The best models can run for well over 200 miles, and even more than 300 miles on a charge.
If you’re thinking about buying an electric vehicle (EV), arguably the most important specification to consider is how many miles it can travel on a charge. This is known as an EV’s range. Worrying about whether or not an EV’s battery pack will become depleted and strand you at the side of the road before arriving at a given destination is called range anxiety. The idea here is to choose a model that can run for long enough on a charge to meet your daily transportation needs without causing undue anxiety. Americans drive an average of 40 miles a day, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Most EVs for 2018 can run for between 100-125 miles with a fully charged battery pack. With battery technology evolving rapidly, some of the latest models boast the longest operating ranges. The best of the bunch, which we’re featuring in the accompanying slideshow, can run for well over 200 miles before needing to be plugged back into the grid.
The Tesla Model S is the industry’s current champ, estimated to travel a whopping 335 miles per charge with its longest-range battery pack. At the other end of the scale, the tiny two-seat Smart ForTwo Electric Drive is the EV most likely to induce range anxiety, with a paltry 59 miles per charge.
Official range estimates, along with equivalent “fuel economy” ratings (this is expressed in terms of “e-mpg”) for all EVs sold in the U.S. past and present are posted on the Environmental Protection Agency’s fueleconomy.gov website. But be aware that these are estimates based on the EPA’s instrumented analysis, and as they say in new-car ads, “your mileage may vary.” A number of factors can affect an EV’s range out in the real world:
- Speed: Unlike conventionally powered cars, electric vehicles consume more energy running at highway speeds than they do around town. Likewise, jack-rabbit starts and sudden braking can take a toll on an EV’s battery range.
- Temperature: Cold temperatures adversely affect a battery’s performance. According to a study conducted by the AAA Automotive Research Center, an EV’s operating range can vary considerably based solely on the ambient temperature.
- Accessory Use: Using the heater, defroster or air conditioner places the most drain on an EV’s battery among all auto accessories. Preheating or cooling down an EV’s cabin while it’s still plugged into the charger can help extend its range.
- Wind Resistance: As with conventionally powered cars, EVs consume more energy when overcoming wind resistance. That’s why automakers pay such strict attention to a vehicle’s aerodynamics. Driving at highway speeds with the windows or a sunroof open will increase a vehicle’s wind resistance. So will driving with a roof rack or other exterior accessories installed.
- Terrain: It takes more power to drive any vehicle uphill than it does to go downhill.