Revealed: Which electric cars can go farthest?

With demand for electric models soaring, What Car? has developed a test that shows their Real Range between charges. Here we reveal the best and worst performers.....

One by one, the barriers to electric car ownership are being removed, as charging infrastructure improves, costs come down and the cars themselves become as luxurious as conventional models.

Electric car compilation image

But what about range anxiety?

For all the improvements, this nagging concern that the battery will run flat before you get to where you’re going continues to put many people off.

It doesn’t help that official figures are unrealistic. So, What Car? is now putting every electric car through a Real Range test that reflects the way people actually drive and allows direct comparisons.

Below we count down all of the results we have so far, from worst to best.

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22: Smart Forfour EQ

Smart Forfour EQ

Real Range: 57 miles

Miles per kWh: 2.9

Full charge cost: £2.82

Cost per mile: £0.049

With an 80bhp electric motor, the Forfour EQ feels much quicker than its 0-62mph time of 12.7sec would suggest. Plus, it handles well because the bulk of its weight is positioned lower down than in petrol rivals.

Sadly, the Forfour EQ travelled just 57 miles between charges – the smallest Real Range figure of any car we’ve tested. And while Smart has since facelifted it, the battery wasn't upgraded.

21: Smart Fortwo EQ Cabrio

Smart Fortwo EQ Cabrio

Real Range: 59 miles

Miles per kWh: 2.9

Full charge cost: £2.84

Cost per mile: £0.048

The two-seater Fortwo travelled two miles farther than the four-seater Forfour, simply because it's lighter, but range anxiety is still likely to be a major problem.

It’s a shame, because the EQ is cheaper to run and more composed than the petrol Fortwos, which have now been discontinued.

20: Volkswagen e-Up

Volkswagen e-Up

Real Range: 66 miles

Miles per kWh: 3.5

Full charge cost: £2.66

Cost per mile: £0.040

Volkswagen’s smallest electric car is a version of the Up city car, meaning it’s great to drive and smart inside, but not all that roomy.

The e-Up is also a lot more expensive than its petrol-engined sisters. However, since we carried out our test, Volkswagen has increased the battery's capacity from 18.7kWh to 36.8kWh, so the range of these latest cars should be much improved.

19: Seat Mii Electric

Seat Mii Electric 2019 front cornering

Real Range: 111 miles

Miles per kWh: 3.2

Full charge cost: £4.92

Cost per mile: £0.044

How much difference will the Up's bigger battery make? A significant one it seems, because the mechanically identical Mii Electric recorded a Real Range of 111 miles.

Sure, that's only enough to put it one place higher on the list, but it's a lot farther than most commutes, let alone inner-city journeys.

18: Volkswagen e-Golf

Used test: BMW i3 vs Volkswagen e-Golf

Real Range: 117 miles

Miles per kWh: 3.3

Full charge cost: £4.98

Cost per mile: £0.042

Unlike purpose-built electric car rivals such as the Nissan Leaf, the e-Golf is based on a conventional hatchback. However, this is no bad thing because it means it has most of the good points of the regular Golf, along with greatly reduced running costs.

What lets the e-Golf down is the distance it can go on a full charge, with it limited to 117 miles in real-world driving. The upcoming ID 3 addresses this failing.

17: BMW i3 94Ah

BMW i3

Real Range: 121 miles

Miles per kWh: 3.1

Full charge cost: £5.45

Cost per mile: £0.045

The i3 is a prestige electric hatchback whose futuristic styling helped it to stand out from the crowd when it was launched in 2014.

Its relatively high price and impractical rear door arrangement mean it hasn’t been a class leader for some time, but a larger battery version was recently introduced and features higher up this list.

16: Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf front - 19 plate

Real Range: 128 miles

Miles per kWh: 2.8

Full charge cost: £6.30

Cost per mile: £0.042

In its first iteration, the Leaf became the world’s best-selling electric car, while we named this successor as our 2018 Electric Car of the Year for its punchy performance, generous safety kit and big boot.

Things have moved on significantly in the last couple of years, however, with plenty of cars able to beat its 128-mile Real Range, including another version of the Leaf itself.

