Why an EV’s Actual Range May Vary from the EPA’s Estimate

Over the past few years, the electric vehicle (“EV”) industry has enjoyed plenty of mainstream attention. As governments move towards net zero carbon emissions over the next decade or two, electric cars will represent the next big step in vehicular travel. Powered by rechargeable batteries, EVs produce zero emissions and run on clean renewable energy. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) is charged with testing and rating the fuel economy of all road-going vehicles, electric vehicles included.

Like traditional vehicles, EPA estimates on fuel economy for electric vehicles tend to vary compared to real-world fuel economy. According to Edmunds.com, the variance between the EPA estimate and real-world performance can be even greater with EVs depending on the car. Edmunds was able to create its own standardized real-world test to provide an additional data point for comparison after owning and testing many of the EVs on the roads today.

The test results for the 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S, an all-new electric luxury sport sedan, and the Tesla Model Y were particularly interesting. The Taycan had an EPA estimate of 2013 miles of range and energy consumption of 49 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles but after Edmunds carried out a real-world driving test, it found that the vehicle had a range of 323 miles as well as better energy consumption of 32.3 kilowatt-hours for every 100 miles.

On the other hand, the EPA gave the Tesla Model Y an estimated range of 291 miles and a power consumption rating of 28kWh/100 miles and Edmunds’ real-world test found similar efficiency at 28.4 kWh/100 miles and a slightly lower range of 253 miles. The difference between the Taycan and the Model Y can be attributed to a couple of factors. First is testing variances: although the EPA has five test or drive cycles that simulate road routes and determine how efficiently a car will perform in different scenarios, only two are required, and Porsche opted for that.

Opting for only two saves the added prep time and costs involved in completing all the five cycles but unfortunately reduces the Porsche’s potential range by 30%. Consequently, the EPA estimate will end up being lower than the vehicle’s real-world performance. Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA), on the other hand, uses a five cycle test, meaning the EPA’s estimate will be quite similar to real-world performance.

The variance can also be attributed to a difference in battery usage. Constantly charging a battery to maximum capacity makes it degrade quicker over time, so manufacturers like Porsche tend to put stricter limits on charging and use. Tesla, on the other hand, allows owners to charge to around 90% for daily use and recommends the max battery for longer trips. Thus, Edmunds used the 90% estimate for the Model Y performance test. If the battery’s maximum capacity had been used, Edmunds estimates that it would have added 25 miles to the range. Now you know why the numbers released by the EPA may vary from the actual results you get when you drive an electric vehicle!

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