How much electric car battery life is enough?

Although, as we have shown in previous articles and will expand on in future articles, electric vehicle prices, energy consumption and ownership costs can vary significantly from model to model. . But the most critical number for many buyers is the distance a given electric vehicle can travel on a full charge.

Buying an electric vehicle that offers enough range to meet your needs can mean the difference between happily driving a zero-emissions vehicle that never has to visit a gas station, and finding yourself stranded on the edge of the road with a discharged battery.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, Americans average about 1,000 miles per month, which works out to about 40 miles per day and makes even today’s short-range EV practical for most motorists’ daily use. Still, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and pick a model that can go the farthest distance you can afford, with 220-volt Level 2 home charging being essential. It’s no fun having to drive with one eye on the road and the other on the car’s charge status indicator.

Fortunately, battery technology is developing rapidly and car manufacturers are pushing the proverbial limits in terms of operating range. For the 2022 model year, only a few of the less expensive models, including the Mazda MX-30, Mini Cooper SE and the base version of the Nissan Leaf, can go less than 200 miles before needing to be strapped to the network. Most EVs land in the 200- and 300-mile ranges, with the top model of the new-for-2022 Lucid Air crossing the 500-mile mark.

Unfortunately, given the still high cost of electric vehicle batteries, which are about a third of a vehicle’s cost, the longest-range models tend to be luxury brand models that fetch the highest prices. These can approach, and in a few cases exceed, six figures, with the aforementioned Lucid Air hitting $170,650.

So the big question here is deciding what range a particular buyer can afford to meet the individual’s needs without having to pay top dollar for miles that, in most cases, might never be tapped.

Those who work from home, have short trips, and/or use a vehicle primarily for city use can live happily ever after with one of the less expensive, shorter-range models that can both save money. both upfront and ongoing in terms of affordable operating costs. The Nissan Leaf S, for example, is estimated at 149 miles on a charge and starts at around $21,000, and that’s before deducting the one-time federal tax credit of $7,500 given to eligible buyers, plus any national/local incentives that may apply.

Official EV range estimates, as well as equivalent “fuel economy” ratings (expressed in terms of the “MPG-e” equivalent formula) for all EVs sold in the United States, past and present , are published on the Environmental Protection Agency’s fueleconomy.gov website. We analyze them for current models at the end of this article.

Keep in mind that EV range estimates are averages based on instrumented laboratory analysis performed under strictly controlled conditions. As with gasoline-powered cars, a motorist’s actual range can be very different depending on various circumstances. As they say, your mileage may vary.

For starters, hauling a full load of passengers and cargo, riding on under-inflated tires, and traversing steep terrain will tend to wear out the power cells at a faster rate. Contrary to what we expect with gas-powered cars, electric vehicles consume kilowatts faster when driven at highway speeds than in traffic jams. Towing is also a range breaker. As a wave of full-size electric pickup trucks hits the market, led by the Ford F-150 Lightning, GMC Hummer EV and Rivian R1T that offer strong towing capabilities, published reports indicate that towing a full load can result in an effective reduction of 50% or more of an estimated operating range.

Additionally, an electric car tends to travel fewer miles on a charge when subjected to extreme temperatures, especially when the air conditioning system is on. Research by the AAA found that when the mercury dips to 20°F and the vehicle heater is used, the average range of an electric vehicle drops by 41%, although other tests put it at a lower percentage. While gasoline engines tend to generate large amounts of heat that can be used to warm a car’s interior, an electric vehicle must rely 100% on electricity to keep its toes toasty warm.

Cold temperatures adversely affect both a battery’s performance and its ability to accept a charge. Freezing temperatures also limit an electric vehicle’s so-called regenerative braking, which recovers energy that would otherwise be lost when decelerating or stopping and returns it to the battery. Simply put, you’ll drive fewer miles and it will take longer to charge the vehicle when temperatures drop. Owners can also expect an electric vehicle’s battery range to suffer in the summer as well, dropping an average of 17% with the air conditioning on, according to the AAA.

Those intending to keep an EV for the long term will also want to consider that an EV battery will lose some of its ability to hold a full measure of kilowatts over time, but gradually, at each charge and discharge cycle. . Excessive use of public level 3 DC fast charging stations can further impair a battery’s long-term performance. Electric cars kept in warmer climates can be expected to lose miles per charge somewhat faster than those living in more temperate regions.

Losing 10-20% capability on the road on a new model that’s estimated to go 300 miles or more on a charge is remarkable, but not necessarily debilitating. On the other hand, losing so much capacity on, say, an older model with an 80-100 mile range can be considered pronounced. As it stands, the cost of replacing a dead battery after several years of use would likely cost the owner more than the vehicle is worth, although he hopes the cost will come down over time. Fortunately, the batteries of all electric cars sold in the United States are covered by a warranty of at least eight years or 100,000 miles against total failure (which is rare) or a drop in specified capacity.

The basic advice here would be to shop for a model that can accomplish at least 50% or more miles on a charge as one would travel in a typical day or two to avoid any nasty surprises down the road.

And while most electric vehicles are sufficient for modest trips and excursions, taking a long road trip with even the longest models requires careful planning. Routes should be based on locations of public stations along the way with level 3 DC fast chargers which can be low battery to 80% charge in around 45 minutes. Electric vehicle owners can locate charging stations anywhere in the United States through several websites and smartphone apps. reputation for being used or even inoperative when needed.

Those who frequently visit friends and relatives out of town, or who otherwise travel beyond the range of a given electric vehicle, may want to keep a gasoline or hybrid model to fuel up for. is as close as the nearest gas station and is much faster to achieve. Renting a fuel-efficient internal combustion model for the family’s annual trip is also a viable option.

That said, here’s a rundown of the operating ranges estimated by the EPA at the time of writing this article for current EVs, ranked from bottom to top:

  • Mazda MX-30: 100 miles
  • Mini Cooper SE: 114 miles
  • Nissan Leaf: 148-226 miles
  • Audi e-tron S: 181-212 miles
  • Porsche Taycan: 200-227 miles
  • Audi e-tron: 218-222 miles
  • Hyundai Ioniq 5: 220-303 miles
  • Ford F-150 Lightning: 230-300 miles
  • Volvo XC40 recharge: 223 miles
  • Ford Mustang Mach-E: 224-314 miles
  • Volvo C40 recharge: 226 miles
  • Kia EV6: 232-310 miles
  • Jaguar i-Pace: 234 miles
  • Audi e-tron GT: 238 miles
  • Kia Niro electric: 239 miles
  • Volkswagen ID.4: 240-260 miles
  • Audi Q4: 241-250 miles
  • Tesla Model Y: 244-330 miles
  • Chevrolet Bolt EUV: 247 miles
  • Polestar 2: 249-270 miles
  • Hyundai Kona Electric: 258 miles
  • Chevrolet Bolt EV: 259 miles
  • Nissan Ariya: 265-300 miles
  • BMW i4: 270-301 miles
  • Tesla Model 3: 272-358 miles
  • Cadillac Lyriq: 300 miles
  • Tesla Model X: 311-348 miles
  • Rivian R1T: 314 miles
  • BMW iX: 324 miles
  • GMC Hummer Electric: 329 miles
  • Mercedes-Benz EQS: 340-350 miles
  • Tesla Model S: 348-405 miles
  • Lucid Air: 451-520 miles

Then come the numbers: what it costs to insure and maintain an electric vehicle.

Back To Top