Compare efficient electric cars
Efficient electric cars 2023
We're all used to looking at how many miles per gallon a specific car can get when new-car shopping, but with electric cars there's a different metric to consider: miles per kiloWatt hour.
This is abbreviated to miles per kWh or miles/kWh (the 'W' is upper case as it's named after James Watt), which denotes how much distance can be covered by an EV on a single kWh of electricity.
A big EV battery might have a 100kWh capacity, and if the car did three miles for every kWh, it would cover 300 miles before it needed recharging.
Do bear in mind, though, that the size of an EV's battery is comparable to the size of a conventional car's petrol tank, and some cars have big fuel tanks, but large, thirty engines propelling a large, heavy car.
It's the same with EVs: a car with a 50kWh battery that did five miles per kWh could cover the same 250 miles as a car with a 100kWh that only did 2.5 miles per kWh; this would mean the same 250 miles would cost you twice as much in electricity in the less efficient EV.
Just to make things slightly more complicated, not all of the kiloWatt hours in EV batteries are useable, as a degree of 'buffering' helps maintain their health. This means that an 80kWh battery might have a useable capacity of 77kWh, and it is the useable figure that is used in efficiency calculations.
How EV efficiency figures are quoted is also a bit of a wild west at the moment: some databases list miles per kWh, and some list Watt hours per kilometre, some list kWh per 100 miles. We've gone with miles per kWh as it's closest to the familiar miles per gallon metric. We've also calculated efficiency based on the total size of each car's battery and their official range. Some figures are based on the 'useable' net battery size rather than gross size, but the former is not always easily available. Either way, each car listed below is a) efficient and b) measured against its companions on a level playing field.
1. Tesla Model 3 (5.08 miles per kWh)Tesla Model 3 review
2. Renault Megane E-Tech (4.87 miles per kWh)Renault Megane E-Tech Electric review
3. Hyundai Kona Electric (4.8 miles per kWh)Hyundai Kona Electric (2018-2023) review
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Efficient electric cars FAQs
Generally speaking, yes. An electric motor tends to have an efficiency rate of 85% or so, which means only 15% of the energy it consumes is wasted. Compare that to a petrol car, which might waste 30% of its energy through heat, noise and frictional losses, and it's easy to understand where the savings come in. Rising energy prices will be an understandable concern, as this pushes up the cost of running an EV, but they still remain cheaper to fuel (if not buy) than a petrol or diesel car. Servicing tends to be cheaper, too, as there are fewer moving parts, but insurance can be more expensive for electric cars.
Check out our guide on the cost of running an electric car to find out more.
Well, the efficiency figures above should give you some indication. An efficient electric car will be pushing five miles per kWh, while a less efficient one might manage three miles for the same unit of energy.
How long is a piece of string? The highest range EVs can officially cover close to 400 miles between charges, but most electric cars have a range closer to 250 miles or so. How you drive, how hilly your route is and how cold it is outside will all impact how far you can actually go, but it's reasonable to expect 200 miles from a 250-mile EV.
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