The electric cars with the best real-world range

19. May 2021 - autocar

The electric cars with the best real-world range

Range estimates are exactly that - estimates. We show you what you can expect from an EV in the real-world

Battery technology and charging infrastructure is constantly improving, quickly turning EVs from niche vehicles to viable replacements for 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? Our sister site 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, 417 km

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 and can be had for under £35,000 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 250 miles 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, 407 km

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 253 miles. 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.

2. Kia e-Niro, 407 km

Sharing the second row of the podium with the I-Pace, the Kia e-Niro also manages 253 miles of range - despite having a significantly smaller battery than the Jaguar. It shares its powertrain with the Hyundai Kona Electric, but has a slight weight penalty on account of its larger body.

When we road tested the e-Niro, we decided the slight reduction in total range was worth the gains in usability, refinement and ride quality, earning it a higher overall score.

4. Tesla Model 3, 385 km

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 Plus or Long Range AWD specification, plus there’s the Performance model with its BMW M3-baiting power and that delivers the 0-60mph sprint in 3.1 seconds and a 162mph top speed. 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 239 miles 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.

5. Tesla Model X, 375 km

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 £100,000 asking price, making it one of the most expensive EVs on Britain’s roads.

When we tested the X in the now discontinued P100D guise (although it uses a similar size 100kWh battery as the current Long Range model) it managed a competitive 233 miles 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 the UK.

6. Nissan Leaf e+, 350 km

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 90 miles of real-world driving.

The e+ also has more power than the regular leaf, with 214bhp making it much more responsive. It does, however, suffer from a less refined ride than the standard car, so using that extra power through the corners isn't quite as entertaining as it perhaps could be.

7. Mercedes-Benz EQC, 335 km

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 to produce a combined 402bhp and 561lb ft of torque, giving it more accelerative thrust than either of its two mainstream rivals, the Jaguar I-Pace and Audi e-tron. While it has more power than the Jaguar, it depletes its battery faster for everyday driving - you can expect to see a typical real world range of more than 200 miles, which narrowly beats the similarly-priced Audi.

8. Audi e-tron, 315 km

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 EV second, but with styling that doesn’t set it far apart from its combustion-engined stablemates. It is heavy, however, and even though it has a large 95kWh battery pack, drivers can expect a real-world range of around 196 miles. On the plus side, support for 150kW charging means you won’t spend too long waiting to resume your journey when the cells do run low.

9. Renault Zoe R135, 309 km

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 238 miles on the WLTP test cycle, but our real-world testing showed the car could manage 192 miles in regular use. That puts it among cars costing significantly more and also makes it one of the few that comes close to matching its WLTP figure.

10. Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus, 291 km

Tesla’s most attainable model had already proven itself a capable electric tourer in more powerful Performance guise, but this Standard Range Plus model is capable of fewer files between charges. It has one motor powering the rear wheels only, rather than the two found in the Performance version, and it has a smaller battery pack, but it still landed in the upper echelons of distance-driving EVs under our Real Range tests. 

Our testing produced a real-world range of 181 miles, putting it ahead of the similarly-priced BMW i3, but behind the capable Hyundai Kona EV and Kia E-Niro.

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