SLOWLY but surely, the concept of “range anxiety” is becoming less of a concern for aspiring buyers of pure-electric cars. New, more powerful public charging points and improvements in vehicle technology mean battery-powered models are able to go further between charges than ever before.
However, while many electric cars on sale today can be driven more than 200 miles between charges, can the manufacturers’ claimed ranges be achieved in the real world, and exactly how accurate are they? Also, what happens once each electric car runs out of charge?
These are questions to which the team at carwow wanted answers, and so editorial director Mat Watson assembled six popular pure-electric models for an epic drive north from London. The convoy hit the motorways and each driver promised to keep going until their car ran out of juice — a test Watson admits in the video isn’t reflective of the experience of electric vehicle (EV) owners, who’re usually not stupid enough to voluntarily let their vehicles completely drain their batteries. The motivation seems to have been more curiosity than the assumption that this is something you’re likely to experience after buying an EV.
The sextet of models covered a broad spectrum of the UK’s current electric car market, ranging from mainstream models such as the Nissan Leaf hatchback and Kia e-Niro family SUV to premium offerings including the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model 3.
To ensure the test was as fair as possible, the route would be run in convoy at a consistent pace on motorways, and all of the cars had their batteries fully charged overnight.
While the test was unorthodox, it did throw up some interesting results. While the Tesla Model 3 went the furthest out of any car in the test, it only beat the runner-up Kia e-Niro’s real world range by 15 miles — an impressive feat, considering the vast difference in their official claimed ranges (348 miles for the Tesla; 282 miles for the Kia).
An even bigger upstart, however, was the Nissan Leaf, which managed to cover 208 miles before the batteries were depleted. This meant the Nissan travelled a greater distance in the test than the Audi e-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQC, even though the German cars have noticeably better claimed ranges than the Leaf.
The two offerings from the large-volume brands were also the ones that got closest to their official ranges in the carwow experiment. The 255 miles covered by the Kia meant it was able to achieve a whopping 90% of its official range out in the real world, with the Nissan Leaf getting within 87% of its official range.
At the other end of the scale were the Jaguar I-Pace, which could only get within 76% of its claimed 292 miles range, and the Mercedes-Benz EQC was the worst of the bunch at 75%. Incidentally, the Mercedes was the only vehicle in the test that wasn’t able to cover at least 200 miles on a single charge.
With all of the cars being quite heavy (even the lightest car in the test, the Nissan Leaf, tipped the scales at a smidge over 1.7 tons), none of them were easy to move once they were no longer able to move under their own power. The Mercedes in particular proved to be the trickiest to push, though this was admittedly because the carwow crew didn’t know the EQC would only let itself be pushed if it detected someone was sitting in the driver’s seat.
Mat Watson said: “We know that ‘range anxiety’ is a big concern for people thinking about switching from petrol to electric – no one wants to get stranded. But our test showed you could drive an average of 226 miles and all of the cars were able to keep going after their systems claimed their batteries were totally flat.
“On average, only 81% of the manufacturer-claimed range was achieved and, if you allow a battery to run truly flat, electric cars can be difficult to move! But that’s a similar figure to the percentage of potential range you’d get in a petrol or diesel car. Plus, in the real-world, these cars’ sat-nav systems would direct you to a nearby charging station long before you ground to a halt.”
|Make and model||Range test achieved||WLTP claimed range (miles)||Percentage of claimed range achieved|
|Tesla Model 3||270 miles||348 miles||78%|
|Kia e-Niro||255 miles||282 miles||90%|
|Jaguar I-Pace||223 miles||292 miles||76%|
|Nissan Leaf||208 miles||239 miles||87%|
|Audi e-tron||206 miles||255 miles||81%|
|Mercedes-Benz EQC||194 miles||259 miles||75%|