How far you can drive in an electric car vs fuel-powered cars

Fossil fuel-based cars are still many miles ahead of electric battery-powered vehicles when it comes to maximum potential trip ranges.

This has been one of the biggest challenges proponents of electric cars have faced in convincing consumers to embrace the new technology.

This psychological barrier is what is commonly referred to as “range anxiety”, the fear of being unable to get to one’s destination or the next charging point before running out of power.

At face value, this fear appears to be largely justified.

According to Shell’s electric charging company NewMotion the average electric car is only capable of going for 291km (181 miles) between charges.

By comparison, smart charging company Wallbox has claimed the average petrol or diesel vehicle can drive for 482km (300 miles) on a single tank.

There are a number of electric vehicles which can outrun the average fossil fuel-powered vehicle, including models from Tesla, Ford, and Volkswagen.

However, these top rangers are still no match for long-range fuel behemoths like the 2020 Ram 1500 pickup truck, which can go 1,000 miles (1,610km) on its 33 gallon (125 litre) tank.

How we compared

We assembled a list of the world’s 10 electric vehicles with the longest ranges and compared this to the expected distance you can go on a single tank of some of the most fuel-efficient petrol and diesel cars on the market.

To bring it closer to home, we only included fuel-based vehicles available in South Africa.

For the electric cars, we took the range figures measured by the EU test procedure called Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) cycle.

With the petrol and diesel vehicles, we again used the WLTP numbers, with the exception of one vehicle that only had its claimed figures available.

Because the maximum range was the metric we decided to compare performance on, simply using fuel efficiency numbers would not be sufficient.

Due to varying tank sizes, a thirstier model may still get more range than a less efficient car.

We determined the km/l and multiplied this by the tank capacity to get an estimated maximum range per tank.

The results

Overall, our comparison showed that mainstream fuel-efficient vehicles had a far better range than premium electric vehicles.

Diesel engines are generally more fuel-efficient than petrol, so a large part of our list consisted of these cars.

Even the electric car which currently has the furthest range – the Tesla Model S Long Range – cannot reach the distance of our 10th placed fuel-based car.

The table below shows how the ranges of electric vehicles with the longest ranges compare to some of the most fuel-efficient models.

Vehicles with the longest range on battery/tank
Electric car Range per charge Petrol/diesel car Range per tank
1. Tesla Model S Long Range Plus 652km 1. Mercedes Benz A200d 1,250km
2. Ford Mustang Mach-E 610km 2. Ford Fiesta 1.5 TDCi Trend 1,200km
3. Tesla Model X Long Range Plus 561km 3. Fiat 500 0.9 8V TwinAir 1,184km
4. Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD 560km 4. BMW 220d Coupe 1,181km
5. Volkswagen ID.3 549km 5. Peugeot 208 1.2 Active 1,162km
6. Skoda Enyaq iV V80 500km 6. Fiat Tipo 1.3 Multijet Easy 1,098km
7. Hyundai e-Kona 484km 7. Audi A4 40TDI 1,000km
8. Jaguar i-Pace 470km 470km 8. Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI 1,000km
9. Polestar 2 470km 9. Ford Fiesta 1.0T Trend 977km
10. Porsche Taycan 4S 416km 10. Mahindra KUV100 Nxt 1.2 D75 K8* 814km

*Range based on Mahindra’s claimed factory tested figures and not WLTP cycle. 

The future

While the maximum ranges of electric vehicles have gradually increased to offer more than enough mileage for travelling between electric vehicle charging stations, the top range performers are still some way off mainstream fuel-based cars.

Add to this the fact that charging an electric car takes significantly longer than filling up with petrol or diesel, and the convenience factor becomes another major consideration.

This is not to mention that fuel stations are far more prevalent than charging stations, which adds even more ammunition for sceptics.

However, increased EV demand is driving the rollout of infrastructure, and with EV range being improved every year, it may not be that long before one model can outlast the ICE engine,

Now read: South Africa must build electric vehicles or car manufacturing will collapse

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How far you can drive in an electric car vs fuel-powered cars