Electric Vehicle (EV) owners have likely noticed that their combustion-free vehicles are not delivering the manufacturer’s advertised range—an observation now backed by recent testing by Consumer Reports (CR), an independent, nonprofit member organization noted for its non-biased product studies. The organization tested 22 EVs—all purchased anonymously—and found that “nearly half fell short of their EPA-estimated ranges when driven at highway speeds.”
CR found that “when driven at a constant highway speed of 70 mph, some vehicles we tested fell up to 50 miles short of their advertised ranges, while others exceeded their advertised ranges—one by more than 70 miles.” The organization notes that this can be a big problem for consumers, as conventional combustion vehicles, including hybrids, are required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to post separate city and highway fuel economy ratings—a miles-per-gallon number. On the other hand, EVs display a single number based on a combined city and highway estimate.
Compounding the problem is that EVs are less efficient on the highway, which is the opposite of most combustion vehicles. Thus, there’s a greater chance of an unsuspecting driver running out of charge. “Range is much more important when you’re far from home and away from reliable charging,” says Alex Knizek, manager of auto testing and insights at CR. “If you run out of charge on the highway, you may need to be towed, which could be both inconvenient and costly.”
“The variables for determining EV range are similar to variables for calculating gasoline car range, though ambient temperature and average speed have a larger impact on electric vehicles,” explains Karl Brauer, Executive Analyst at iSeeCars, an online automotive search engine and research website. “The solution to ensuring happy customers is the same for EVs and gas vehicles — be conservative! Nobody ever complained about their car getting better mileage or traveling further on a charge than they expected. But some EV makers want an impressive number in their advertising, and they use overly optimistic numbers to get it, ensuring disappointment and dissatisfaction from drivers.”
One of the biggest offenders was Ford. “We found the biggest difference in range with the Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck: Its battery ran out after just 270 miles—a 50-mile difference from the EPA estimate,” noted CR. And some costly premium luxury sedans were in the same boat. The tested Lucid Air missed its advertised 384-mile range by 40 miles, while CR’s own Tesla Model S only delivered 366 of its EPA-rated 405 miles—a long walk home if the battery is depleted.
On a more positive note, “Some vehicles from BMW and Mercedes-Benz beat their EPA-estimated ranges by more than 40 miles,” reported CR. “Our Rivian R1T and Ford Mustang Mach-E also exceeded EPA estimates at highway speeds.” The organization also praised vehicles from Audi, Genesis, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus, Nissan, Subaru, and Volkswagen, as all delivered within 20 miles of their EPA-advertised ranges.
What should consumers do when seeking a long-range EV? “Consumers should leverage online clubs and owner forums to get real-world feedback from existing EV drivers,” says Brauer. “Some online publications are also good at putting EVs through a standardized test to validate range claims. An automaker’s range number is a good starting point, but if a consumer can verify the number with unbiased sources, that will give them more confidence in what they can expect after purchase.”
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