Note: Powershop is not an electric vehicle manufacturer. We suggest consulting vehicle manufacturers directly for product-specific information.
Part of electric vehicle ownership is the idea of ‘range’ – how far your EV can go on a charge. Understanding range and what affects this is important if you are considering electric for your next car.
On this page, you'll learn things like:
- What range means in the context of EVs.
- Which popular EV models have the best range.
- How to get the best range out of your EV.
Got an electric vehicle or about to buy one? Ask us about our EV charging rates.
Electric vehicles don’t have fuel like petrol or diesel vehicles. Instead they are powered much like your laptop or smartphone – electricity stored in a lithium-ion battery. So while traditionally the measurement of a car’s travel distance potential has been quantified as ‘mileage’ measuring the distance per litre or gallon, the EV equivalent is quantified as range based on the amount of energy stored in the battery and other factors.
Electric vehicle dash displays typically show range front and centre, along with battery life. This is how electric vehicle owners know when to top up (as opposed to a fuel gauge).
When considering an electric vehicle, range is one of the most important factors. Depending on your travel needs, an EV might not be the right choice quite yet.
How is EV range calculated?
The EV range is typically shown on an EV’s dash, but what is that number based on? Some EVs will provide extra information like kilometers per kilowatt. This is an important metric – the efficiency of the battery.
EV range calculates the efficiency (kilometers per kilowatt) against the total capacity of the battery. Here’s an example:
Total capacity of EV battery: 30kWh
Efficiency: 5.7 kilometers per kWh
Theoretical range at full charge: 171km
But it’s not that simple. The range on your dash is going to change based on more factors than simply battery capacity and the efficiency of power used. Let’s explore these below:
What factors impact actual range vs estimated?
You’ve got a maximum range quoted by the EV manufacturer or showing on your dash after a full night’s charge. So why then, as you start driving around, does this range reduce faster or slower than expected? It’s likely due to a number of things:
The temperature has an impact on the range your electric vehicle will get. During cold days where the heating is cranked up, you’ll notice a need to charge earlier, as the battery is called on to generate heat. Similarly, very warm days where the AC is on full blast will reduce your travelling distance on a single charge.
An EV’s battery itself, depending on the age and manufacturer, is likely to have a system that protects the chemical reaction inside the battery from being affected by the elements. But some older models may not have this. This can impact the efficiency of the battery itself, leading to reduced range.
In most cases with new EVs, the cooling and heating required during extreme temperatures will be how the weather impacts range.
Higher speeds in an EV require more from the battery. It’s a bit of an adjustment to what we’re used to with combustion engines – where motorway driving is often more efficient than start-stop inner city
driving. EVs don’t waste energy at stop lights like petrol vehicles, but the drag and power needed to go 100km/h puts demand on the battery. So if you do a large amount of motorway driving you will likely notice the impact on range.
Drag and load
Aerodynamics play an important part of an EV’s efficiency and range. If you add things like roof racks, bikes, or other external-mounted cargo, you’re going to affect the aerodynamics of the vehicle. This can cause the battery to work harder and thus reduce range.
The load you’re carrying will have an effect on range also. An EV can be heavy to begin with due to the battery weight. Add in a full carload of passengers, luggage and equipment and you’ll notice the range drop with this added strain on the vehicle. Keep this in mind if you’re an EV user looking to maximise your range.
Moving a big weight uphill requires more energy than going down. You can expect to see range decrease after climbing a steep hill, especially if you’re carrying a full carload. Hills aren’t all bad – downhill braking will help charge the battery through a process called regenerative braking. This technology looks to utilise the kinetic energy created and give the battery a boost.
EV range vs a petrol vehicle
For most city-based Kiwis, an electric vehicle’s range capacity is sufficient for typical activities like the inner-city commute, school pickup, and trips to the supermarket. According to Energywise, the average daily distance travelled in NZ is 30km. Many recent secondhand EVs have 150km+ of range, with 2019 and 2020 models even larger. So it’s easy to see why Kiwis in the main centres are considering EV as a viable daily travel option.
Is the EV really a good option for longer distances though?
But what about people who live out in rural areas, or travel longer distances each day? This is a legitimate segment of the population. With the growing cost of living in the city, more people are moving further out for the lifestyle and dealing with a bigger commute.
For example, car commuters living in Masterton and working in Wellington City might do an almost 200km round trip each day (as per Google Maps). This puts many of the slightly older secondhand EV options (which are sometimes the only affordable choice for people) at a disadvantage. With ranges of around 200km, some of the smaller secondhand EVs will likely need to charge during the day. Running the battery totally flat isn’t usually a good idea (and a sure way to get stuck!).
In 2019, there’s just not the volume of charging points in New Zealand’s city centres to support mass EV adoption at scale. This is very likely to change over time, but is something to keep in mind.
For the cost of a smaller secondhand EV with this kind of range (200km), people with longer distance travel needs might consider a larger petrol or diesel vehicle in the same price range. If you have a workplace or parking option that allows charging during the day while you work, then you may still opt for an EV.
Efficiency of EV batteries is continuing to improve. As this and other advancements are made, we’d expect to see smaller, affordable EVs achieve better range for the long distance trips.
Are you a road tripper?
Outside of day to day, we use our cars in New Zealand for longer distance road trips or ‘roadies’. Our vehicles are often part of a long weekend, school holiday or summer adventure. So when it comes to electric vehicles, their range is pretty important! Put simply, all factors considered including budget and infrastructure, petrol or diesel vehicles are still likely better suited for these trips. Why? New Zealand has fuel stations everywhere, and the secondhand petrol/diesel vehicle market is huge. You should be able to find something reasonable for around the $5,000 mark. The EV used market just isn’t there yet in terms of price.
If you own an electric vehicle, road trips in New Zealand are certainly possible. This just requires a bit of forward planning. Using tools like NZTA’s charger map, you can schedule your charge stops. EV roadtrippers often combine charging with having lunch or a look around.
EV models with the best range
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the large range EVs are on the more expensive end of the spectrum. Tesla’s long-range models are among the best in market – Model S Long Range enjoys up to 610km of range. At the price however, this vehicle is certainly not a mass-market option.
At almost half the price of the Tesla Model S Long Range, Hyundai’s Kona has a quoted range of 400km.
EV Talk have a detailed chart of popular EV models on the market, along with hybrids too.
Tips to get the best range out of your EV
Here are some ways you can reduce the impact on your maximum range:
- Avoid unnecessary weight in the car – don’t keep heavy equipment like bikes unless they’re needed.
- Keep tyres in good condition – worn tyres can hurt traction and handling which needs to be compensated for in your driving.
- Make sure your wheels are aligned. Any drag to the side and you’ll be using more of the car’s power to keep on the straight line.
- Drive smoothly and don’t speed. Not only is speeding illegal but it’s draining on an EV’s battery.
- Use heating and cooling only when needed. Running these all the time will bring your range down as they are powered from the same battery that moves the car.
- Make use of regenerative braking going downhill (if your EV has it).