How Much Range You Need in Your EV

Range involves more than how far you drive

A Ford Mustang Mach-E driving down a curved highway.

So you’re ready to take the electric car plunge. You’ve researched makes and models, and you understand the ins and outs of charging an EV.  

One thing you might not have thought about is range. For first-time buyers, range may sound like a distance-only thing, but it’s about much more than that. Analyzing the way you drive, plus where and in what types of weather, will help you determine the best range for your needs.

Here are five things to wrap your head around when it comes to range.

Car and Driver Tips to Cruise By

As drivers of EVs, you want your current battery charge to last as long as possible. Even if you have charging stations all around you, it’s great to see the battery indicator with a full or full-ish charge. So how can you do your ride a favor and keep the juice from depleting? Easy—slow down. 

Data shows that driving faster than 65 MPH dramatically slashes an electric car’s efficiency. That makes sense: The harder an electric motor has to work to keep up with high speeds, the faster it depletes. 

This anecdotal chart from Teslike shows how range is impacted on a variety of Tesla models. If you drive a Model 3 at 65 mph, for example, range is about 253 miles. Accelerate another ten miles per hour, however, and the range drops to 213—a difference of about 15 percent. That can make a difference if you’re trying to go longer between charging sessions.

Another thing to consider is how fast you accelerate. If you do it too quickly, say, at a traffic stop when the light turns green, you’ll deplete the battery a lot faster than taking a steady, non-rushed approach.

An even, smooth style of braking and stopping is key to having a good range. It’s healthier for your car to anticipate stops, rather than slamming on the brakes at the very last moment. 

EVs use regenerative braking—a process which holds on to energy that would otherwise be lost during braking—and utilizes it to help recharge the EVs battery. Regenerative braking also eases strain on brake pads, so anytime you can go easy when you brake, the more beneficial it is for your car.

Are You a Road Tripper or Commuter?

Planning on packing up the family for a summer road trip? Or is your EV just for hitting the highway as you head to the office? Either way, understanding range as it relates to destinations is absolutely key. 

If you’re climbing the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, for example, you will be weaving along winding roads and probably taking your time given that it’s, literally, the scenic route.

Where you drive and the types of roads you drive on make an impact. Short drives on flat roads don't need as much range as, say, long drives on mountain roads.

Accelerating within an inch of your life should not be the plan; traveling at the speed limit to keep your car’s EPA (electric car range and efficiency) within the normal range is the goal. No one wants to get stranded with a depleted battery when you’re on vacation. 

Those who drive EVs for getting to and from work, however, may have different range needs. It’s still a good idea to stay within a healthy EPA range but you don’t have to be quite as cautious and range-wary for shorter, in-town treks.

You can drive a bit faster and turn up the heater or the AC (other factors that can affect range) if you know you’ll be able to charge up sooner than you could on an hours-long road trip in an unfamiliar area. 

The People and Cargo Factor

Carpooling in your EV may be great for the environment, but it will also put a bit more strain on your vehicle. Carrying a lot of items in your EV can strain it, too.

It’s all about the weight: The more work your car has to do to carry multiple passengers and/or stuff like heavy bags, moving boxes, or work supplies, the more its range decreases. It’s hard to know exactly how much, as it varies according to a car’s make and model. 

Hauling lots of things in both trunks? Carpooling several kids daily? The more weight in your EV, the more range you need.

If you regularly haul a carload of passengers or cargo, you’re going to need an EV with more range than someone who rarely has passengers. So feel free to help your buddy move across town, but know that his heavy boxes you piled into the backseat may make you need to recharge a bit sooner than usual. 

What’s Your Plan for Parking and Charging?

Another range-related question to consider is this: How and where will you charge your EV? Fortunately, when you buy an electric vehicle, it comes standard with a portable charger, which can be plugged into a household outlet and doesn’t need any kind of advanced installation. 

It’s not always possible to charge at home, though, so you might need to research public charging locations near your work or home. You might need to recharge while you’re on the road but some people also simply can’t charge at home and must take advantage of other charging options.

Doing your due diligence and researching public charging spots near your home, on your usual routes, and even in areas a bit beyond your normal drive is a good idea.

A great place to start is by checking out the resources on EVgo. It has hundreds of charging locations that serve all fast-charge capable EVs on the market today. According to its website, more than 130 million people in the US live within a 10 mile drive of an EVgo fast charger. There are other charging services as well; one might have the perfect spot for you to fill up with electricity.

The Weather Factor Is a Real Thing

It’s safe to say that weather affects every aspect of our lives, including electric vehicles. As you might expect, chilly air affects an EV’s range quite a bit, especially when the temperature plummets below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The lithium ion batteries used in EVs do not work as well in winter temps, which diminishes range. The fleet analytics company Geotab has a handy temperature tool for EV range, so you can check to see how extreme temperatures affect your car. Fun fact: 70 degrees F is your electric vehicle’s happiest temp. 

As for heat, a blazing temperature of 95 degrees F (with the air conditioning on) will deplete your EVs driving range by 17 percent. Planning ahead before heading out in the heat is key to keeping your range within healthy levels. You may want to cool your car while it’s still charging, and then hit the streets. 

Range has so much more to do with distance but it doesn’t have to completely rule your driving life. Being mindful of conditions like speed, weight, location of charging stations, and potentially impactful weather can help you come to a decision about the EV range you need.

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