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Fear of running out of power on the road is one of the main reasons why buyers are reluctant to go electric but how real an issue is it asks Geraldine Herbert.

What is range in an electric vehicle (EV)? 

EV instrument cluster

“Range” refers to how far an electric car can travel before the battery needs to be recharged. The distance that can be covered depends on the capacity of the battery in the same way that the size of the fuel tank in a petrol or diesel car determines how far you can go before refuelling. 

What factors can impact the range?

Interior of tesla

Whether driving an electric car or a petrol or diesel car how you drive determines the range you can achieve, so harsh braking and accelerating, excessive speed etc are all going to have a negative impact. 

Temperature also effects the efficiency of all cars but it is particularly noticeable in an electric one. During the summer using the air conditioning will reduce your range while in winter keeping the cabin warm will take its toll. Heated seats and a heated steering wheel is a better alternative to blasting up the heat as they are far more efficient.

What is range anxiety?

Car charging

Range anxiety refers to the fear of running out of power while on the road. In reality, this is very unlikely to happen since you get plenty of warning well in advance of a declining range but also the current generation of electric vehicles are able to run for more than 300 km on a single charge and some for more than 500. If considering an EV be realistic about your daily driving needs. As a nation we don’t actually drive that much and according to the CSO Travel Survey in 2016 the average car journey in Ireland is just 16km.

If I am running low on range where can I recharge?

Electric vehicle charging point

Whether you buy a new or used electric car you are entitled to a grant of €600 toward the installation of a home charger and it is at home where the vast majority of EV charging occurs. If however, you are on the road and need to charge there are 1,350 public charge points across the island of Ireland that are maintained by the ESB plus there are privately operated companies providing charging points around the country. A lack of confidence however in the charging network is one of the main barriers stopping people buying an EV and a recent survey by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) found that 49% of respondents were unable to give directions to their nearest public charging point. 

What about the range of a used EV?

The launch of more and more new models guarantees a decent selection of used ones on the market. If considering a used electric vehicle it is worth remembering that range has improved significantly over the past few years so a four-year-old EV is likely to have a much lower range compared to the brand new one. Also over time, just like any other battery, the quality will degrade, however the loss is not likely to be significant and the health of the battery can be checked before you purchase.

Here are some tips to improve your Electric Car Range

Tesla driving in city

1. Driving style
Driving smoothly, that is accelerating  slowly, cornering gently and generally slowing down will maximise your range. Also if your car has an Eco Mode this is worth using if you need to conserve range.

2. Regenerative Braking
Most electric cars use regenerative braking to send extra power back to the vehicle’s batteries while decelerating. You can learn how to make use of this to extend your range.

3. Choose your route wisely

Where possible choose a route that means you will be driving at lower speeds as this will extend your range and if going on a long journey plan where you can stop to recharge. 

4. Travel Light

Batteries are heavy and extra weight is range’s enemy so remove all non-essential items from your car and don’t forget to include the boot! 

5. Tyres
Tyres lose a certain amount of air on a continuous basis and this will adversely impact your car’s EV range so check tyre pressures regularly.



About the Author

Contributing Editor and Motoring Columnist for the Sunday Independent and editor of wheelsforwomen.ie. Geraldine Herbert is also a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping (UK) and to RTÉ, Newstalk, TodayFM and BBC Radio. You can follow Geraldine on Twitter at @GerHerbert1.


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