Electric car test: Maximum range and consumption

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Our exhaustive EV range test discovers which popular electric cars can drive the furthest on a single charge and what the consumption per kilometre is.

The line from the car industry is that the latest official range tests (called WLTP) are reflective of real-world driving, so you can rely on them when choosing an electric car to suit your needs. But is that really true?

To find out, our exclusive partners in the UK lined up ten fully electric cars including the latest Audi Q4 e-tron, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Mazda MX-30 and drove them until they died. We’ve put in a request for the Nissan Leaf, Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 and Kona for next time, although the Kia e-Niro is indicative of the latter.

Real-world driving range test results for electric cars

Make Model Wheel size Useable battery WLTP claim (Km) Test Range (Km) Shortfall Km per kWh*
Mustang Mach-E Extended RWD 18-inch 88kWh 610 486 20.2% 5.5
Tesla Model 3 Long Range 19-inch 70kWh 579 457 21.1% 6.6
Porsche Taycan 4S Plus 20-inch 83.7kWh 467** 452 3.0% 5.5
Audi Q4 e-tron 40 S 20-inch 77kWh 496 428 13.6% 5.6
Kia e-Niro
17-inch 64kWh 454 414 8.5% 6.4
VW ID 3 Pro  18-inch 58kWh 425 364 14.2% 6.3
Renault Zoe  16-inch 52kWh 383 335 12.4% 6.4
Skoda Enyaq 60 20-inch 58kWh 409** 333 18.3% 5.8
Fiat 500  17-inch 37.3kWh 319** 225 29.2% 6.1
Mazda MX-30 18-inch 30kWh 200 185 7.1% 6.1
*Based on useable battery size **With test car’s non-standard wheels, which affect range

How we did it

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For fairly obvious reasons, it wouldn’t have been safe to deliberately run the cars out of charge on the public road, so we used our proving ground in Bedfordshire in the UK.

We devised a relatively simple test route of around 24km, which included 4.2km of simulated stop-start urban driving, four miles at a steady 80kph and 13km at a constant 110kph. The rationale for the high percentage of motorway driving was that drivers who want to travel a long distance in one hit are likely to be using the freeway network.

The cars were fully charged and then left out in the open overnight – for roughly 15 hours in 13-18deg C ambient conditions. The following morning, all 10 were plugged in again to check they were fully charged before the climate control was set to 21deg and the headlights switched to auto.

Normal (or the closest equivalent) driving mode was selected (no Eco modes were allowed) and the cars were left in their default regenerative braking setting – with the exception of the Porsche Taycan, in which the default setting is off. Auto was chosen instead.

The cars were then driven repeatedly around our test route in convoy, with driver changes and a switch in running order at the end of each lap.

It was a relatively mild day with a mixture of sun and cloud and an air temperature of between 17deg C and 24deg. It was relatively still and there was no rain at all. In other words, it was near-ideal conditions for these electric cars.

The winners and losers

Unsurprisingly, the car with the smallest battery, the MX-30, was first to bow out at just 185km. On the plus side, that mileage was only 7% adrift of the car’s official range, although efficiency (in terms of km per kWh) was respectable rather than spectacular.

Next to fall was the Fiat 500, notching up 225km. That result is particularly disappointing when you consider that officially it can cover 319km. Indeed, it’s a shortfall of almost 30% – the greatest of any car in the test by a sizeable margin.

Every other contender managed at least 300km, with the Zoe (which differed from the old Australian model in that it was the latest 52kWh battery model) beating the similar-priced Skoda Enyaq by two kays. The Zoe proved far more efficient, too, although that’s hardly surprising, given that it’s a much smaller, lighter car.

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