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|
|VW ID 3 Pro||18-inch||58kWh||425||364||14.2%||6.3|
|Skoda Enyaq 60||20-inch||58kWh||409**||333||18.3%||5.8|
*Based on useable battery size **With test car’s non-standard wheels, which affect range
How we did it
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.
It’s also worth noting that the Enyaq is available with a larger battery; the Enyaq 80 is closely related to the Q4 e-tron 40 and is likely to have a similar real-world range to that car.
If you consider range versus price, the Volkswagen ID 3 looks very appealing indeed. The version we tested (our favourite) costs less than $50k in Europe (not details for Australia yet), and yet it kept going for 364km.
Meanwhile, excellent efficiency of 6.4km per kWh saw the Kia e-Niro almost match the range of the new Q4 e-tron, although the latter’s much larger battery ultimately won the day.
Perhaps the most surprising result of all was the Taycan’s test range of 452km – only 15km (or 3%) short of its official range. It was (by a fraction) the least efficient of the bunch, averaging just under 5.5km per kWh – but then it is an incredibly capable performance car with fat, sticky tyres and acceleration that can embarrass even the Tesla Model 3.
But the Model 3 edged the Taycan for range, managing 457km before conking out, thanks to the best efficiency (6.6km per kWh) of the entire bunch. It also had by far the biggest emergency buffer, continuing to drive normally for many miles after its trip computer was reading empty.
Ultimately, though, the car with the biggest battery won the day. The Ford Mustang Mach-E may not be particularly efficient in the way it uses its energy, but it has so much of it, it easily broke the 450km barrier before grinding to a halt at 486km. That’s impressive.
On the other hand, the Mach-E fell 20% short of its official range of 610km – and don’t forget, our tests were carried out in close to ideal conditions. On a cold, rainy day the potential range of any of these cars would be much lower.
So, the answer to the question we posed at the start? The official figures shouldn’t automatically be relied upon when choosing your first (or next) electric car.