When it comes to electric cars, the top concern after affordability is range - how far will it go on one charge? Although the ranges are increasing with every new model on the market, electric cars can’t yet travel as far as a conventional diesel or petrol cars on one 'tank'.
If you're new to EVs, this isn't as bad as you might first think - you won't often feel like you're having to charge your electric car twice as often. Most EV drivers return home every evening, plug in and wake up to a fully charged car. Just think about how often you actually drive 200 or even 300 miles in one day.
However, 'range anxiety' is a thing. This new expression describes the terror of running out of electricity on the road.
The public charging network is improving fast, but long journeys still require some planning ahead. So, if you're a driver doing lots of longer journeys, you'll want to find out which EV models have the longest range.
Which electric car has the longest range?
The electric car with the longest range currently on sale in the UK is the Tesla Model S Long Range. The Model S has long been the luxury car of choice for electric vehicle drivers, bringing with it the benefits of industry-leading range, a supercharger network and advanced driver features such as Autopilot.
In the real world, the Model S Long Range travels 325 miles on a single charge - meaning it’s a capable motorway cruiser to cover long distance trips. But, as you might expect, this kind of range is not cheap - coming in at roughly £80,000.
Other car manufacturers are catching up. Models with large ranges include the following:
|Car||Real-world Range||Purchase Price from|
| Tesla Model X | 285 miles | £82,000 |
| Mercedes EQC | 225 miles | £75,500 |
| Hyundai Kona | 245 miles | £33,000 |
| Kia e-Niro | 235 miles | £33,000 |
| Tesla Model 3 | 210 miles | £40,000 |
| Nissan Leaf e+ | 215 miles | £35,000 |
There's a clear correlation between cost and range in these models. But, do you really need to fork out for all that range? Our free clean energy calculator tool will match you with an electric car that ticks all your boxes and gives you the necessary range confidence for your trips. We also show you how quickly you'll pay back a switch to electric and the difference it will make to your carbon footprint.
Do I really need all that range?
Focusing on range is understandable when you are choosing on an electric car. However, most people use their cars to drive minimal distances - the average journey length is 8.6 miles. In fact, 80% of motorists drive less than 60 miles every day.
When the Nissan Leaf electric car was launched on the market, it could only do 109 miles on a single charge. Many people were very confused by this, being used to driving cars that could easily do 500 miles on a single tank. Nissan spent quite a lot of time trying to convince people that 109 miles was enough for most people.
Very few people drive from London to Scotland every week - but you might undertake a trip like this once or twice per year. The charging network needs to make us reassured that the car is fit to cover 100% of our journeys without adding too much time on charge.
Ironically, one main factor of range is the battery itself - the battery pack in an electric car is extremely heavy. A Renault Clio weighs around 1000kg, whereas the equivalent electric model, the Renault Zoe, can weigh up to 1400kg.
Bulky cars like SUVs are heavier again, and require an even bigger battery to achieve the same range. As a result, an electric SUV will take much longer to payback and result in higher emissions per mile driven than a smaller EV.
So there is a balance needed. Too small a battery, and you might have to spend more time charging on the go, or driving near the lower limits of your battery. But with a very large battery, you're making your switch to electric less affordable and losing out on savings with every mile (currently each extra mile of range adds around 2kg in battery weight) and also increasing dramatically the carbon 'embodied' in its manufacture.
What can I do to increase my electric car’s range?
In the real world, electric car range depends on more than the battery size. Driving aggressively, braking too harshly, even using excessive air con will all reduce your electric car’s range substantially, just as they would in a petrol or diesel car.
Using the air conditioning on a hot day can noticeably reduce your range (though without a large combustion engine under the bonnet, you won't be getting quite so hot in the cabin to start with).
On a cold winter's day, however, your range will be noticably lower, as batteries are affected by temperatures outside. Turning on the heating on a frosty morning can indeed double your energy consumption for a short journey (of course, the effect would obviously be less dramatic over a longer journey). But as most EV owners will tell you, pre-warming (programmable heating inside your car while you're still plugged in at home) is one of the best features of their electric car.
Other local factors also come into play. For example, if it’s an exceptionally windy day and you’re trying to drive head on into the wind, the car is going to have to use more power to counteract this resistance and as a result your range will decrease. Driving uphill has the same effect. But then on a long downhill you’ll be adding many of those miles back on to your battery with regenerative braking.
How is electric car range calculated?
Manufacturers claim a particular range for each model of car that they make. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever reach that range while driving on the road. This is as true for EVs as it has always been for petrol and diesel cars. Electric cars are tested in much the same way, which allows a manufacturer to get the maximum theoretical range from their vehicle.
The car isn’t tested on the road. First, the car is fully charged and parked overnight. Then, the car is mounted on a dynamometer. This is essentially a rolling road - a piece of machinery that allows the wheels of a vehicle to rotate, in order to artificially simulate how well the vehicle would drive on a road. Generally, simulated city or motorway driving is done on the dynamometer until the battery runs out. The miles driven are noted.
After testing on the dynamometer, the car is charged from an AC source and the amount of energy required for a full recharge is noted. This charge amount is divided by the miles driven to calculate the electric equivalent of mpg, MPGe. This figure is then multiplied by 0.7, to take into account factors such as terrain, air conditioning/heater use and wind resistance.
See how much you could save using our free EV and clean energy tool!