performance, from the 57-mile range of the Smart Forfour EQ at the bottom, to the 259 miles clocked up by the Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh*.
With these scores averaging out at 153 miles, it looks as though the current crop of electric cars are quite capable of handling most day-to-day driving on a single charge.
The latest census tells us the average commute to work in England and Wales is 9.32 miles. Done twice a day, five times a week, the total falls well below that average range. Add in the weekly shop and some family trips at the weekend, however, and you may need to charge overnight at home at least once a week.
Range anxiety may be an issue when you need to cover long distances on a regular basis, without the convenience of charging at home when needed. However, research from Zap Map shows there are more than 19,600 connectors across nearly 7,000 public charging locations throughout the UK. This number is set to grow too, with further investment in charging infrastructure expected to follow.
*All information correct as of March 2019
The average range of the electric car models available in the UK is 173 miles – it lowers somewhat when supercharged Teslas are taken out of the equation. Nonetheless, the variation in electric car capabilities show that range anxiety needn’t deter you from making the move. Check out this cheatsheet of the longest range electric cars.
The electric cars now available on the market are roughly comparable to their petrol and diesel equivalents in terms of top speed. Some like the Smart EQ models are pitched more as city cars, while the Tesla models are by far the fastest electric cars available, with all the glamour and glitz of a high-end sports car.
The average top speed of an electric car from this list is 110 mph. That’s a bit lower than a standard car could claim – and bumped up considerably by Tesla’s performance prowess – but for electric car drivers speed and performance aren’t necessarily a priority. Many newer electric cars have good acceleration in comparison to their petrol and diesel counterparts. This is because electric motors produce 100% of their power from a standstill, meaning they accelerate surprisingly quickly from low speeds.
Motorway driving reduces the overall range of an electric car before it needs to be recharged. As mentioned before though, there’s more than enough opportunity to power up at a charging station along the way.
You may find a trip takes longer overall when including the time it takes to charge up your electric car. So if you’re driving a long distance by electric car, be sure to factor in an extra couple of hours.
Extended-range electric vehicles (E-REVs) make use of an internal combustion engine. They’re different from a hybrid vehicle in that the engine functions as a generator, to top up the depleted battery giving it more range. The combustion engine never drives the wheels of the car.
The BMW i3 REx has an all-electric range of 95 miles, and a fuel range of an additional 68 miles. When the electric battery is depleted, the fuel-burning engine kicks in to keep the electric motor charged. The added fuel range made the REx an improvement over the original i3 in terms of distance covered – but it costs more to buy and keep running. Mazda has also confirmed that future EV models will contain a rotary engine as a range extender.
In terms of an off-the-shelf solution, electric car design isn’t yet at the stage where you can simply replace the batteries as you would in a TV remote control. At the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, Samsung unveiled a more powerful battery pack for carmakers to incorporate into future models. Various solutions such as the REXpack – allowing drivers to swap batteries as quickly as they could fuel up at a petrol station – are still in the conceptual stages.
There are ways you can extend the range of your electric car during a journey. Just as you would in a traditional car, you may be able to conserve charge when driving an electric car by ‘cruising’ or ‘coasting’ more often during a journey. Regenerative braking actually stores kinetic energy back in the battery, while driving consistently at slower speeds can also help increase your range.
If you decide your next vehicle will be electric, at LV= we offer insurance created specifically for electric car drivers to ensure you’re covered.
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