Why do electric cars have longer braking distances?

A reader is thinking of buying an electric car and wonders why they seem to have lengthy stopping distances...

EV tyre

Over the last few months I have analysed your car braking data. I’ve noticed that electric cars often have longer stopping distances than conventionally powered ones. Is this due to the heavy batteries? 

Could you also answer a query concerning your car width measurements: do they include wing mirrors? I'm dealing with planning permission for new garages and this will help with my research.

Les Brown 

What Car? says…

There are a few different factors that may make the braking distance of electric cars longer than their petrol and diesel counterparts. As you say, they are often heavier, because of the added weight of their battery packs. Another important consideration is that they’re likely to be fitted with tyres with low rolling resistance to improve efficiency. While some of the highest-quality low rolling resistance tyres have good grip, not all will be up there with the best tyres for conventionally powered cars. Tyre technology is constantly evolving, though, so we expect electric car tyres to regularly improve. 

It's also worth noting that electric cars have regenerative braking technology, meaning they convert much of the kinetic energy lost when braking into energy that's stored in the battery. These systems are often adjustable and can be set so that they slow the car down as soon as the driver takes their foot off the accelerator, so that in many instances it's not necessary to use the brake pedal at all to slow down. This makes them feel less effective under gentle braking, although they'll perform as you'd expect if you do an emergency stop. 

As for car widths, our measurements don't include car wing mirrors. From the September issue, we have a new, revamped data section at the back of the magazine containing this and lots of other useful information. 

The best electric cars - and the ones to avoid

Electric cars are becoming more mainstream by the day, and this trend is only going to accelerate as rules are introduced to limit the kind of vehicles allowed into major cities.

The main thing holding them back remains range anxiety – the fear that you won’t have enough juice to get to where you’re going. However, with more and more models now capable of covering more than 200 miles between charges, this is becoming less of an issue.

So, which electric cars should you consider? Here, we count down our favourites and tell you the ones to avoid. And, remember, before you buy your new car, take a look at our new car deals to see how much we could save you.

10. Hyundai Ioniq

The Ioniq is really three cars in one – it's available as a conventional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and as a fully electric car. The latter we're including here has a range of 174 miles, and enough torque to make acceleration feel brisk around town. The interior is smart, too, and our recommended Premium models get sat-nav and heated front seats as standard.

On paper, Tesla's all-electric family SUV seems to be the dream all-rounder, combining the luxury of a Range Rover Sport with the green credentials of an electric car. In practice, its low running costs and practical interior are hard to fault, and even entry-level versions aren't short on pace, but parts of its interior do feel a little low-rent.

Read our full Tesla Model X review or see our latest Model X deals

8. Volkswagen e-Golf

Unlike purpose-built electric cars such as the BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf, the e-Golf is based on a conventional hatchback. However, this is no bad thing, because it means it has all the good points of the regular regular Golf, along with greatly reduced running costs. It's just a shame its Real Range is so limited.

Read our full Volkswagen e-Golf review or see our latest Golf deals

Next: more of our favourite electric vehicles >

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