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How far can an electric car go on one charge?

October 26, 2021 | Joseph D. Simpson and Wesley van Barlingen

As the cost of “going electric” declines and charging stations become more widely available, many today are considering buying an electric vehicle. In fact, by 2030 it’s expected that there will be over 145 million electric vehicles on the roads.

Before investing in an EV, it’s only normal that potential EV drivers have some concerns. One major factor is range: just under half of all potential EV drivers are worried they won’t be able to charge their car when it’s necessary and will run out of power on the road. 

This anxiety stands in the way of many potential EV drivers taking the plunge into electric mobility. While this fear is understandable, according to our research, the vast majority of current EV drivers don’t encounter any problems at all when it comes to being able to charge their car when they need to. 

In this blog, we would like to address one of the key questions surrounding range: “How far can an electric car go on a single charge?”. Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this question as it depends on multiple factors. However, we can give you an accurate overview and explain what exactly affects range as well as what you can do to extend it.

Overview of EV range

Shortest Average Longest
135 km (84 miles) 313 km (194 miles) 637 km (396 miles)

Disclaimer: These numbers are based on data available at the time when writing this blog. The shortest and longest EV range belong to the Smart Fortwo EQ and Tesla Model S Long Range Plus respectively. The average is based on calculations by the Electric Vehicle Database.

 

An arial shot of a winding three-lane highway in the forest.

The growing range of EVs

Back in the humble beginnings of EVs, the best-selling electric car, the Nissan LEAF, had a maximum range of about 175 km (109 miles). Fast-forward to today and Nissan has just released their latest EV with a range of 460 km (285 miles). The new Hyundai Kona, Volkswagen ID.3 Tour, and Kia EV6 (all with a fairly affordable price tag) can reach 300-500 km (186-300 miles) on a single charge too. 

The main reason? Batteries have become more powerful and less expensive. Batteries are the most expensive component when making an EV and their price has fallen dramatically over the past decade. Recent statistics from Bloomberg pointed out that battery costs have dropped from $1,200 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to around $125/kWh today.

By 2023, the cost per kWh is expected to dip below $100—the number often seen as the point where EVs will reach price parity with gasoline vehicles. Put simply, the falling costs of batteries mean lower prices for electric cars across the board.

An arial shot of a snow-lined highway in the forest in winter.

How far can an electric car go?

The range is important for EV adoption because the number one barrier for potential EV drivers is uncertainty about finding charging stations. As such, the range is one of the biggest factors that drivers tend to focus on when considering going electric. However, there is no single answer to how far an EV can go and the answer depends—quite understandably—on which vehicle you’re talking about as well as the driving conditions. 

That being said, three numbers can point towards an answer: “Which vehicle has the longest range?”, “What’s the average range of an EV?”, and “Which electric car has the shortest range?”. In the following section, we’ll dive into these questions to give you a better idea of the diversity in range available on the market today. 

Which electric vehicle has the longest range?

At present, the longest range EVs are claimed by Tesla—with the Model S Long Range Plus boasting a range of 652 km (405 miles). Tesla has taken the top spot in terms of driving range since 2012, but whether they will keep their crown depends on the release of their new Cybertruck—which has been said to have an 800+ km (500+ miles) range—as well as the competition.

Many competitors are looking to challenge Tesla, including Mercedes, Ford, Jaguar, and Porsche who are all inching closer to acquiring this prestigious title. What’s more, manufacturing newcomers like Amazon-backed EV startup Rivian, Silicon Valley headquartered Lucid Motors, Dutch long-range solar electric vehicle producer Lightyear One, and Chinese market incumbent NIO are all edging in on the number often considered the ultimate measure of EV tech: range.

What’s for certain, is that as batteries continue to get cheaper, this number is likely to continue rising to rival the range of a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.

How far do electric cars go on average? 

The median range of electric vehicles has been steadily increasing over the past decade. In 2011, there were just three different models of all-electric vehicles on the market and their ranges on a full charge (according to the US Environmental Protection Agency) spanned from 100km to 150 km (63 to 94 miles). Today, that number is much higher and sits around 313 km (194 miles) per charge

Which electric car has the shortest range?

As the rule of thumb goes, the larger the vehicle, the bigger the battery can be. The reverse is also true. With less space for a battery, small city cars are designed to be agile, cheap to run, and easy to park—but not to travel long distances. The smallest EV we could find when writing this article was the Smart Fortwo EQ, a two-seater city car (with convertible options) that has a range of 135 km (84 miles) on a single charge. However, a full charge would take only 40 minutes at a charging speed of 22 kW—much less than charging an EV that holds a larger battery.

