Battery technology and charging infrastructure is constantly improving, quickly turning EVs from niche vehicles to a viable replacements to combustion-engined cars. But how far you can drive between top-ups is still a valid concern.
Manufacturer range estimates vary wildly, and aren’t always achievable in everyday driving conditions – so how far can you really go on a single charge? Automotive Daily’s partner What Car? puts every electric car through a range test, measuring exactly what kind of distance you can achieve in the real world.
The ten cars listed here have the longest range capability of all the electric cars we have tested to date.
1. Hyundai Kona Electric, 417km
Our current long-distance champion for electric range isn’t the car with the biggest battery, and nor is it the most expensive. That it comes from a mainstream brand rather than a luxury one a speaks volumes for EV adoption.
When we road tested the Kona Electric last year, we said it offered “the most compelling blend of usability and affordability yet seen in an EV,” and with a real-world range of over 400km from a 64kWh battery, it bests premium names like Tesla, Jaguar and Audi.
In fact, its combination of price, performance and popular compact crossover bodystyle have proved so in demand that Hyundai is struggling to meet demand.
2. Jaguar I-Pace, 407km
As the first European carmaker to release a premium model to challenge the likes of Tesla, Jaguar beat its closest rivals to the punch, while also setting a high bar for them to follow. It is a true driver’s car that happens to be powered by electricity, with impressive amounts of acceleration and the kind of handling you expect from the brand.
With a 90kWh battery powering its twin electric motors, the I-Pace achieves a real-world range of 407km. That narrowly puts it into second place behind the Kona Electric, but with support for faster DC rapid charging, it may spend less time plugged into a compatible charging point to regain any lost range.
3. Tesla Model 3, 385km
The long-awaited mainstream Tesla model only recently arrived in the UK, after a year of massive sales success in the USA. The Model 3 is available in Standard Range Plus specification, or with BMW M3-baiting power and acceleration in Performance guise, managing the 0-100km/h sprint in 3.2 seconds and a 260km/h top speed thanks to an electric motor on each axle. It was this version we tested, with the optional performance pack adding larger 20in wheels over the standard, aero-optimised 18in alloys.
In our tests, the Model 3 Performance achieved 385km of real-world driving. That puts it beyond the longest range Model X, which costs significantly more, and comfortably ahead of the Audi E-tron electric SUV.
4. Tesla Model X, 375km
The second Tesla car to make it to the UK in volume numbers, the Model X combines seven seat practicality with attention-stealing gullwing doors and near-supercar levels of acceleration once the optional Ludicrous Performance mode has been added. It also demands a near $152,000 asking price, making it one of the most expensive EVs on Australia’s roads.
When we tested the X in P100D guise, before the company shook up its model naming conventions, it managed a competitive 375km of range. While this puts it below the very best, Tesla’s supercharger network promises some of the fastest destination charging times currently available in Australia.
5. Nissan Leaf, 350km
The first generation Nissan Leaf was among the first affordable electric cars, but it wasn’t a distance champion. The second-generation model made gains, but it was the e+ version that made the biggest leap, thanks to a 62kWh battery. Compared to the 40kWh battery seen in the regular car, it allows for an extra 145km of real-world driving.
The e+ also has more power than the regular leaf, with 160kW making it much more responsive. It does, however, suffer from a less refined ride than the standard Leaf, so using that extra power through the corners isn’t quite as entertaining as it perhaps could be.
6. Mercedes-Benz EQC, 335km
Experiments with electric Smart cars and a battery powered AMG SLS sports car aside, the EQC is Mercedes’ first production EV. It’s a premium SUV with familiar yet different styling, so it doesn’t stand out too dramatically from the rest of the Mercedes line-up, and delivers the kind of interior we’ve come to expect from the marque.
An 80kWh battery pack has to power two motors, one for each axle and producing a combined 300kW and 760Nm, giving it more accelerative thrust than either of its two mainstream rivals, the Jaguar I-Pace and Audi E-tron. It may have more power than the Jaguar, but it depletes it battery faster too: used for everyday driving, you can expect to see a typical real world range of more than 320km, narrowly besting the similarly-priced Audi.
7. Tesla Model S 75kWh, 330km
The original electric luxury sedan, the Model S proved that Tesla could turn its hand to volume production and set new standards for the distance an EV could travel on a single charge when it made its debut back in 2012.
It is now available in a choice of different battery capacities, with the current entry-level 75kWh model managing 330km of real-world range. That no longer puts it at the top of the list, but with access to a plentiful network of Superchargers, owners may find themselves spending less time recharging than they might in a rival EV.
8. Audi e-tron, 315km
Audi had experimented with electric versions of its existing models before, but the e-tron is the first of a new generation, and potentially one of the brand’s most important cars for years.
It’s a luxury SUV first and an electric one second, but with styling that doesn’t set it far apart from combustion-powered models. It is heavy, however, and even though it has a large 95kWh battery pack, drivers can expect a real-world range of around 315km. On the plus side, support for 150kW charging should speed up any downtime.
9. Renault Zoe R135, 310km
The new generation Zoe arrived with a more powerful powertrain than the original car, which remains in the line-up as a new entry-level model. Exterior styling hasn’t changed dramatically, but Renault has made real gains inside the cabin, with elements shared with the new Clio greatly raising perceived quality.
The Zoe’s 52kWh battery is officially capable of 383km, but real-world testing showed the car is really capable of 310km in regular use. That puts it among cars costing significantly more, but falls behind the likes of Nissan and Hyundai.
10. BMW i3, 265km
The i3 was one of the first modern electric cars, and a demonstration from BMW that they didn’t need to follow the same formula as the combustion vehicles they are expected to replace. An unusual design, minimal interior and the kind of handling expected of the brand helped earn the i3 a five star road test verdict when it first arrived back in 2013.
A mid-life facelift and a higher density battery pack have helped keep the i3 relevant today as a premium compact EV, but a real-world range of 265km may rule it out of intercity journeys without also factoring in a charging stop along the way.