Range: a precious commodity

Range: a precious commodity

Range is dependent on a number of factors, and whilst 100 miles is currently the informal standard for electric vehicles, your local weather and climate, style of driving and use of comfort features will determine just how many of those precious miles you’ll actually get.

Driving style

A petrol-engined car won’t achieve anything like its potential fuel economy when driven hard, so why should an EV be any different?

Accelerating and braking gently is the easiest way to conserve battery power, and a recent study found that efficiency can vary between 0.46km and 1.89km travelled for each percent of battery charge, depending on driving style.

Regenerative braking – whereby energy normally lost in the form of heat is recovered during braking – counts for a lot, and helps explain, along with lower average speeds, why EVs are more efficient in urban areas than on higher speed routes. EVs are the opposite of combustion-engined cars in this respect, as even high speeds at a steady pace will drain the battery very quickly, so behave and you’ll go further. Try and anticipate traffic ahead and any use of the throttle or brakes should be smooth and consistent. Do this often and it will become habit.

Climate

We know that cold weather can halve range, as the battery has to work harder to produce the equivalent level of electricity for the motor, but what about higher temperatures?

Regularly using EVs in hot climates can cause the battery to prematurely age, decreasing its capacity to store charge. This happened to a number of Nissan LEAFs last year in Arizona, and one particular LEAF could hold only 65% of the charge it could when it left the factory. Moving house to accommodate your desire to drive an electric car is, of course, a severe measure, but the impact that climatic extremes have on range is something you should carefully consider. Rain, on the other hand, doesn’t present any problem at all, and for tips on what to do during colder weather see our winter driving guide.

Creature comforts

The use of any electrical devices will influence range, whether it’s using the windscreen wipers or luxuries like a CD player, but the effect of most appliances are generally negligible. Using the heating in a Peugeot iOn, however, has been known to reduce range by 45%, whilst air-conditioning reduced range by 25%, so it’s best to avoid any kind of climate control features.

Instrument-wise, many range indicators are predictive, so put your foot down and your car will tell you that it only has 20 miles range left on the assumption that you’re going to continue driving like a hooligan. Ease off and range duly increases, although this isn’t the case with every EV.

It’s worth remembering that the majority drivers don’t cover anywhere near 100 miles most days (93% of drivers, in fact, as a recent study in the US concluded), and that as a means of urban commuting even micro-EVs – with a typical range of 60 miles – are adequate.

Last but not least, avoid roof racks like the plague – although the extra weight isn’t a huge problem, the aerodynamic drag is, and affects range much more than you’d think.

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