Let’s start this story with a disclaimer. Everybody drives differently, so real world gas mileage or electric car range will vary greatly from one driver to another. Mileage and range are affected by wind, temperature, tire pressure and tread depth, terrain, and how aggressively you drive. Back in the 1995, I drove a Saturn SL2 sedan with a 5-speed transmission. The car never got less than 33 mpg and I often saw 38 mpg on the highway. I was selling Saturns back then and had a customer who drove the exact same year and model car as mine. He complained bitterly that he was lucky to get 22 mpg with his.
Why the difference? I have no idea. The service department gave his car a full diagnostic check and could find nothing out of spec with his car. He sold it and told plenty of people how unhappy he was with his car. Between my wife and I, we owned 7 Saturns over the years and loved driving every one of them. Go figure.
Gas mileage is the first thing everyone asks about when looking to buy a new gas-powered vehicle. Few people ever make a buying decision based on fuel economy alone, but they always say it is a major factor. The first thing an EV shopper asks about is range. Once again, it may be less of a factor than it appears, but people buy on emotion and justify their decision later with facts. Range is one of those “facts” they say they rely on. But given the typical American drives less than 30 miles a day and most EV owners charge their cars overnight while they sleep, whether their spiffy new electro-mobile can travel 200, 250, or 300 miles on a single charge is largely irrelevant for the majority of EV owners most of the time.
The EPA Testing Protocol
The EPA conducts tests on all new electric cars to determine how efficiently they use the electricity stored in their batteries and how far they can drive on a single charge. But the EPA tests are conducted indoors on a dynamometer — Edmunds calls it a treadmill for cars. It then calculates the results based on certain mathematical formulas. About 55% of the EPA test cycle mimics stop and go city driving and 45% reflects highway driving.
Edmunds likes to do its own testing out in the real world. In its tests, it charges the battery to 100%, drives as far as the car can go with a 10 mile reserve, then recharges the battery to 100% and calculates range and efficiency numbers from the observed data. It also adjusts the type of driving to 60% city, 40% highway because it believes that mix is a more accurate representation of how real people actually drive in the real world.
ID.4 Range Test
In its most recent test, it put a Volkswagen ID.4 First Edition through its paces. When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, the car managed to travel 287 miles — about 15% more than the EPA’s 250 mile range estimate. Keep in mind that the Edmunds test leaves approximately 10 miles of range available at the end, since no one in their right mind would drive an electric car until it stopped running completely.
“When charging the ID.4 back to full and calculating its energy consumption, we measured a rate of 28.8 kWh/100 miles, which is significantly lower than the EPA’s estimate of 35 kWh/100 miles. In other words, our ID.4 used about 18% less energy than the EPA projected. This also means our ID.4 was slightly more efficient than the Tesla Model Y Performance, which recorded 29.6 kWh/100 miles in our testing versus its EPA estimate of 30 kWh/100 miles. That makes more sense considering the level of performance we’ve experienced in the Model Y, which most often comes with a trade-off in efficiency,” Edmunds reports.
Drive Electric. Be Happy!
Should you take the Edmunds test as gospel? Of course not. The old expression, “Your mileage may vary. See dealer for details,” still applies. You could drive an ID.4 and get 230 miles or more than 300 miles. Range numbers are all guestimates based on (hopefully) informed mathematical and scientific principles. Edmunds consistently finds Tesla models have significantly shorter range in the real world than their EPA estimates would suggest and that has brought quite a lot of criticism down on their heads. On the other hand, they find the Porsche Taycan 4S can actually go 323 miles as opposed to the 203 the EPA says. That is a significant difference.
We all shop when we are considering a new car. We look at repair records, EPA estimates, reviews in Car and Driver or Consumer Reports, and ask our friends what they think. In the end, it comes down to emotion. What car makes you smile the most when you get behind the wheel? It’s good to know the ID.4 is efficient and beats the EPA range estimate by a significant amount. But in the final analysis, don’t let yourself get hung up on minutia. Any new electric car is going to make your old gasmobile feel like so much last century technology. Drive electric. Be happy!