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Turns out electric car EPA ratings are wrong, in the right way

Though some electric cars exceeded expectation more than others, the overall results reveal that there might be something off about EV range ratings.

There is still a lot that we’re learning about alternative fuels. Part of this is simply because the technology keeps changing, but it seems that we don’t always necessarily understand the best ways to use this technology. The recent Ford mpg debacle highlighted just how difficult it can be for the EPA to determine the best way to test certain alternative fuel vehicles. Now an in-depth test of electric vehicles by Edmunds has delivered some rather surprising results. With internal combustion vehicles, city driving will deliver the vehicle’s lowest mileage figures; even with hybrids, this is where real-world testing tends to come up short when compared to EPA ratings. But what Edmunds found was that, in city driving, all of the EVs they tested were able to exceed their EPA range rating.

Some vehicles were closer to the rating than other. The Tesla Model S, for example, which already had far and away the highest range rating, only beat that rating by 4 miles. But the Toyota RAV4 EV was able to go an extra 41 miles. Aerodynamics probably has something to do with this, since the Model S is so much more aerodynamic than the RAV4, the Tesla wouldn’t have been at such a disadvantage for range testing at higher speeds. But in city driving, where the RAV4’s aerodynamic disadvantage plays a smaller role, the results are more favorable. But of course, there are probably other factors at work as well, and it’s possible that we will see a restructuring of EPA EV testing at some point. This does present something of an interesting problem though. While EVs aren’t really road trip cars anyway, it would seem both more relevant to potential buyers and also advantageous from a marketing standpoint for automakers to publish these bigger city driving range numbers. On the other hand, nobody wants to be accused to inflating figures, especially now and especially with electric cars, where an inaccurate number could mean people getting stranded. So is it possible that electric car manufacturers have just been publishing conservative figures as a means of avoiding potential repercussions? We’ll have to wait and see.

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