15: Renault Zoe R110

6: RENAULT ZOE R110 - REAL RANGE 146 MILES

Real Range: 146 miles

Miles per kWh: 2.9

Full charge cost: £7.04

Cost per mile: £0.048

The Zoe was one of the first mass-market electric cars and set out to prove that zero-emissions motoring could be both practical and cheap.

The latest version of the car features a bigger battery and a smarter interior, but this original Zoe still makes plenty of sense as a used buy.

14: Hyundai Kona Electric 39kWh

Hyundai Kona Electric 39kWh

Real Range: 158 miles

Miles per kWh: 3.6

Full charge cost: £6.15

Cost per mile: £0.039

Hyundai’s small electric SUV was initially offered with 134 or 201bhp, but even in its less powerful form (which has since been discontinued) it outperformed most of its mainstream rivals, with a Real Range of 158 miles.

The Kona also has a smart interior, sophisticated infotainment system and fine driving position on its side.

13: BMW i3 120Ah

BMW i3 120Ah front

Real Range: 165 miles

Miles per kWh: 3.3

Full charge cost: £6.94

Cost per mile: £0.042

While the 120Ah version of the i3 has a bigger capacity than the 94Ah, helping it travel an extra 44 miles between charges, its battery takes up no more space, so doesn't impinge on practicality.

An 80% charge from a 7.4kW BMW i wallbox takes 4.9 hours, while a 50kW motorway fast charger will do the job in 42 minutes.

12: Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus

Tesla Model 3 front three quarters

Real Range: 181 miles

Miles per kWh: 3.1

Full charge cost: £8.20

Cost per mile: £0.045

This is the cheapest Tesla yet. And while it isn't as good to drive as the Performance version of the Model 3, because it misses out on four-wheel drive and generally feels less agile and controlled, the Standard Range Plus makes a much cheaper company car than petrol and diesel alternatives.

Tesla is still to confirm how long it takes to charge the car using one of its Superchargers, but typically these are faster than regular public charging points.

11: Renault Zoe R135

2019 Renault Zoe UK front right tracking LHD

Real Range: 192 miles

Miles per kWh: 3.1

Full charge cost: £8.75

Cost per mile: £0.046

The latest Zoe is our reigning Small Electric Car of the Year, because it's great value, classy inside and has a big range between charges.

We reckon the range-topping R135 GT Line is the best version, although the R110 Iconic is also worth a look – especially if you mostly drive in town.

10: Audi E-tron 55 quattro

Audi E-tron front three quarters

Real Range: 196 miles

Miles per kWh: 2.0

Full charge cost: £13.43

Cost per mile: £0.069

The Audi E-tron doesn’t feel as sporty to drive as the rival Jaguar I-Pace, and it has a shorter range. However, it’s the classier of the two inside and the quieter cruiser.

In a first for a production car, buyers can improve the aerodynamics by opting to remove the E-tron’s door mirrors and replace them with cameras that feed into small screens inside.

9: Tesla Model S 75D

Tesla Model S 75D

Real Range: 204 miles

Miles per kWh: 2.4

Full charge cost: £11.77

Cost per mile: £0.058

The Model S transformed the image of electric vehicles when it arrived in 2014. A luxury car with plenty of space for five adults, it’s capable of sports car performance and has a long range.

It can be charged at home in an average of 11 hours, while Tesla’s Superchargers will give you 80% in half an hour. However, it should be noted that our Real Range test was carried out in 2018, before Tesla upgraded the Model S's power unit.

8: Mercedes EQC

Mercedes EQC front

Real Range: 208 miles

Miles per kWh: 2.2

Full charge cost: £13.05

Cost per mile: £0.063

A rival to the Audi E-tron and Jaguar I-Pace, the EQC is closer in character to the former, being exceptionally quiet and comfortable but not particularly agile.

Its Real Range, meanwhile, treads the middle ground, with it managing 208 miles on a charge in our test.

