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Battle of the Batteries: Comparing Electric Car Range, Charge Times

Your mileage will vary — that’s one of the basic truths about driving, and it’s not about to change for electric vehicles. Depending on the climate, terrain, your driving style, vehicle maintenance and other factors, you can eke out, more or less, miles per gallon of gasoline. With electric vehicles, these factors will affect how far you can drive before it’s time to plug in and juice up.


With a gas station always at hand, it’s easy not to sweat how many miles you get on a full tank of gas. But with the upcoming generation of plug-in vehicles, automakers are battling what’s commonly referred to as “range anxiety” — prospective buyers’ valid concern that they might get stuck with a fast-depleting battery without a charge point in sight. As these vehicles have progressed through the development process, some data and anecdotes have emerged about how real-world performance compares to the range promised for various models.

Most recently, BMW found in a survey of drivers participating in its demo of the electric Mini E last week that the model’s range has been coming in with about a third fewer miles than the automaker had estimated. Here’s the rundown on 12 upcoming and currently available plug-in models, their batteries and charge times, and some hints on what to expect as electric cars hit the road.

Vehicle Battery Claims Real World?
BMW Mini E 35 kWh lithium ion. Air cooled. Range: 156 miles (ideal conditions), 109 miles (normal city driving), 96 miles (normal highway driving). Charge time: 26 hours at 110V/12 amp outlet. 4.5 hours at 240V/32 amp. 3 hours at 240V/48 amp. Drivers in BMW’s demo fleet have gotten closer to 100-110 miles per charge. In below-freezing temperatures, range has dropped in some cases to 55-80 miles.
Chevy Volt 16 kWh (plus 1.4L gas engine). Liquid cooled. Lithium manganese cells from LG Chem. Electric range: 40 miles. Total range: “Hundreds of miles.Charge time: 10 hours at 120V, 4 hours at 240V. Former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz has said he got 28 miles worth of juice from the battery when he drove a Volt for a weekend in Detroit last winter, explaining that the car’s range, “can vary on any given day depending on temperature, terrain, driving conditions and so forth.”
Coda Sedan 34 kWh Range: 90-120 miles. Charge time: <6 hours at 240V. Expect data to start rolling in later this year when the car launches in California.
Fisker Karma 22.6 kWh (plus 2.0L gas engine). Lithium ion cells from A123 Systems (s AONE). Electric range: 50 miles. Total range: 300 miles. Unknown. Expect more info during the next six months, as the Karma’s slated to launch in September 2010. As with the Tesla Roadster, Karma drivers tempted by the model’s sports car aspects may sacrifice some electric range for sportier performance.
Ford Focus EV

23 kWh. Lithium ion tri-metal cells from LG Chem. Range: 75 miles (prototype)

Charge time: 6-8 hours at 230V.

Unknown. Fleet trials underway; launch slated for late 2011.
Mitsubishi iMiEV 16 kWh Range: 80 miles (half that if the heater’s used). Charge time: 12-13 hours at 110V, 7 hours at 220V, 2.5 hours fast charge. Some reviewers driving at highway speeds and in mountainous terrain have drained the battery after about 55 miles.
Nissan LEAF 24 kWh Range: 100 miles (city driving). Charge time: 8 hours at 220V. 80 percent charge in 30 mins with fast charge. Darryl Siry, adviser to Coda Automotive and former Marketing VP for Tesla Motors, takes issue with Nissan’s 100-mile claim, as it’s based on the optimistic scenario of driving in stop-and-go city traffic in temperate climates. Expect data from earliest buyers and lessees by year’s end.
Smart Fortwo ED 16.5 kWh lithium ion Range: 85 miles.Charge time: 3.5-8 hours, depending on starting charge level and voltage used (100V or 220V). In early 2008, the UK’s Top Gear eked out only 22 miles in a road test “before the indicator was reading a paltry 30 per cent.” Update: Smart said the car in this test “was probably ill.”
Tesla Model S 42 kWh standard (larger premium batteries optional) Range: 160 miles base model (230-300 miles with premium pakcs). Charge time: 3-5 hours at 220V/70 amp, 80 percent charge in 45 mins at 440V. Unknown. Deliveries scheduled to begin in 2012.
Tesla Roadster 56 kWh lithium cobalt. Liquid cooled. Range: 220 miles (combined city/highway). Charge time: 3.5 hours at high power. Driven like the sports car that it is, the Roadster has delivered closer to 95-120 miles of range. Driven conservatively, the Roadster has in some cases delivered about 140 miles of range. Update: There are also examples of the Roadster getting much more range — in one instance up to 313 miles.
Think City 24.5 kWh lithium ion batteries from Ener1 (s HEV) subsidiary EnerDel. Range: 160 kilometers (about 99.4 miles) in Europe’s ECE-R101 drive cycle. 112 miles for the U.S. market.

