Official electric car ranges have to be taken with ‘a pinch of salt’ – ‘it’s a real issue’

Question Time audience member reveals electric car 'anxiety'

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With petrol and diesel prices already nearing “grim” milestones at nearly £2 per litre, some drivers are turning to electric cars to not only become more sustainable, but also to lower their average costs. One of the main drawbacks of public perception of electric cars is “range anxiety” which has often been cited as the number one concern for many motorists.

For many who are unable to charge their vehicle at home, range anxiety does become a legitimate fear, relying on public chargers at supermarkets, shopping centres and even their workplace.

But new research has found that a car’s advertised fuel economy is far better than what drivers actually experience when they’re behind the wheel – and this applies to EVs too.

The claimed range from official WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) tests may look enticing in the showroom, with some models now claiming in excess of 400 miles between charges.

Research from Which? found that the actual range of an electric car to be on average 18 percent less than the official figure.

This means an electric car with a claimed range of 240-miles is more likely to offer a maximum range of around 196 miles.

Emily Seymour, Which? Sustainability Editor, suggested that drivers should take range estimates with a “pinch of salt”.

She added: “Overstated fuel economy is something petrol and diesel car drivers will already be aware of and we’ve found the same is true of electric vehicles. 

“Our independent tests show electric cars fall an average of 45 miles short of official figures with some cars losing well over 100 miles of their claimed range.

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“[This is] a real issue for those planning to travel long distances or people who can’t charge at home.

“If you are in the market for an electric car, take the official range with a pinch of salt as it doesn’t reflect real-world driving conditions.”

When Which? originally tested the dual motor “long range” version of the Polestar 2, it had a claimed WLTP range of 298 miles but delivered just 183 miles in their tests.

That’s a colossal loss of 115 miles (39 percent) of range compared to the official claim.

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Polestar has since released over the air updates and vastly improved the car’s range. 

After re-testing the same car, they found its tested range is now a much improved 247 miles.

This is still far off the official range of 302 miles, with 18 percent less than claimed, bringing it in line with the average electric car.

As with all tests, some vehicles are found to have gone against the trend.

The current BMW iX xDrive50 shows that it can travel a record-breaking 382 miles before running out of battery – two miles more than the official WLTP figure.

Volkswagen’s ID.4 GTX has a WLTP claimed range of 300 miles, but Which? tests found the range to be 193 miles, a difference of 36 percent or 107 miles.

Medium-sized cars, which are typically hatchbacks, show the biggest difference in WLTP averages and the testing from Which?.

The average WLTP range is 205 miles, whereas alternative testing shows the average range is just 151 miles, a difference of 26 percent.

On the other hand, small-sized cars have a difference of just 14 percent, with WLTP averages being tested at 153 miles, with official tests 24 miles higher at 177 miles.

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