Electric Vehicle Range: How Far Can an Electric Car Go?

Learn exactly how long an EV can last on one charge.

Electric vehicle on a road trip in the Sierra Nevada mountains

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Many potential electric vehicle (EV) buyers worry about how far an electric car can go on one charge—a concern that's known as "range anxiety."

But range anxiety is on the decline as EVs become more common and their efficiency increases. Learn about how EV range is determined and how drivers can maximize their range.

American EV Range Calculations

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) evaluates the driving range of electric vehicles.

The EPA's test uses a dynamometer (or “dyno”) to test vehicles. This is essentially a treadmill for EVs to simulate real-world driving conditions.

The vehicle is fully charged, then driven in simulations of city driving and highway driving until the battery is drained and the wheels stop moving.

Because the test is conducted indoors at room temperature, this test time is then multiplied by 0.7 to give a more realistic estimate of a vehicle's range.

The EPA issues individual battery estimates for city and highway driving. They also create a combined estimate based on 45% city driving and 55% highway driving.

European EV Range Calculations

In Europe, the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) has been used since late 2017. WLTP replaced the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) test, which was criticized for using theoretical estimates instead of real-world data.

Since Europeans spend more time commuting on city streets than on highways, the WLTP emphasizes urban and suburban driving. Instead of laboratory testing, the WLTP relies on real-world driving data from around the world.

The WLP tests EVs at four different speeds and in a variety of climates and driving conditions. Because electric vehicles are more efficient in city driving than on highways, WLTP ranges tend to be longer than the EPA's.

Ranges of Popular EVs (standard range or base model)
Model EPA (miles) WLTP (miles)
Audi e-tron 222 270
Chevrolet Bolt 259 N/A
Ford Mustang Mach-E 230 N/A
Hyundai Kona Electric 258 279
Kia Niro EV 239 282
Nissan Leaf (40 kWh) 149 168
Porsche Taycan 4S 199 253
Tesla Model 3 263 267
Tesla Model Y 244 N/A
Volkswagen ID.4 250 308
Sources: EPA Fuel Economy Guide Model Year 2021; EVSpecifications.com

Real-World Range Factors

Some of the factors that affect the real-world range of an EV include:

  • Aggressive Driving: The surges of power from aggressive driving put strain on the battery, as do high speeds.
  • Ambient Temperature: Extreme temperatures can affect the car's range by an average of 12%. Before buying an EV, look to see if it has battery warming and/or cooling technology. Once you have one, park in a garage if you can. Alternatively, park in the shade in summer and the sun in winter.
  • Cabin Temperature: Auxiliary vehicle functions, such as air conditioning and heating account, for roughly a third of an EV's total energy consumed. Try to preheat or precool your vehicle while it is still plugged in. In the winter, you may then be able to rely only on your seat heater to keep you warm.
  • Driving Patterns: Unlike gas-powered vehicles, EVs are more efficient in city driving than in highway driving. Thus, city drivers may find that their range is higher than estimated.
  • Road Resistance: Here, road resistance refers to the factors that impair wheel and tire performance. Keep your tires properly inflated to reduce rolling resistance and friction.
  • Battery Charging: Improve range by keeping an eye on your battery. Make sure your battery is charged between 20% and 80% to avoid battery degradation and loss of range.
  • Reduce Drag: Remove any unnecessary weight from the vehicle and close the windows at higher speeds.
  • Economy Mode: Drivers can increase range by limiting acceleration rates and by engaging regenerative braking more assertively.
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Why isn't there an EV with 1000-mile range?

    Well, there is. Released in 2021, the three-wheeled, futuristic Aptera claims to be the world's first 1000-mile electric vehicle. But this is unlikely to become the norm. Conventional electric vehicles are limited by the weight of their batteries. The energy density of batteries continues to improve, but there will always be a trade-off between weight and range.

  • How can I improve my driving efficiency?

    Rather than miles per gallon, EV fuel efficiency is usually measured in miles per kWh. On most EVs, this number can be displayed on your control panel or touchscreen. If your EV records trip histories, it often includes the miles/kWh for each trip, so you can compare efficiencies and improve.

  • What would happen if I run out of battery charge?

    It's unlikely you'll ever run out of charge. An EV's battery management system can warn you if your battery is getting low and even direct you to the nearest charging station. But if you do run out of charge, you can call a tow truck. Many EV drivers also keep charging equipment in their trunks, which allows them to plug into nearby household electrical outlets as well.

A. Hopefully not. Concern that the vehicle you are driving runs out of fuel—whether gas or electricity—is not unreasonable, but it's reduced by the increasing availability of EV charging stations and by the fact that most current EVs have ranges exceeding 200 or even 300 miles. What is worth considering is how often you take trips beyond the estimated range of the vehicle. The average American commute is just under 40 miles/day. With the money you save from owning an EV, it might be cheaper to rent a car for the few long-range trips you take each year.

A. Well, there is. Released in 2021, the three-wheeled, futuristic Aptera claims to be the world's first 1000-mile electric vehicle. But conventional electric vehicles are limited by the weight of current batteries. The energy density of batteries continues to improve, but there will always be a trade-off between weight and range.

A. Rather than miles per gallon, EV fuel efficiency is usually measured in miles per kWh. (A kilowatt-hour is the unit of energy used.) An average EV can get 3 miles per kWh. On most EVs, this number can be displayed on your control panel or touchscreen. If your EV records trip histories, it often includes the miles/kWh for each trip. Some EV efficiency measurements are reversed as kWh/100 miles. Just remember that in that case, the lower the number of kWh, the more efficient the vehicle.

A. It's unlikely you'll ever run out of charge. An EV's battery management system can warn you if your battery is getting low and even direct you to the nearest charging station. But if you do run out of fuel, pretty much the same would happen as if you ran out of gas: You would call a tow truck, and the EV would be towed to the nearest charging station instead of the nearest gas station. Many EV drivers also keep charging equipment in their trunks, which allows them to plug into any household electrical outlet. But if you've never run out of gas, you'll probably never run out of charge, either.

View Article Sources
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  2. What Is WLTP And How Does It Work? WLTP Facts.

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