7: Tesla Model 3 Long Range

Tesla Model 3 nose

Real Range: 211 miles

Miles per kWh: 2.6

Full charge cost: £11.55

Cost per mile: £0.055

Logic would suggest that the Long Range version of the Model 3 would manage more miles between charges than the range-topping Performance model. After all, although the two cars officially have the same size battery, the Long Range has the advantage of smaller, more aerodynamic wheels.

Sadly, Tesla decided against providing a Model 3 Long Range for testing, so we sourced one from elsewhere and found that the battery of that particular car actually had a smaller capacity than the one in the Model 3 Performance tested previously.

This could have been down to the way the car had been recharged during its life, but whatever the reason, it contributed to a Real Range figure on the day of 211 miles, which is actually less than the Performance managed.

Our test of the Long Range was also blighted by heavy rain, meaning extra battery power would have been required to push the tyres through the standing water. Tesla has been asked to supply a car for retesting, but has so far declined.

6: Nissan Leaf e+

Nissan Leaf front - red 19-plate car

Real Range: 217 miles

Miles per kWh: 3.1

Full charge cost: £9.78

Cost per mile: £0.045

With 214bhp, the e+ is 66bhp more powerful than the standard Leaf, and absolutely feels it. However, more significantly, it has a 62kWh battery, compared with the 40kWh battery of the standard car, which allowed it to travel an extra 89 miles in our Real Range test.

Sadly, this is largely where the plus points end. While you might imagine the e+ would ride and handle similarly to the regular Leaf, in reality it leans far more dramatically in corners and rocks you this way and that even on straight roads that look reasonably smooth. It's also much more expensive to buy.

5: Tesla Model X 100D

Tesla Model X 100D

Real Range: 233 miles

Miles per kWh: 2.0

Full charge cost: £15.95

Cost per mile: £0.068

Tesla's sporty yet plush Model X was the first prestige electric SUV. A practical seven-seat rival to the Audi Q7, it gets a four-star overall rating from us.

The 100D variant that we put through our Real Range test represents the mid-point in the Model X line-up although, as with the Model S, we've so far only tested a 2018 car, meaning it didn't have the latest upgrades designed to maximise range.

4: Tesla Model 3 Performance

Tesla Model 3 Performance

Real Range: 239 miles

Miles per kWh: 2.8

Full charge cost: £12.04

Cost per mile: £0.050

Like all Model 3s, the Performance is surprisingly practical and stuffed with useful technology. But this version is also great to drive and ridiculously fast.

Indeed, the Model 3 Performance is a strong contender in the executive car class, not just when compared with other electric cars.

=2: Kia e-Niro 64kWh

Kia e-Niro 64kWh

Real Range: 253 miles

Miles per kWh: 3.5

Full charge cost: £10.19

Cost per mile: £0.040

While the number of electric cars on sale in the UK is growing fast, there are still few that have a range nudging what you would expect from petrol and diesel models. But with a realistic 253 miles, the e-Niro is certainly one of them.

It’s also seriously quick, good to drive and has plenty of space for five adults inside, all of which explains why we named it our 2019 Car of the Year.

=2: Jaguar I-Pace

Jaguar I-Pace

Real Range: 253 miles

Miles per kWh: 2.6

Full charge cost: £13.84

Cost per mile: £0.055

The I-Pace took a landslide victory in the 2018 What Car? Reader Award, and has since lived up to the anticipation, mixing show-stopping looks, space for four adults, a Real Range of 253 miles and entertaining handling.

From the latest 150kW public chargers, it can obtain an 80% charge in 46 minutes, although this rises to 85 minutes from the more common 50kW chargers.

1: Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh

Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh

Real Range: 259 miles

Miles per kWh: 3.6

Full charge cost: £10.09

Cost per mile: £0.039

A Real Range figure of 259 miles makes the 201bhp (or 64kWh) version of the Kona Electric the best performing car we’ve tested to date.

Like the Kia e-Niro, to which it's closely related, it's a sensibly priced electric car that won’t require the majority of motorists to adjust their lifestyle in order to live with it. However, it's not as spacious as the e-Niro and is less composed to drive, so we don't rate it quite as highly.

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