Charge time: 8 hours at 110V. Working on 80 percent charge in 15 mins at 220V with Aerovironment.

Think City models sold in Europe have come with options to use either a sodium-based battery (designed for use in very hot or very cold climates) or lithium-ion. Drivers with the sodium battery reportedly have encountered few problems even after thousands of charging cycles.
Toyota Plug-in Prius Three 96-cell lithium-ion battery packs: one main pack for hybrid operation and two sub-packs for all-electric mode. Electric range: About 13 miles, depending on conditions and driving style.

Charge time: About 3 hours at 110V, 100 minutes at 200V.

Demo vehicles now undergoing testing.
Volvo Electric C30 24 kWh Range: 150 kilometers (about 93.2 miles) New European Driving Cycle.

Charge time: <8 hours at 230V, 16 amp

50-vehicle test fleet slated for Sweden.


Images courtesy of the automakers

46 Responses to “Battle of the Batteries: Comparing Electric Car Range, Charge Times”

  1. Although it has been stated that an EV would be plugged in overnight, it must be remembered that not everyone has a garage, or even a driveway, especially in the major cities. It simply would not be convenient to have trailing cables running across pavements.

  2. Security Guy is a liar. No one is accepting payment for an EMC electric car. The car is a scam, designed to separate car dealers from their cash. Key players in this scam are the same thieves behind the Aro, Gazelle, and SmartZ. Never heard or these cars? They never materialized, either.
    In fact, even if these cars were importable (they are not), they could never be produced for the price and in the quantity claimed.
    Just wait to see what happens! You heard it here first!

  3. Security Guy

    They never mentioned the vehicles from Envision Motor Company. They are coming out with a Cargo Van, Wagon, and Pickup Truck. I am buying the pickup truck and have already put down my deposit. The battery has 62 Kilowatts of power, and the truck weighs less than the Nissan Leaf at 3,000 pounds. I believe them when they say it can get 260 miles per charge in perfect conditions.
    They are going to start producing these vehicles in the next month in a plant in Webster City, Iowa. Check out their website at

  4. warren currier

    At a certain point the Lithium Ion batteries will fail. So the real price of that car goes way up.

    So, an idea….

    What shall prevail is this: We will see a new type of electric motor that will interact with four 6 volt deep-cycle batteries.

    That’s it.

    This system will first be installed in some old taxis…. YES, after the ICE is removed.

    The entire cost of this retrofit will be less than one year[s cost of the old fuel.

    Large banks will compete to finance the operators… so that the operators can pay for the entire conversion with the cash that they are NOT spending on oil-fuel.

    Just an idea.

  5. warren currier

    At a certain point the Lithium Ion batteries will fail. So the real price of that car goes way up.

    So, an idea….

    What shall prevail is this: We will see a new type of electric motor that will interact with four 6 volt deep-cycle batteries.

    That’s it.

    This system will first be installed in some old taxis…. YES, after the ICE is removed.

    The entire cost of this retrofit will be less than one year[s cost of the old fuel.

    Large banks will compete to finance the operators… so that the operators can finance the entire conversion with the cash that they are NOT spending on oil-fuel.

    Just an idea.

  6. Chad Schwitters

    Some comments about the range on the Tesla Roadster:

    The EPA number is 244 miles. That’s good conditions, flat road, 55mph. And it’s easy enough to match that under similar conditions; I have a number of times.

    Driving it like a race car will obviously reduce the range considerably (just like in a gas car). I’ve never seen my range fall below 150 miles. One person reported his fell to 120 at the track. Note that the numbers reported are sometimes lower, as the bottom 25 miles are only displayed if you are in Range Mode.

    Weather can of course have an effect. The worst is cold rain, where you are pushing water out of the way, and running both the heater and A/C to keep the windscreen clear. I once saw my range fall to 180 in those conditions, but that was record-breaking rain.

    For the 140-mile range that Car-and-driver saw, remember: they didn’t charge in Range mode (so didn’t get the top 10% of the battery), didn’t run in Range mode (so didn’t get the bottom 10%), and were driving WAY over 55mph. Tesla has a graph on their site that shows how many miles you can go at each speed. It ranges from 410 miles at 18mph to 80 miles at 125mph. The 244 miles at 55 fits right in the middle there.

    Gas mpg is ranked similarly. Drive nice at 55, and you get the EPA mpg. Drive a lot faster, you get a lot less.

    • Great to hear your first-hand experiences with this, Chad. Have you had a chance to test the range in colder climates (below freezing)? Good thing we don’t see too many Roadster drivers inching along CA freeways trying to get the max 410 miles. :-)

  7. Matthew Crosby

    This article misses how much drivers will usually need/use on a daily basis. A majority of drivers’ daily VMT is 40 miles or fewer per day. If the car gets 4 mi/kwh, depending on driving conditions, it needs 10kwh/night, less than the onboard storage capacity of many of the PEVs listed here. For longer trips, you can use an efficient conventional vehicle, PHEV/EREV (switch to gasoline), or for BEVs, DC charging (TEPCO study is useful), and potentially battery swap (see the Better Place/Tokyo taxi demo).

