What is the autonomy of an electric car?

The electric vehicle is the future of the automotive industry. The experts have it clear and the brands that make the vehicles, too. It is undeniable that the benefits they bring are very positive; tax advantages, reduced consumption, respect for the environment … but what about the autonomy of the electric car? What series of factors determine it? Can we use it the same as a conventional combustion vehicle?

Battery affects autonomy performance

When buying an electric car, one of the main factors to consider is its autonomy. In other words: the distance the car can travel on a single battery charge. That is why it is more than frequent to resort to various questions that are the ones that will later influence or not our decision. Will I have enough battery to get to and from work on a single charge? How often will I have to charge the car?

These are some of the most common doubts that will assail us if we are thinking of buying an electric car, or doubting between several options. In part, because despite the fact that they have been increasing considerably, the autonomy of this type of vehicle has not yet reached its full splendor. This leads us by the hand to their batteries, which, just as they are the fundamental element in these new generation cars, are also the most sensitive .

It is true that more and better work is being done on them, but, to tell the truth, they are the ones that most affect the performance of the autonomy and the electric car itself. Through it, and regardless of greater or lesser use, they are the ones that tend to end up being shorter or, where appropriate, causing degradation to increase at a much higher rate than usual.

What is the autonomy of an electric car?

This autonomy anxiety that people may experience before purchasing an electric vehicle is exaggerated. We see it in countries like the United States, where 87% of vehicles on the road could be replaced by electric vehicles. Even when you have not had the option to recharge it during the day, an electric vehicle can still be driven from point A to B. While, in Europe, drivers travel an average of 40 to 80 kilometers a day and make 2.5 trips in car a day.

With this, electric vehicles on the market today can already cover daily distances using only clean kilometers. However, automakers recognize this fear and focus on the size of the battery and therefore its range. But how much autonomy does an average electric car have? Is it the same for everyone?

It could be said that, on average, electric cars today have a range of approximately 250 km . Above this average there are other models that may have more extensive benefits , such as the BMW i3 or Hyundai Ionic EV that exceed 300, or others such as the Volkswagen ID.3 and Skoda Enyak that are over 500 km.

Obviously, this does not apply to all electric vehicles equally, but there are a series of factors that directly influence their autonomy and that we must assess to determine the real autonomy.

Key factors

On the one hand, and beyond the always environmental factors , there are a series of daily mobility habits that can also reduce the quality of life on your journey. Because yes, there are some points that do not depend on the driver, while others can exert their influence. The greatest autonomy is obtained under very favorable conditions when all the factors are met.

One aspect to take into account in this regard is that batteries with a higher capacity degrade more slowly. This is because it will take fewer cycles to travel a given number of kilometers. This is approved according to the WLTP cycle, but this is only indicative, because this autonomy can be considerably reduced due to several reasons.

Either for a more aggressive way of driving, the type of terrain we are going to, the traffic … or the same temperatures. In fact, excessive cold can alter and directly interfere with the duration of the journeys. Which may force you to schedule the tour. There, some points would become part of it. These would be the aforementioned WLTP, EPA, and NCDE cycles.

  • WLTP cycle . It is the one that determines and tries to update the tests, which has really meant a very important drop in the autonomies approved by electric cars. It subjects cars to longer tests, higher accelerations and higher speeds. For the measurement, it is fully recharged to know the energy consumed, thus including the energy losses. With the data collected, the average consumption is obtained .
  • EPA cycle . It is the one that best adjusts to reality in terms of the autonomy of the electric car. Here the vehicle’s battery is fully recharged (overnight) to bring it to the 100% test bench. There the vehicle undergoes multiple cycles until the battery completely discharges and stops on its own.
  • NCDE cycle . This varies depending on the countries. Here consumption and emissions are tested , simulating the aerodynamics and mass of each vehicle. The test is carried out at a temperature between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius, on the flat and without wind.

The type of terrain

The first, and one of the most important that can affect and determine the autonomy of the electric car has to do with the type of terrain. And it is that here, it will not be the same to circulate on a highway in good condition, clean (in addition to traffic) than to do it in cities where there are more cars or in a place of dirt, stones or roads in poor condition.

Thus, and if the road on which we are going to travel is in poor condition, or is an unpaved dirt road, the electric car will require a greater effort and therefore will consume more battery. If, on the other hand, the terrain is in perfect condition and even with few curves or slopes, the effort of the vehicle will be less, which will reduce energy consumption.

Make short trips

Something important, and that has generated many doubts, is when making the journeys. In this case, it is true that what would be best for you are large spaces. Especially since, when making short-distance trips, this will directly affect the vehicle’s accumulator .

The batteries accumulate energy and are able to function thanks to an alternator that, after the energy consumption of the start-up and the consumption of other functions of the car such as the lights or the radio, converts the kinetic energy of the vehicle into electrical energy capable of being stored or to be used.

It is because of this mechanism that short trips spoil the life of the battery or affect its correct operation, since in this type of movement the battery does not have time to recharge correctly after having used up part of the accumulated energy.


One of the things that most affects the autonomy of an electric car is stepping on the accelerator. The more it accelerates, the more energy it consumes . This causes us to go faster, but the number of kilometers to travel is reduced. The energy is used to accelerate the car and this reduces the autonomy of the car.

To avoid this, it is necessary to take more advantage of the vehicle’s inertia, without using the accelerator. In this way, not as much energy is used to travel the same distance. It is estimated that for every kilometer traveled, stepping on the accelerator increases the range by about 300 meters, so it is a good idea not to use aggressive driving with an electric car.

Room temperature

As we have mentioned before, low temperatures are a bad thing for the autonomy of this type of new generation vehicles. This is because cold increases the internal resistance of the battery. This is due to the decrease in ionic diffusion in the electrolyte and the slowing down of chemical reactions in the battery.

This is the reason why in countries with very cold temperatures, electric cars incorporate a heating system for the battery. At the same time, and directly related to this cause, it is the one that causes the use (or abuse) of the car’s air conditioning unit. In electric vehicles, activating the heating is an additional expense for the battery, so in winter it is normal for the number of kilometers traveled per charge to be less.

Tires and driving around the city

Both the tires and driving around the city have an important influence on the route of these cars. Here, the consumption is lower because it takes advantage of the regenerative braking of the battery. This makes the autonomy similar to what the homologation indicates. On the other hand, autonomy is less on the motorway, since it circulates at a higher speed.

That makes, on the other hand, that the tires are also responsible for their consumption. Those that are narrow and tall, with higher pressure, lower rolling resistance and better aerodynamics are the ones that consume the least.

by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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