02 Aug How far can I drive?
A typical question from potential EV owners is “how far can I drive before I need to recharge?” The answer: well, it depends.
Think about it like you’d think about a gas-powered car. Can you say exactly how many miles per gallon (MPG) you get every time you fill up? No. There’s no single, consistent figure because conditions vary.
Both MPG on a gas-powered car and range on an electric vehicle depend on a number of factors, including your speed, acceleration, the wind, the temperature, the terrain, your cargo, and your tires. For an EV, it’s also dependent on the size of the battery and the car it’s powering. It’s not an exact science, and you shouldn’t expect to consistently get the number of miles that a manufacturer quotes.
However, you can estimate how far you can drive a given electric vehicle before you’ll need to recharge. And, you can test it yourself.
Batteries like mild weather
Manufacturers provide an estimated range for their vehicles. For example, Nissan lists its 2017 LEAF as having a maximum range up of 107 miles, meaning you’ll be able to drive the Leaf 107 miles before it runs out of juice in “normal conditions”—driving on a flat road in clear weather at a constant speed.
That’s not factoring in, for example, a full-day drive up a mountain with a car full of camping gear; hills and a heavy load can decrease your range. So can extreme weather. Very hot or cold temperatures degrade battery performance and reduce the available range.
Batteries are most efficient when they’re operating around 68 to 88 degree Fahrenheit; they love mild weather. Heating the inside of your car—as well as cooling it—can also drag on your battery and lower range. EV experts estimate blasting your car’s heat can cause range to drop by up to one-third.
One trick is to use the EV’s heated seats, if possible, rather than the climate control system to preserve power. In any event, you’ll need to consider the climate where you live and factor that into your range expectations.
Testing out the range
How and where you drive also affects range. If you have a heavy foot with the accelerator and brakes, it’s harder on range. Highways also drain batteries, while city streets are a battery’s best friend.
For the average commuter in the U.S., however, who drives 15 miles one way to work, the 2017 LEAF’s 107 miles means three round-trips to work, with some miles to spare. By comparison, the range on a 2017 Chevy Bolt is 238 miles, 115 miles on a 2017 Ford Focus Electric, and 265-337 miles on Tesla’s 2017 Model S.
That’s compared to most average gas-powered cars in the U.S., which have a 12-gallon tank. With the average fuel economy for new U.S. vehicles for 2015, the most recent data available, at 24.8 mpg, that translates into 300 miles on one tank.
If you really want to test out the EV range before buying, rent your electric vehicle of choice for a day or two and test it out for yourself. Drive to work, do errands, and see how the vehicle’s range responds to your driving style, your typical route and your climate.
More than enough juice
Rest assured though, while “range anxiety,”–or an EV owner’s fear they’ll run out of juice before they make it to their destination–is real, most EV owners are happy with range.
A study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that on a given day, current EVs provide enough range for 87% of drivers on America’s roads, on just an overnight charge.
The MIT team combined four data sets. The first was from three state studies using GPS trackers in cars to capture second-by-second driving behavior in California, Georgia and Texas. The second set was taken from the National Household Travel Survey, a national study of driving habits. The third contained data on fuel economy tests. A fourth included details on ambient temperatures around the U.S., which can affect battery performance.
The researchers modeled a hypothetical car after the 2013 Nissan LEAF. They found that batteries will provide more than enough juice in the vast majority of driving situations. So, leave anxiety behind. If you’re similar to the average American when it comes to your driving habits, you shouldn’t have to worry when it comes to range.
What’s the range? Here’s how far you can go on a full charge on EVs currently available in the U.S.:
2017 BMW i3
2017 Chevrolet Bolt
2017 Fiat 500e
2017 Ford Focus
2017 Kia Soul EV
2017 Mercedes B250e
2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV
2017 Nissan Leaf
2017 Tesla Model S
2017 Tesla Model X
up to 295 miles
2017 Volkswagen e-golf
2017 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive
2017 Tesla Model 3
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