What other factors affect the driving range for EVs?

Battery size isn’t the only thing that affects an EV’s range. The quicker you drive, how much you need to accelerate, whether you turn on your AC or the heater, as well as how warm it is outside, all affect how far you can go on a single charge.

Driving speed 

The faster you drive or the more aggressive you accelerate, the quicker the battery of the EV drains.

Temperature

The colder it is outside, the faster the battery drains.

Electrical-powered features

When you use the heating, cooling, or other electrical-powered features, this affects the distance an EV can drive on a single tank. 

To bring these factors to life, Renault has a handy tool for its ZOE e-Tech Electric where you can input driving conditions and see the battery capacity change. 

A busy highway during what seems to be rush hour in the late afternoon summer sunshine.

What is a good range for an electric car?

Simply put, a good range meets the needs of the driver. Range is a key EV metric when choosing an EV and is one that many potential EV drivers consider carefully before investing. Practically speaking, however, range isn’t the holy grail that many consider it to be. 

The vast majority of people don’t get close to driving their vehicle flat in a single day; regardless of whether it’s an EV or a gasoline car. For instance, in the US, the average American drives 23,000 km (14,300 miles) per year or roughly 62 km (39 miles) a day. In Europe, this average differs per country but is, on average, less than half of what they drive in the US; individuals in Germany drive an average of approximately 19 km (11 miles) per day and in Greece, this number can be as low as 5.6 km (3.4 miles) per day. 

The bottom line is that most of our daily commutes won’t even come close to reaching an EV's maximum range. 

What’s more, since “topping up” an EV works differently than putting gas in an ICE vehicle—as charging can be done while you sleep or while you’re at work—the fear of running out of juice isn’t as prominent as you may think at first. Vehicle manufacturers have also put a lot of effort into quelling drivers' fears of range anxiety with several innovative features; including the Driving to Empty (DTE) metric which is visible on a vehicle’s dashboard.

The interior of a modern electric vehicle.

What is DTE?

DTE stands for Driving to Empty and is a moving extrapolated average of how far you can drive with the remaining charge of an EV’s battery. Simply put, it’s how far you can go until your battery is depleted.

​​As the range shown is an average based on current factors, it’s always a guesstimate to predict future performance. This number is based on how long you have already driven on a single charge, the current state of charge, and driving conditions and is translated into a distance number. 

For drivers, this knowledge is critical as there is no leeway with EVs. As soon as that number reaches zero, it’s game over and the vehicle must be towed to a charging point. Unlike gasoline cars, roadside assistance can't bring a small volume of fuel, so the vehicle must be physically transported to a charging station—an event that’s not cheap, both in terms of time and money, nor is it good for your vehicle’s battery.

To avoid this scenario, many electric vehicles make it difficult to run out of charge. For example, some premium vehicles will calculate your remaining range and warn you exactly when you're about to leave the vicinity of a charging station. Others, such as the Nissan Leaf, go into Turtle Mode before completely turning off, where it enters “crawling” mode 50km/h (30mph) for just over a kilometer, giving the driver enough time to reach a safe space to call for help. 

However, as DTE is based on current conditions, it shouldn’t be taken as gospel. A hundred kilometers will differ if you change your driving style or turn your heater and headlights on. If you’re cruising towards empty and the DTE indicates you can just make it, it’s best to try and maintain an energy-efficient driving style.

Do electric cars lose range over time?

Yes, but not as much as you may think or as fast as you may fear. Under current estimates, most EV batteries will last between one and two decades before they need to be replaced. And contrary to popular belief, EV batteries don’t simply stop working. Instead, they slowly degrade over time—meaning that it's unlikely that you're going to need a replacement abruptly. 

A battery gradually loses capacity with many reporting the loss of only a few percent over several years. When looking at the average decline across all vehicles, that loss averages out at 2.3 percent per year. To demonstrate, if you purchase an EV today with a 240 km (150 miles) range, after five years the battery will have lost 27 km (17 miles) of accessible range. 

To put consumers' reservations to rest, many manufacturers give a warranty on their battery which is usually between five and ten years or 100,000 km (62,000 miles). Want to know how to increase the lifespan of your EV’s battery? Check out this blog we wrote on EV battery longevity.

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