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Electric car range anxiety – EV range on a single charge

Range anxiety is common with electric cars. Read more about the average electric car range and how far an EV can go on a single charge.

Where petrol and diesel cars have mileage, electric cars have range. But does the average electric car’s range cover as many miles as a tank full of petrol? And can you drive a long distance in an electric car without running out of battery? Let’s find out.

What does electric car range mean?

How far an electric car can travel on a single charge is called its range. Many electric cars now have ranges in the region of 250 miles. An Audi E-tron GT, for example, has a maximum range of 298 miles, while a Mercedes EQC comes with a maximum range of 259 miles.
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 charge 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 sat-nav. It’s like the fuel light coming on in a car.
Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X electric cars
Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X

What is the range for hybrids?

Hybrid cars run on both, battery and an internal combustion engine. If you’ve got a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) like a Range Rover P400e or BMW 530e, 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 like Fiat 500 MHEV or Hyundai Tucson MHEV, 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. Learn more about hybrids.
Tesla electric car charging
Tesla charging

Charging on long distance journeys

If you’re going on a long-distance trip, you’ll need to recharge your electric car the same way you’d need to refuel a petrol or diesel car after a certain number of miles. The only difference is that an EV requires slightly more planning in terms of where to recharge it and the total time to refuel.
An electric car battery takes longer to refill than a convention fuel tank, even if you’re using rapid chargers, so longer journeys will require a bit more planning. Before you set off, you should work out where the most convenient charging points are on your journey. There are plenty of sites that will show you the location of charging points and plan a route that allows for charging along the way. Many service stations on motorways now feature multiple charging points, as do larger supermarkets.
Mercedes Benz EQC electric car
Mercedes Benz EQC
MG ZS EV electric car
MG ZS EV

Should I use a Rapid charger?

Rapid chargers can give you up to 80% power in less than an hour. They do this throwing around 50kW of power at your car.
As such, not all cars support rapid charging. Always check whether your car supports rapid charging before you try and plug it in - you risk damaging the car’s wiring and computer if you overwhelm it with power. Even if it is supported, using rapid chargers too often can reduce the life of your battery. This is because rapid charging generates more heat, which affects the battery. There aren’t as many rapid chargers in the UK as there are other types, so you may need to detour to reach them on occasion. Final note: rocking up with 1% battery only to find all the chargers are in use is just asking for trouble. If you’re sensible with your battery, you’ll find it hard to wind up stranded.
White Nissan Leaf electric car
Nissan Leaf

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 chargers 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. As of 1 July 2021, there were 19,823 normal EV chargers and 4,551 rapid chargers available to the UK public, according to DfT.

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.
Audi E Tron electric car
Audi E Tron
Audi E Tron electric car interior
Audi E Tron interior

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.

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.
Renault Zoe electric car
Renault Zoe
Polestar 2 electric car
Polestar 2

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.

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.

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