Electric Car Range

recharge an electric car
Recharging the Mitsubishi i MiEV
electric car

You can't discuss electric cars for very long before the discussion focuses on the electric car range. Wherever you go around the world, it is the number one concern that non-electric vehicle owners have about owning an electric car.

The reality is quite often very different from the perception. Many electric car owners will actually describe the freedom they feel that every time they go out to their cars in the morning. They know they have enough 'fuel' to go wherever they want to without the hassle and cost of visiting the filling station to refuel.

One electric car owner explains it like this: "It takes me nine seconds to charge up my electric car. That's the time it takes to plug it in when I get home. The next time I need to use the car, it is charged up."

How far can an electric car go?

The majority of battery powered cars that are available today have a range of between 40 miles (65km) and 100 miles (160km), which is far more than most people travel on a regular basis:

How do I recharge an electric car?

For most electric cars, the 'charging point' required is usually a standard domestic power socket. Many electric car owners have been able to arrange to plug in to charge up their cars when they are at their destination (such as at work), thereby removing any range concerns and enabling them to travel further.

A full charge from a domestic socket typically takes between 5 and 10 hours, depending on both the car and the country (North America has 110v mains supply whereas the rest of the world has a 220v supply which can charge up electric cars faster). Many electric cars can provide an 80% charge in around 2-2½ hours from a domestic socket.

Some cars can also be fast charged using a dedicated charging point. These charging points provide a much higher current in order to charge up batteries faster. A fast charge typically allows your vehicle to be charged to 80%%% of its capacity within 30-45 minutes.

What electric car owners think about range

It is interesting to compare the concerns that non-electric car owners have about range with the perceptions that existing electric car owners have about range:

If you are regularly travelling a longer distance between two points, between home and work for example, having a charging point at your destination may solve the problem. For instance, if you have an electric car with a range of 80 miles (130km), you can double this range if you can charge the car up again at your destination.

Several electric car owners use their cars for lots of short journeys throughout the day. The combined distance travelled during the day can be far greater than the range of the car if the car can be plugged in and recharged whenever it is parked.

What if I need to go further?

Of course, there are always people who have to regularly travel longer distances to different locations in their cars and for these people a better solution may be a hybrid, or a range extended electric car once these become available.

If you only need a long distance car occasionally, once a month or so, there are solutions available to you. Manufacturers and governments are both working hard to provide solutions for people who may need to travel longer distances on an occasional basis:

How realistic are manufacturers claims on range?

As with any other vehicle, economy figures depend on how you drive the vehicle. If you drive everywhere as fast as possible, you will not get the same range as you will if you drive economically.

However, there are other factors that do make a difference to the electric car range. Running heating or air conditioning will make a difference (although some electric cars have a diesel powered heater) but less obviously ambient temperature can also make a difference. Batteries perform better in warm weather than they do in very cold conditions.

Using lights or radio in the car will make very little difference to range. These ancillaries use relatively insignificant amounts of electricity compared to the amount of energy used by the electric motor.

Most manufacturers are wary of claiming unfeasibly long ranges for their cars, as to do so would damage customer confidence in their products but it is also true that to achieve the maximum range, some drivers have to adjust their driving styles and techniques in order to achieve them. These adjustments are not difficult and many people adopt them without even being aware that they have done so.

What range do I need?

As a general guide, you should choose an electric car with a range at least one third more than you believe you will travel between charges. If possible, you should choose an electric car with double the range than you expect to need.

For instance, if you need to travel 25 miles (40km) a day and do not have the facility to recharge during the day, you need to choose a car with a range of at least 38 miles (60km) and preferably 50 miles (80km).

Having this extra range means that you should comfortably be able to travel as far as you need each day, no matter what happens:

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The 2011 Electric Car Guide

The 2011 Electric Car Guide

The book is available from Amazon and all main bookshops

For a taster, why not read the first chapter of the book.