Range anxiety is a term that popped up at the dawn of electric vehicles, and unfortunately it still hasn’t gone away, despite the fact that electric cars now have greater and greater ranges, and the UK’s infrastructure for charging has developed exponentially, with more public chargers available than petrol stations.
Fear not. With a fitted home charge point (you can read our guide here) you will be able to top-up all you need to for local daily driving, and unless you’re driving to Siberia and beyond, then any long-distance journey across the UK (and Europe) will leave you spoilt for choice for fast (and rapid) public charge points at service stations and car parks etc. (You can also use our charge map here, to find local charge points or plan a journey).
However, for aficionados of efficiency, for those who want to get the most out of their beautiful batteries, then there are many ways to boost your range. And here’s how….
Linda Noble, of the Mission Motorsport hypermilers recently broke a new record of 475 miles in a Renault Zoe – which has a WLTP range of 245 miles (and most people say WLTP figures are way over what is typically achieved). Her main advice was this, to simply drive smoothly. The smoother you drive, the more efficient you get.
It’s the first rule of efficiency club. Keep an even speed, and when you have to slow down do it gradually, and accelerate gradually.
Admittedly Linda tried to keep between 19 and 23mph (for more than 24 hours) in order to achieve the record. And such low speeds aren’t very practical for daily driving, but the smoother and the slower, the better.
It may be tempting to use your EV’s immediate torque for quick take-offs, but to protect your range it’s better to take it easy when accelerating from a standing start.
Avoid high speeds
An electric car doesn’t have gears like a petrol or diesel car, therefore an electric motor driving an EV has to work twice as hard at 70mph, as it does at 35mph. This is why motorway speeds will see the range on an electric car drop more quickly, while free-flowing suburban or town roads is where EVs are at their most efficient.
Try to keep your speed under 60 mph whenever possible, as you use 14% less energy by reducing your speed by 10 mph. If your EV has an “Eco” mode, engage it for more gentle acceleration, and if it has a sport mode that enlivens things then keep it switched off (and save it for your birthday or special occasions).
Maximise regenerative braking
Brake regeneration can be your new best friend. The Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems can harvest charge from gentle braking on descents. When you lift off the accelerator, an EV automatically starts to use the electric motor as a generator to harvest the energy from the car’s natural forward momentum.
The strength of brake regeneration can vary. Many EVs offer a range of settings, so it can feel no different to normal engine braking, or it can be so strong that you barely need to touch the brake pedal at all, if the car has so-called “one pedal driving”, which most now do have.
So quite simply, whenever possible use your EV’s energy-recovering regenerative braking function when you come to a stop, and use the brakes only when its necessary. Turn on your car’s maximum regenerative setting to send extra power back to the car’s batteries when decelerating.
The Energy Saving Trust report states that “energy recapture through regenerative braking is around 10% through normal driving and up to 30% on descents.”
Avoid air-con at low speeds
Air-con is a significant drain on battery. If it’s a hot day, then open the window instead, if you’re driving locally at low speeds. However, if you go above 45mph then the Energy Saving Trust has stated it’s better to have the air-con on for higher speeds and motorway driving, as the aerodynamic drag of an open window at these speeds substantially reduces efficiency.
The Eco driving modes in an EV are also very handy, as they usually deliver reduced air-con functionality, which is a great energy-efficient way to maintain a comfortable temperature.
Be smart with heating
In the winter, turn down the heaters and instead rely on the heated seats and heated steering wheel (if your vehicle has them) to keep things cosy while using far less energy.
Also, pre-heat your car while it’s plugged in so you can use the climate control less while driving. Almost all EVs offer the ability to pre-set the cabin temperature. This means that if you have the car parked and plugged in overnight, it’ll use mains electricity to get the cabin warmed ready for your departure time. Given that the heating can use up to 20% of an EVs battery power in bad weather (nearly a quarter of your potential range), it’s well worth using the pre-sets.
Add a heat pump if you can
A number of the latest EVs offer optional “heat pumps”, including the Volkswagen ID.4 and Skoda Enyaq.
It’s a pricey option, but this more efficient heating technology is estimated to use about 40% less energy than the traditional heating systems used in many EVs. A worthwhile addition if you frequently want to use the car’s full range potential throughout the year. Just make sure you’ll benefit enough to justify the additional cost.
Check your tyres
Linda, the record-breaker mentioned above, simply kept her speed low, driving smooth, didn’t use any other electrics, and used tyres developed to enhance range. She used tyres provided by ENSO; a new tyre company aiming to offer environmentally-friendly road tyres that last longer, emit fewer particulates, and improve EV range. (The other Renault Zoe in the record attempt ran on standard-fit Michelin tyres, yet still managed an impressive 424.7 miles, compared to Linda’s whopping 475 miles).
Check tyre pressure
Other simple things that can help with range include checking your tyre pressures. Low pressures will reduce efficiency.
Sources suggest that over 25% of all vehicles on the road have improperly inflated tyres.
Driving an EV with under-inflated tyres will not only increase its energy consumption, but can lead to uneven and/or premature tread wear.
Check the air pressure frequently using a standard tyre gauge, as it can vary by change in air temperature. Have the tyres properly inflated according to the PSI recommended by the manufacturer. It’s a small effort (or habit) that can make a big difference.
Making sure that you’re not carrying unnecessary weight in the car will help to boost those miles. As any automotive engineer will tell you, reducing a vehicle’s weight is the easiest way to improve its efficiency.
Don’t carry needless weighty objects in the boot, as carrying an additional 100 pounds of cargo can increase a vehicle’s energy consumption by 1-2% percent.
Avoid installing exterior accessories like roof racks and cargo carriers on your EV. Again, the aerodynamic drag on such items create will also cause added energy consumption at higher speeds.
Plan an efficient route
It may take less time to get to your destination by driving on the motorway, but if you want to maximise your car’s range instead you can choose a route that allows you to drive steadily at lower speeds.
Also avoid areas known for heavy traffic. Avoid steep grades too if you can, as they use extra energy, so avoid hilly or mountainous areas if possible.
If your EV has a navigation system that can suggest energy-efficient routes, then try using it.
Time your charge
Try to avoid keeping your car plugged into its charger whenever it’s in the garage. Most EV batteries will slowly self-discharge when they’ve finished charging. So you may be able to recover a few extra miles of range by timing the charge so the battery pack is at full strength just before you hit the road. This can also be beneficial to the battery’s long-term health, and if your electricity provider offers a lower rate for off-peak use, it can save you money if the charge happens at the time. Furthermore, it can coincide with heating (or cooling) the car to the temperature you want for your journey.
A winter warning
While there isn’t much you can do about it (apart from save your road trips for spring and summer) it’s worth knowing that very cold weather can reduce the maximum range of your electric car by some 20-40%. Therefore during very cold winter days you can expect decreased range, and this may be something to keep in mind.
While we’ve listed quite a few points here, that might feel like quite a balancing act, in reality the only time you might want to really preserve your range is if you are doing an exceptionally long journey and want to minimise the stops.
The simple rules are drive smoothly, don’t accelerate or brake too heavily, avoid air-con and heating if you can (use pre-sets if you’ll need heating) and use the eco settings to get maximum gains from your brake regeneration system, which all add up to deliver big gains in EV efficiency and range.
Find the right car for you
You can find out about the range, and quick charge time, and battery credentials, and just about everything else, for all-electric cars on our site. And if you’re not sure which one you like, then use our EV finder tool, to input your preferences, to create a bespoke list just for you, of electric cars that will suit your needs. If you find any you like, you can book a test drive or get a quote through us.