EV range

We all know that a combustion engine car can do 400+ miles per tank of fuel. This is something we've got used to over many years. So when electric cars came out with a range of less than a 100 miles, range was a big issue. What made it worse was the lack of a public charging infrastructure in the UK.

This has changed now . The public charging network has grown rapidly and there are now over 4,700 charging locations in the UK. For more details of the network, refer to Zap Map.

Driving an EV requires a change of thinking. If you own an EV, you typically charge it every night at home while you sleep, so every morning your car battery is full and that's suitable for most people, most days.

For the times you need to drive further, you simply call at a public rapid charging point and top-up. If its a rapid charger, you should get 80% in 20-30 mins. You may not need that much, but by the time you've used the toilets and grabbed a coffee, you might be on your way again.

Charging your car is a bit like charging your phone. You charge it at home during the night, so its fully charged for the next day and if required, put it back on charge for a quick top up during the day between trips.

Plugging in at home is certainly less hassle than visiting a petrol station.

Its true that EVs aren't as convenient as combustion engine cars, for long journeys. But if you do less than 75 miles per day (and most of us do), then EVs are great!

You will find that once you make the switch to driving an EV, you won't go back to petrol or diesel.

Range is also improving with every new model. The graph below shows how range is improving with the newer models, as battery technology improves.

Note that the BMW i3 & Tesla figures are the American EPA test cycle – which are far more realistic than the European NEDC tests.. For example, the Tesla Model S P100D has a range of 315 miles on the EPA test, yet is 380 miles on the European NEDC test.

The other vehicles shown above are the manufacturers real world figures they claim, as they also agree the NEDC figures aren't realistic. Even so, their claimed figures are on the optimistic of course.

What effects range?

Winter driving reduces range by about 15-20%. This is because the batteries are less efficient when cold and you use the heater more.

Driving in the rain can reduce range a little due to the extra resistance of water on the road, but that's no different to a petrol or diesel car.

Range meter

All electric cars (like modern petrol cars) have a range meter - that is the estimated mileage left on the current charge (or fuel left in the tank). They are commonly called a "guess-o-meter". These use an algorithm based on the recent driving but in the real world I find these are widely inaccurate and falsely give you range anxiety. The problem is that the car doesn't know how you are going to drive for the rest of your journey, but the predicted range is calculated on how you last drove, which is irrelevant at this time. One day you may have the heating on, and only do a short trip with your foot down. Then the next day your predicted range, even after a full charge, may be showing 20% less than it should be.

Here's a real example of how inaccurate these meters are: I was driving a 2015 Renault Zoe with about 50% charge in the (22kWh) battery. The journey I had to do was exactly 40.5 miles. The range meter showed only 46 miles left. That was cutting it a bit close and range anxiety was kicking in straight away. I set off, knowing there was a rapid charger 11 miles into my journey if needed to top up. The route was quiet A-roads, so most the journey was at 50-60 mph. I did drive in ECO mode most of the time, but didn't hang around. I didn't stop for a charge and got home with 36 miles still left on the range meter. Yes, I'd done 40.5 miles yet only knocked 10 miles off the range meter. In fact, I'm sure I could have turned around and repeated the journey again!

Range and battery meter in a Renault Zoe

If you drive in the same manor all the time and the same route, then the range meter will become more accurate. But we never do. There's other factors which effect it, like temperature, using the heater or air conditioning, traffic, hills, rain etc.

So its far better to use the battery indicator, in the same way we used the fuel tank gauge in a ICE car. This will give you far less range anxiety. Assuming your electric car does around 100 miles on a charge if driven economically, when you get to 50% you know you have about 50 miles left, then at 1/4 full you have about 25 miles left. That's easy and far less stressful!