What is the real world range of an electric car?

By | 17th April 2017


I like electric cars – the quietness, smoothness and torque are much better than traditional cars.

Indeed, the current hybrid I drive IS an electric car in certain situations.

I have looked into full-electric cars to see if sometime in the future a second-hand one might be suitable.

Looking at the figures, it is only now that we are starting to see suitable affordable cars and it may be another 2 years or so before new full-electric cars become capable of handling typical needs.

Just like traditional cars, range and economy are quoted using a standard formula – but this assumes good driving conditions.

I know from driving my hybrid that fuel economy drops 10% in the winter, and that the normal economy of 55mpg summer/50mpg winter is some way from the official economy figure of around 80mpg.

For electric cars, many manufacturers have included calculators on their website – until you drive one on your own roads and with your own style you won’t know the actual range but you can maybe get an idea of real world range if you change some variables:

1) Speed 70mph – if your trip includes motorways then this should be assumed.

2) Temperature 0C – in the winter after the car has been left outside overnight.

3) Heating/AC on – who would buy an expensive car and sit there shivering or sweating?

Using these variables, I get the below results:

22kW battery – 58 mile range (vs official 96 mile range)

40kW battery – 105 mile range (vs official 173 mile range)

60kW battery – 172 mile range (vs official 267 mile range)

So, for many people a 60kW battery should be sufficient for most needs – assuming a percentage drop off and/or maybe not a full charge, you should have a good 140 mile range.

Allowing for a safety reserve of 20 miles, that still gives a range of 120 miles.

If affordable 60kW cars come onto the market in the next few years, provided the batteries do not degrade excessively, then 3 years afterwards they could indeed provide a suitable replacement car in the future.

However, for longer trips, full-electric cars do have some way to go – my hybrid hatchback with a small petrol tank has a minimum 350 mile range with a 20+ mile reserve on top.

James McBrearty started his own business from scratch in 2006, to help the self-employed.

He helps people to escape from the corporate world and shares his thoughts here on the changing world of work, technology and personal finances; as well as the occasional travel post.

Over the next 10 years things are going to change significantly. James is a follower of frugality and minimalism; and an advocate of F.I.R.E. to minimise the coming disruption.

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