The last three years have seen dramatic progress in the typical range you can expect from an electric vehicle (EV) on a single charge. Where once official ranges were typically around 125 miles - and in reality much less than that - today several mass market EVs more than double that figure. The range of many of the latest models is therefore sufficient to cover most people's day-to-day driving needs.
Considering both new and older pure-EVs, typical ranges are anything from 100 to 300 miles. It all depends on the model you choose and its year of registration, as EV technology significantly improves year-on-year. In general, non-premium EV models dating back more than three years are capable of around 100 miles, while a one-to-two year old model will be able to cover 130 to 180 miles, and the latest EVs can deliver between 180 and 300 miles comfortably.
It is important to bear in mind the difference between official and real-world range. The laboratory test figures are always more than drivers actually achieve, with real-world ranges typically 20% less than the test data suggests. This guide provides an overview of what ranges you can expect for different types of pure-EV, with guidance on both official and real range estimates.
As the name indicates, city cars are designed for short trips about town and as such have the lowest range of all EVs. Their compact size means they simply don't have much room for large battery packs. The typical official range is around 100 miles on a single charge, though in reality that's likely to be closer to 80 miles in summer with air-con on full, or even as low as 60 miles in winter with the heater on its max setting.
New electric models in this segment include the Volkswagen e-up! and Smart range, and among used compact EVs you will find the likes of the Citroen C-Zero, Peugeot Ion and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Although ranges are at the low end, these EVs are still more than sufficient for most urban journeys. In fact, in many ways the high efficiency of electric vehicles makes them ideally suited to stop-start congested driving conditions usually encountered in a built-up area.
Among the best-selling types of car in the UK, superminis are small/medium sized vehicles - think Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo. Many EVs fit into this category, with the most popular in this class being the BMW i3 and Renault ZOE. The i3 is already on its second update, doubling the original range, and has until recently been available as both pure-EV and range-extended (REX) version, the latter having a very compact petrol engine to top-up the battery.
The first generation supermini EVs typically had official ranges of around 120 miles, the second generation around 185 miles and the latest versions almost 220 miles. They're capable of less in reality, however - so plan for 85 miles, 130 miles, and 180 miles respectively. The newest BMW i3, for example, is quoted at 223 miles with a real-world range of around 180 miles easily achieved. The earlier version of the Renault ZOE has an official 150 mile range and the newer version 250 miles, with some variation depending on motor type. Again, expect real-world ranges of around 115 and 200 miles respectively.
For those who need more space, there are several excellent electric versions within the traditional family hatchback segment. Models like Nissan's LEAF, now a global best-seller, Hyundai's Ioniq Electric and an electric version of the Volkswagen Golf (e-Golf) mean practical hatches are now available with zero tailpipe emissions.
Each of these models has developed rapidly in range and quality during the last few years. The LEAF's original 24 kWh battery (125 miles official, 95 miles real) was first increased to 30 kWh (155 miles official, 125 miles real) and then 40 kWh in the current version (235 miles official, 185 miles real). The e-Golf has seen its official range increase from 120 miles to more than 180 miles, with real world estimates of around 95 miles and 150 miles respectively, with the Ioniq Electric covering a similar distance on one charge. Expect more models to be launched in 2019 with e-ranges approaching 200 miles real-world.
The fastest growing vehicle segment in the UK is the 'Crossover', essentially smaller Sports Utility Vehicles, or 'SUVs', and EVs. Put these two segments together and the result makes for a very attractive car package, combining larger size with longer range. Until recently, the Kia Soul EV led with this perfect combo using a unique battery chemistry (lithium polymer) giving an official range of 155 miles, around 125 miles on real roads.
However, two new entrants now lead the way: the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia e-Niro, both offering car buyers a range of battery sizes from which to choose. At the lower end, the ranges match those of the latest family hatchbacks (150-185 miles real-world as mentioned above). Opt for a bigger battery and these ranges stretch to around the 300 mile mark (official) which equates to around 275 miles on real roads, far enough to meet the needs of most drivers for most of the time.
The premium market is currently dominated by Tesla with its class-leading Model S saloon and Model X SUV. Both models have official ranges of around 300 miles providing at least 250 miles in reality, with smaller battery pack options available on lower priced versions. However, Tesla is already being challenged by Jaguar's well received I-Pace which has a similar driving range. Next year will also see UK launches of premium EVs from the likes of Audi, Porsche and Mercedes with real driving ranges between 250 to 300 miles.
Clearly, then, the notion that electric cars are only capable of driving short distances between charges is no longer true. Advances in battery technology and, more importantly, reductions in battery prices, which have fallen by more than 70% in the past five years, mean that affordable EVs can now cover significant distances on a single charge. As these trends continue, expect the number of models and brands, as well as drivable range, to grow significantly over the next few years.