WHEN buying a new battery-electric car, a long range between charges is perhaps top of the list of requirements (rightly or wrongly).
At the time of the original Nissan Leaf’s launch 10 years ago, the car makers dabbling with pure-electric models were trying to convince us that its official range of 109 miles between charges (less than that in the real world) was more than enough for most drivers.
In a way, it was true — research from 2008, published in the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ 2011 Electric Car Guide, showed that the average individual journey length in the UK was 8.6 miles and the average total daily distance travelled was 25 miles, while more than 80% of motorists across Europe drove less than 63 miles in a typical day.
It’s an argument made by modern car makers too — Mazda says it about the MX-30, which has a range of just 124 miles, and Honda insists the same about the Honda e, which is similarly range-challenged, with just 137 miles between charges. The argument for smaller batteries is that they’re lighter, and so make the cars better to drive.
And yet “range anxiety” (the fear of running out of charge) is a major talking point, with many commentators asking: “But what happens if I want to drive from London to Scotland?”. Although journeys of that distance aren’t common, a long road trip — say for a family holiday — once or twice a year isn’t out of the question for many households, especially with the coronavirus pandemic forcing us away from air travel for the second summer on the trot.
Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, was one of the few electric car advocates arguing a decade ago that drivers shouldn’t just put up with a range of 100 miles or less. He knew that if the tech was going to take off, drivers would need electric cars capable of travelling at least three times as far as the Leaf. He had introduced the Roadster in 2008, which could travel 244 miles according to the American test cycle, and then the Model S (more than 300 miles) in 2012.
1. Best range electric car: Tesla Model S Plaid+: 520 miles
The most powerful and quickest-accelerating Model S yet certainly packs some impressive stats, ahead of UK production beginning later this year: Tesla has claimed 0-62mph in under two seconds, a 200mph top speed, the ability to cover a quarter mile in nine seconds and 1100hp (1085bhp).
However, in the era of electric hypercars like the Lotus Evija or the Pininfarina Battista, stats like this are nothing new — and after trying that 0-60mph a couple of times (and probably subsequently throwing up) you won’t want to try it again. What you won’t get tired of, however, is 520 miles of range between charges, and access to Tesla’s lauded supercharger network
2. Lucid Air Grand Touring: 517 miles
The Air Grand Touring is the longest-range version of Lucid’s rather handsome saloon, which is a direct competitor to the Tesla Model S — in fact, Peter Rawlinson, the company’s CEO, was the Model S’ chief engineer.
And it’s evident that Elon Musk sees the Air’s potential to steal some of the Model S’ sales. Soon after the Air was announced with a maximum range of 517 miles and a drag coefficient of 0.21 — claimed to be the best of any production car — Tesla came out with the Model S Plaid, which made incremental improvements: a 520-mile range and a drag coefficient of 0.208.
The Air is expected to arrive in the UK later this year, and one thing’s for certain: these Californian EV brands are sure to bring out the best in one another.
3. Mercedes EQS: 479 miles
Like its competitors from Tesla and Lucid, Mercedes relies on aerodynamics to do a lot of the heavy lifting for its new electric flagship, which is due to be revealed in full next week. It has a drag coefficient of 0.201, 0.007cd less than that of the Model S Plaid, which alongside a massive 108kWh battery pack enables an extremely impressive 478 mile range. And it does all that while packing the same level of quiet German luxury as the S-Class limousine.
Mercedes has been drip-feeding us information about the EQS, including providing us with some powertrain stats and some interior shots, which show a trio of high-resolution screens that dominate the fascia. However, we still don’t know exactly what it will look like from the outside (the image above is the Vision EQS concept, from which it will take heavy inspiration), so watch this space.
4. Tesla Model S Long Range: 412 miles
The entry-level model of Tesla’s grand tourer might not have the (probably literally) eye-popping acceleration of the Plaid and Plaid+ , but it’s the only variant available for less than a six-figure sum, and it comes with sufficiently long range to do that much-discussed London to Edinburgh trip. It can also comes with an adequately rapid 0-60mph of 3.1 seconds (as fast as a Lamborghini Urus, and faster than a Ferrari GTC4 Lusso).
