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What is an electric car range?

How far an electric car can travel on a single charge is called its range. An electric car’s range can depend on how charged it was when you set off and the size of the battery, but can also be affected by your driving style, which of the car’s features you have switched on, and even the weather.

You can learn more about electric car batteries here.

What is range anxiety?

‘Range anxiety’ is the fear that an electric car will run out of charge halfway through a journey, and that you’ll be stranded on the roadside.

For reference, the average distance of a car journey is around ten miles in the UK and most new electric cars have an average range of up to 250 miles; so you should be OK for most daily journeys if you’re fully charged when you set off.

Most, if not all, new electric cars will tell you the percentage of charge left in the battery, and what the equates to in miles, approximately. Most will also send a warning when it’s time to top up, and offer to direct you to the nearest charging point via the car’s satnav. It’s like the fuel light coming on in a car.
Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X electric cars

Are there enough charging points in the UK?

There are thousands of charging points publicly available in the UK, with plans to build a lot (and we mean a lot) more – 10,000 new charging points popped up in 2019 alone.

You’ll need to find ones compatible with your car if you’re going on a long journey, but most cars use Type 2 connectors and CCS or CHAdeMO rapid charging connectors, which are compatible with the majority of charging points.

You can learn more about charging your electric car here.
Tesla electric car charging

What if my electric car battery goes flat?

Just like any other car, you’ll have to pull up somewhere and call for roadside assistance.

Your car won’t suddenly switch off and leave you in the middle of the motorway, you’ll have all sorts of alerts telling you to pull into the hard shoulder.

Once you’re safely parked, you’ll have to call for breakdown assistance. In most cases, they’ll tow you to the nearest charge point (or your destination, if that’s closer) as few operators have recharging facilities.

If you’ve never run out of fuel in your current car, you’re not likely to start running out in an EV. If anything, electric car drivers are more conscious of their car’s range.
Mercedes Benz EQC electric car
MG ZS EV electric car

How can I extend my electric car’s range?

So now we know your car is unlikely to run out of charge unless you ignore every signal, and that you’ll get breakdown cover even if you do.

But how do you get the most range / mileage? Well, there are a few ways to extend your electric car’s range:

• Take a more efficient route. Try to maintain a constant speed as much as possible (within the speed limit), with limited accelerating or braking so you’re using as little electricity as possible. If you can take the motorway, consider it as you should be able to eke more miles from your battery by staying between 60 and 70mph, although remember that you don’t get much regenerative braking on the motorway, which restores some charge to your battery.

• Engage eco mode. Most electric cars have an ‘eco’ mode, which will limit acceleration and top speed, and increase the amount of regenerative braking, so this will give you a few more miles.

• Save battery for just driving. Remember, everything in your car takes energy from the battery, so if you do a journey with the air conditioning on, the stereo blaring, and the heated seats activated, you’ll take away power that could get you an extra few miles.

• Minimise weight in the car. Extra weight can drain a car’s range, so pack accordingly.

• Carry a charging cable. Not all public charging points provide cables, so keep one in your car in case you’re caught without.
Nissan Leaf electric car

Can weather affect an electric car’s range?

Weather can impact on an electric car’s range. Cold weather can hinder the flow of electrons in the battery, and you’ll likely be using the battery more to keep the car (and yourself) warm.

That said, manufacturers like Nissan and Tesla are said to be working on thermal management systems that minimise the effects of extreme temperatures.

It’s also worth pointing out that petrol and diesel vehicles also suffer from lower fuel efficiency at colder temperatures. You won’t be able to travel as far without refuelling in winter, regardless of your vehicle type.

What is the range for hybrids?

If you’ve got a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), then your car will switch over to petrol or diesel when the battery runs low on charge. You’d have to drain both the battery and the tank to get stuck.

If you have a mild hybrid, then your car will use petrol or diesel as a preference and back this up with electric power for extra boost. Check our guide to fuel types for more of an explanation.

That said, you’ll save a considerable amount of money on fuel if you can keep your hybrid topped up with electricity.
Audi E Tron electric car
Audi E Tron electric car interior

Real world range versus official range

Historically, you’d find a bit of a difference between the range a car claimed it could do (the official range) and the range it could actually do (the real-world range).

This is because the old tests allowed the car to be driven in favourable, even unrealistic settings e.g. with heating, air con and lights switched off, and even door mirrors removed to reduce drag.

Since the industry adopted Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) standards, you’ll find the real-world range and official range are much closer because the way they are tested is more accurate and reflective of real-world driving. WLTP tests are still done in a lab though, so there may be a slight difference.

Will electric car range improve?

Yes, electric car range has already vastly improved over the last couple of years, and innovation in battery technology means it will continue to improve. Now could be a great time to invest in an electric car or hybrid, and the future of EVs is looking brighter still.
Renault Zoe electric car
Polestar 2 electric car