How Far Do Electric Vehicles Drive?

By Lori Straus

One of the most common concerns about driving a battery-electric vehicle (BEV), which doesn’t require any gas to operate, is the range of the vehicle. Hybrid vehicles don’t have this concern, because they still have a gas tank. However, with increasingly more people becoming concerned about the environmental impact of driving, BEVs are becoming more attractive. In this blog post, I’ll briefly explain how to find out the range of the electric vehicle you’re considering buying.

What Does Range Mean?Electric cars

“Range” means how far an electric vehicle will drive on one charge. Natural Resources Canada (NRC) publishes an annual report that lists the range of electric vehicles. When you look at the list, you’ll also see a large difference between vehicles, with some having a battery range of less than 200 kilometres to the Tesla Model S Long Range, which is rated at 600 kilometres on one charge. However, these are estimates.

What is the True Range of a Battery?

The figures in the NRC Fuel Consumption Guide are estimates, because many factors affect the actual range of your battery, like battery age, how the car is driven, the weather, etc. Your car will show you on the dashboard how much energy is left in your battery, so you shouldn’t have to worry about being stuck without a jolt.

However, just like driving a gas-powered vehicle, there are certain ways that you can drive your BEV to save on energy.

  • Inspect your tire pressure monthly and adjust as needed.
  • Precondition your electric vehicle before you drive. This means running the air conditioner or heater to bring the battery and cabin to the proper temperature while the car is still plugged in. Preconditioning lets you save the battery’s energy for the drive instead of spending it on this step that can be done before you leave your house.
  • Even though electric vehicles accelerate faster than gas-powered ones, don’t speed up too fast, because that also drains extra power from your battery.

Using Charging Stations to Keep Your Battery Charged

Best eco-friendly cars: 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Best eco-friendly cars: 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Electric

So long as you’re driving in urban areas, which includes highways in between urban areas, recharging should not be an issue. In fact, you can find maps online that show you where charging stations are. Before you head off, though, understand what you’ll find:

  • Level 1: 120-volt charger. This is your standard household plug. The charging rate is very slow, about 3-8 kilometres of driving distance per hour.
  • Level 2: 200-240-volt charger. You have this in your home for your oven and dryer and at thousands of charging stations. You can charge 16-100 kilometres of driving distance per hour.
  • DC Fast Charging: These charging stations are the same size as gas pumps and can often charge your vehicle’s battery up to 80% in half an hour. However, there’s no single standard, so you have to find one suited to your vehicle.

You should have no problems finding charging stations in Canada: There are currently 5,000 public charging stations in the country, and almost 1,500 Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations in Ontario alone.

What Is Supercharging?

Tesla has its Supercharger network: this allows Tesla owners to charge their vehicle’s battery in 30 minutes. Although much more popular in the US, you’ll find good coverage in Ontario.

Final Word on Battery Range

This isn’t the early 2010s anymore, when an electric vehicle charging station was so special you took a photo of it and posted it on social media. Although they’re not as ubiquitous as gas stations—yet—their numbers are growing. If you’re considering transitioning to a fully electric vehicle, take some time to consider your driving habits, envision how you’ll keep your car charged, and see what works for you. You’ll likely find that the range of an electric vehicle is actually not as big a problem as you first thought.