5. Tesla Model S Plaid: 390 miles
We’re aware that this list is becoming somewhat monotonous, but the fact that the Tesla Model S has appeared three times in the top five longest-range cars is just testament to how far ahead of the pack the company is.
In fact, Nikkei, a business publication in Asia, found after taking apart a Model 3 that Tesla’s electronics (i.e. its drivetrain and autonomous driving tech) is “at least six years” ahead of traditional car makers like VW and Toyota. No wonder it’s the world’s most valuable car company.
The quote-on-quote “standard” Plaid (for want of a better word), comes with all the frightening performance stats of the Plaid+, but trades 108 miles of range and eighty-or-so horsepower for a £29,000 discount. You could buy another electric car for that kind of cash.
6. BMW iX xDrive50: 373 miles
The announcement of the BMW iX was overshadowed somewhat by the red-blooded anger about its looks, which have proved, to put it mildly, polarising. However, beneath the skin is a seriously impressive drivetrain, packing what BMW claims will be a range of 373 miles, if the xDrive50 model is chosen, which has a 100kWh battery.
That’s considerably more than any of the electric SUV’s current competitors, including the Jaguar I-Pace, Mercedes EQC and Tesla Model X. A second, cheaper xDrive40 model will also be available, which will have a smaller 70kWh battery enabling a 249 mile range. BMW hasn’t announced prices for the xDrive50, but has said that the xDrive45 will cost £69,000 — comparable to a luxuriously appointed X5.
7. Ford Mustang Mach E Extended Range RWD: 370 miles
Some may say that the Mustang Mach-E is a Mustang in name alone — it’s an SUV, and won’t be able to muster the V8 growl for which the car has become known during its nearly 60 year history.
However, early reports say that it’s fun to drive, while the ability to do 370 miles between changes in the extended-range model means that it’s a practical proposition, too. And with the entry-level model costing a whisper over £40,000, it’s a surprisingly affordable prospect — although it’s no longer eligible for the government’s revised Plug-in Car Grant.
8. BMW i4: 366 miles
The i4 electric coupé represents another step in BMW’s desire to diversify the drivetrain options in its current line-up, as part of what it is calling its “power of choice” mantra. Like its combustion counterpart, it will be a four-door Gran Coupé, and like the 4 Series, it will have a BMW M Performance counterpart.
The standard version, says BMW, will pack 522bhp, enabling it to sprint to 60mph in around four seconds, while the range-topper will be able to go 366 miles between charges. For now, that’s pretty much all we know, but BMW says that it’ll be revealing more in the next few weeks.
9. Tesla Model 3 Long Range: 360 miles
The longest range edition of Tesla’s entry-level model has a bigger range than that of the Model X SUV, and is nearly £37,000 cheaper. Of course, it’s not as big, but it’s still pretty roomy inside for a compact saloon — no doubt one of the reasons that it was the UK’s fourth best selling car in March.
In fact, the Model 3 has been making a number of cameo appearances in such lists, and was even the best-selling car in the UK for a couple of months last year, including December, when it was sold 1000 more times than a VW Golf and 2000 more times than the UK’s favourite car, the Ford Fiesta.
10. Tesla Model X Long Range Plus: 348 miles
You’re probably getting bored of seeing the word Tesla in this list, but the point we made earlier stands — Tesla is simply unbeatable when it comes to making the best range electric cars.
The Model X SUV is Tesla’s entry into the increasingly competitive electric SUV sector (it will be joined by the smaller, more affordable Model Y later this year) and it comes with some pretty impressive stats across the Long Range and Performance variants.
Thanks to the immediate torque made available from electric motors, the latter can get to 60mph quicker than a Lamborghini Urus (despite being available with seven seats). Meanwhile the former, 1.8 seconds slower to 60mph than the Performance version and £15,000 cheaper, can cover a range of 348 miles, according to the WLTP test.
- Enjoyed our roundup of the longest range electric cars to buy in 2021? You might like to read Driving.co.uk’s review of the new BMW iX3.
- Hyundai recently recalled thousands of electric vehicles after reports of fires, here’s the details.
- Not sold on pure-electric? Read our review of the Ioniq hybrid here.