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What to Expect from Electric Car Range Now, and Over Time

How far can you drive that new electric car you’ve been thinking of buying? And how far will you be able to drive it in a few years’ time, when its battery pack has aged?

Like gasoline cars, electric cars are given official gas mileage ratings from the Environmental Protection Agency. As well as providing the controversial Miles Per Gallon Equivalent (MPGe) ratings for each plug-in car, the E.P.A. also lists a miles per charge figure— or how much range you can expect per charge.

Here are the range ratings for a few popular EVs:

Car Range
2013 Mitsubishi i 62 Miles
2013 Nissan LEAF 75 Miles
2013 Toyota RAV4 EV 103 Miles
2013 Tesla Model S (85kWh) 265 Miles

Real-world range

Before getting excited however, you should know that these figures are for guidance only.

That’s because the E.P.A. tests take place not on a real road, but on a dynamometer—or ‘rolling road’—in a laboratory. Each car follows the strict urban, and extra-urban test cycle, accelerating, cruising, slowing down and stopping at pre-defined points. The test results are then used to calculate official fuel economy and range figures.

How much it will differ from official ratings depends on:

The terrain, condition and type of roads you drive on.
How smoothly you drive
How much weight, in passengers and cargo, your car is carrying.
The weather.
The overall condition of your car, especially your tires.
How old your car’s battery pack is.

Colder weather, higher-speed driving, and hilly terrain will all reduce your car’s real-world range per charge. Driving smoothly and at a lower top speed on flat roads in warmer weather will give you the best range per charge.
The Aging Problem

Here’s something else you need to consider: over time, your car’s battery pack, like the ones found in your laptop, slowly lose capacity. How quickly depends on a host of different factors, including climate, driving style and recharging patterns.


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