    @Mike-check out the Ford Transit connect for a small business solution, and the Dodge Ram PHEV demo in SMUD’s territory. Ford has a PHEV Escape demo as well, and may offer for the mass market.

    @Android- Toyota’s play is to 1) not cannibalize the Prius, and 2) offer a lower cost PEV (the battery cost is the largest component of the EV). After your electric range you switch to gasoline, with the fuel efficiency of a typical Toyota hybrid.

  8. Blaze

    Folks, you are all thinking inside the box. An electric vehicle is much more efficient an less polluting than an ICE. That means that for a buck worth of electricity you can travel about 65 miles, or 8 miles for a gas powered car.
    The average work commute in the US is 29 miles round trip. Well within the range of most EVs. Remember you will plug them in every night so you NEVER have to go to the gas station. Sure most will initially go to homes with a second vehicle but come on, lets save the planet…

  9. After I got over the fact that none of the current crop of all-electric cars is ready for prime time (meaning, ready to be most drivers’ primary car), the takeaway I took away is that hybrids will continue to be crucial during the transition phase to all electric. The 2010-2012 pure EVs are going to generate tons of interest and excitement, but lots of negative press too. Plug-in Prius and Volt will gain incrementally longer pure battery ranges, but as batteries improve, on-board systems get optimized, and cars get lighter, eventually the gas engine will become superfluous. But from Josie’s great work (thanks!), that’s still going to be a few years out.

  10. I guess the question really is, how much electricity does it take to charge the batteries. Wouldn’t that be great to get the next electric bill and have it be $100 higher because of the car.

  11. Cameron

    The Smart ED review said Merc thought the demo EV was faulty. Which sounds right because other reviews gave closer to the quoted range. Also these are still in testing so expect faults.
    Please update the real world box.

    Also don’t forget the ‘better place’ initiative. It’s basically a petrol station battery swap system with standardised battery sizes. So you lease the batteries like you do gas cylinders and it just swaps them in a few minutes. Effectively making EV’s as convenient as Fuel cars. Problem solved!

  12. The thing I don’t understand no one talks about how much electric these cars actually use, how much electric are these cars using? Do they consume 100 watts an hour during charge? Do they use more? If the car is giving our an output of 100mpg on a full charge but it takes 200watts/hour to charge it then the appeal kind of goes away.

  13. For most people, 50 miles is going to be ok for a day’s driving. If you need to go further just take the train right?
    What really interests me is these new solar power cells that are so thin they can literally print them out on a sheet of paper. Once this technology is perfected i’m sure car manufactuers will just paint the cars in solar cells so they charge all the time (sun permitting). Interesting times! :)

  14. As a reference, you should note that the RAV-4 electric and the EV-1 both got about 80-100 miles per charge using 10-year-old NiMH battery technology. Some of the RAV-4s are still running today!

    20 miles or so is about all you need for a PHEV.

      • Chad Schwitters

        My wife is a RAV4-EV driver. (It was my car until she fought me for it; I bought another EV).

        She usually drives 20 miles or less per day. We’ve only taken it more than 50 miles a few times, so it’s hard to say exactly what the full range is. But it looks like we could get 100 miles out of it, even though it’s over 7 years old now.

        The last 20 miles would be in the yellow and red zone, and we’d rather keep it out of that. So we consider it an 80-mile car. If it’s raining and you have to push water out of the way and run HVAC to keep the windscreen clear, you lose about 20%.

        Our other EV has more range, so we take that on longer trips.

  15. AndroidAbh

    Toyota Prius Plug-in is travel 13 miles for every recharge !!!!! . is this is JOKE ,where all others runs 50 – 200 miles. which people will only going to 13 miles for 3 hrs charge time . 13 miles means after charging 3 hrs it will only last for 13 minutes ( if i go for 60 miles/hrs ). its really a very bad JOKE Toyota , how the earlier versions of Prius became best seller !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • I test drove the plug in Prius recently in the UK, I had exactly the same thought until I’d driven over 300 miles, re-charged it when I got the chance. (it only takes an hour and a bit on 240 V 13 amp standard UK outlet) On trips under 40 miles or so, it easily achives 99.9 mpg according to the dash readout, Over the whole 300 miles, 87 mpg, which is not bad for a 5 seater roomy car. The cost for re-charging in the UK is around 30p, or maybe 50c US

      You can see my review on fully charged on itunes or YouTube

  16. Mike Butcher

    Still not a single one any good for a family with 2 or three kids and a decent amount of luggage. Where are the MPVs/ SUVs and People Carriers?!