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We know that one of the largest barriers to drivers looking at a new electric vehicle (EV) is range anxiety.
Range anxiety is the term used to describe the worry that drivers have over not making it to their destination on longer journeys, or through their daily drives, without needing to charge and being stranded with a vehicle that has no charge or nearby accessible driving point.
While range anxiety can happen with vehicles that use petrol or diesel, it’s less of a problem because if you do run out of fuel there’s always the option to fill up a fuel can and take it back to the car to get you on the move again. Unfortunately, with an EV this isn’t such an easy option unless you conveniently run out of electricity near a plug socket.
All electric and hybrid vehicles that have a fully electric mode will be advertised with a mileage range which is achievable based on the testing looked at below but the actual mileage range available to you can be impacted by a number of factors.
Electric vehicles will be tested under Worldwide harmonized Light-duty vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), which is designed to be a universal measurement that is comparable across manufacturers and countries as well as to provide a more realistic measurement based on real-world driving conditions.
These driving conditions include driving in rural, urban and motorway scenarios at various speeds as well as in realistic weather conditions with a wider range of temperatures. Electric vehicles use more energy when they are travelling at faster speeds and so as part of WLTP testing they will also be tested at higher speeds.
When looking at an electric or plug-in hybrid (PHEV) mileage range and whether it’s suitable for you it’s important to check whether the range provided is based on WLTP figures. You should also bear in mind that though WLTP figures are designed to be more realistic they do not take into account all of the factors that could impact the range we explore below.
There are a variety of factors that can impact the actual range of your EV or PHEV and these include:
The first, and perhaps the most influential, of factors is your driving style. As the driver, you have control of the vehicle and how its energy flow is used.
Heavy acceleration and faster speeds require more power and so use more energy which will reduce the available charge and so also the mileage range you can achieve. So, a softer acceleration and slightly lower speed will help you get more miles from your charge.
What speeds up must slow down and your braking style will also have an impact on the range you are able to achieve. If you can allow your vehicle to decelerate smoothly and so engage the regenerative braking this will allow you to recapture energy. It will also mean you don’t have to use as much energy when actually braking.
It’s not just how you drive but where you drive that also has an impact on the range an EV can offer.
Even a very slight incline requires more energy to drive on than a flat road so if you’re frequently driving uphill or in a hilly area you’re likely to see an effect on the range your EV can offer.
However, most EVs will recapture some of this energy when driving downhill through regenerative braking which helps reduce the overall impact of hill driving on your range.
There is no way to avoid driving over hills and little you can do to negate the impact uphill driving will have on your range, but you should keep this in mind when looking at an electric model especially if you live in a particularly hilly area.
As well as the terrain the type of road you are driving on can affect the available range.
We previously mentioned that faster speeds mean a higher energy demand, and so if you are frequently driving on dual carriageways or motorways where you are constantly accelerating there will be an impact on your mileage.
Though you might not think it the weather can actually have a pretty large impact on your vehicle.
Even in a car with a petrol or diesel engine you’ll see the weather has an affect on your battery life as all vehicles are less efficient during the cold winter weather. Batteries perform best in heat because the cold inhibits the flow of electrons within them and to the rest of the vehicle. This is why winter is the most common time to experience a flat battery.
Electric vehicles are usually much more efficient than a combustion engine, however a lot of energy with a traditional engine is converted into heat meaning you need to use less of the vehicle’s power to heat the vehicle. Whereas in an EV you’ll need to dedicate battery power towards heating and clearing the windscreen.
An electric car may also have a heating / cooling system to keep the battery at the optimum temperature as well which will usually be needed in the colder weather. Again, this additional drain on the power can reduce the mileage range.
Not only does cold weather have an impact on your vehicle but the warm weather can also affect your range as you’re more likely to turn on the AC which uses more power. Or you might open the windows which can increase the drag on the vehicle meaning it needs more power to achieve the same speeds.
Wind can affect your range even if you don’t have the windows open. Driving into a headwind means the car needs more power to reach the same speed, so if you are driving in wind for a long period of time then there might be a decrease in the range you can achieve.
Though there’s little that you can do about the weather it’s important to be aware of the impact it can have on mileage range when looking at a new EV.
Like with all vehicles the heavier load you are carrying the more energy the car needs to use to move, so for an EV the heavier the car is the lower your range will be.
Though it does have an impact, the weight of the vehicle should not significantly reduce the mileage you can achieve on one charge but we do recommend bearing in mind that when you’re making a long trip with a car full you might not get the same range as you usually do.
Another thing to note is that if your driving style includes frequent acceleration and heavy braking as mentioned above you might see the weight of the vehicle have a larger impact, as you will repeatedly be needing more energy.
Using ancillary features like the radio, windscreen wipers, heating, air conditioning and even the vehicle’s lights will use power. These features will use up some of the energy that is usually factored into the mileage range available and so there may be a slight drop in your achievable range if you are constantly using the air conditioning or heating.
As the impact is minimal we recommend still using these features as you usually would but just bearing in mind that you might lose a few miles from the advertised range because of them.
Although EVs do not typically have as much wear and tear on them as traditional combustion engines due to the lack of clutch and transmissions there is one area where they experience just as much wear as a petrol or diesel car – the tyres.
We recommend regularly checking your tyres anyway, and you can see the checks you need to make here, as having tyres in a good condition not only keeps you and your passengers safe but can also increase the efficiency of the vehicle, giving you more miles for your charge.
As well as the weather affecting the power your EV battery can provide its condition also has an impact.
Just like the battery in a car with a traditional combustion engine it ages and goes through numerous charge cycles which can lead to the energy storage available decreasing. Because of the technology used to make modern EV batteries this is not something to be concerned about when looking to purchase a new vehicle but is something to keep in mind if you see the mileage available slowly decrease over the years.
The range that a vehicle is advertised with is achievable, though this is only if you’re very careful with your driving style, how heavy your vehicle is, the condition of the vehicle and our other factors mentioned above. With this in mind, we think that you should realistically expect to achieve around 80 – 90% of the advertised range without having to restrict yourself on passengers or load, driving habits or road use.
For more information on electric and hybrid cars head back to our EV guide section or if you have any questions give us a call on 0330 221 0000.
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