Electric Cars: Advice For You To Be Better Informed.

Wabi~Sabi (2015 Tesla Model S) parked on the side of Kyle Canyon Rd. near Mt. Charleston, Las Vegas, NV.

Figuring out electric cars

Electric cars are a mystery to most consumers. The confusion is a by-product of poor marketing tactics, misinformation, and mixed headlines. Despite this, people are still determined to make sense of the chaos and purchase an electric vehicle (EV). There’s something to be said about not watching as gas prices soar, or for that matter, pumping gas. What about reducing CO2 emissions while sporting a fun-to-drive car filled with exotic features? Some EVs even suggest they have low maintenance, further improving sustainability.

How do you begin to decipher the cryptic information out there and decide if an EV is right for you? Well, one way to start is to become informed. I am glad you came here to do just that. I think the right approach would be to answer two of the most common questions I, and possibly every EV owner, am being asked. How far do electric cars go on a full charge? / How many years or miles until the battery needs replacement? 

How far do Electric cars go on a full charge?

Wabi~Sabi parked in the desert outside Las Vegas, NV.

Just like a gasoline vehicle, several factors influence how far EVs travel. Therefore, there is not a simple answer to this question. But we can start to look at it by learning about the battery and calculating its realistic range. Then we can learn how to maintain it and what variables affect the distance. Finally, we can Learn what features the EV needs to help preserve the battery.

Find the realistic range of electric cars.

 Finding the realistic range involves knowing a little about the battery itself. Most cars utilize lithium-ion (Li-Ion) technology, which will be the subject of our discussion. Li-Ions exist in most of the portable technology we use every day. These devices tend to have a short lifespan due to the lack of proper charging. So to extend the life of your EV, you must know how to charge it the correct way. It starts with maintaining the charge levels.

Learn to maintain the proper charge levels.

Proper charge levels should be between 20% – 80% State of Charge (SoC) for daily commuting and 20% – 90% SoC for trips. Some manufacturers will recommend going to a max of 100% and below 20% if needed on trips. I highly advise against this advice if you want longevity. But know it is better to make it to your destination than to get stranded, so do 100% when vital. Just know that it will come at a cost.

Getting the realistic range

Now that you know how to maintain the proper levels, we can utilize that information to calculate the true range of an EV. Following the advice above, you can see that we need to subtract the bottom 20% and upper 20% from the total range (This allows you to maintain a proper charge balance). Ex. According to Tesla’s website, a 2022 Tesla M3 gets 334 miles estimated. Subtract 40% from this range to get an approximate real-world range. (334 Mi est.  – 40% = 200.40 Miles)

A loaner Tesla Model 3 takes up the frame. The picture is in Black and white. The Tesla "T" logo sits in the lower left third of the frame. Only the driver side headlight is visible with 75% of the front view of the car. The background is blurred with hints of a mountain and a flat ground. The picture is taken with the Model 3 parked on the Bonnie Claire dry lakebed in Nevada.
This older Tesla Model 3 rates at 272 Miles. Minus the 40%, it should see 163 Miles. It currently gets around 115 after degradation and driving in the mountainous area of Nevada.

Figure out the variables that will affect your range.

Gasoline cars are affected by these same variables. But we look past them since it does not take 40 minutes to refuel. Also, a gas station is frequently available. Electric cars cannot enjoy these benefits yet. As a result, you will need to ask yourself what your intended use will be; Both long-term and short-term.  Charging takes longer than fueling up a gas car. And charging is not available on as many routes. 

To help you find your intended use, I have listed a few ideas below.

  • Road trips
  • Ride-sharing
  • Business
  • Commute to work
  • Hauling
  • Occasional trips (distance?) 
  • A combination of these? 

Ask yourself:

Will any of these involve having weight added to the car? (More energy is required to move more weight at lower speeds.)

Will the commute have trips up mountains? (One-way trips up mountains can shorten range significantly)

Do you live in an area with high winds? (Oncoming winds create aerodynamic resistance (drag), therefore lowering efficiency)

Are the road conditions smooth or rough? (rough roads increase rolling-resistance, causing loss of range)

Will you drive on a highway or a city street? (Stop and go is more efficient for most EVs due to regenerative braking.)

Are there any other factors that may reduce the range?

How will you charge your electric car?

Having a charger where you live is essential. It allows the car to have an optimal charge level for when you need it. And can prevent you from adding a daily commute to an offsite charger before returning home. A car charged away from home to 90% may return home with 80% depending on distance traveled. After sitting overnight, the driver may only have 78% left or lower. Also, If you leave town without your car, you want to leave the car plugged in. Hopefully, it will prevent you from returning home to a dead battery. 

Know what vehicle features you want to have

Features are relative to what you want. But I will mention a few to look for in an EV that will help maintain your range.

The ability to regulate the charge level

Be sure to purchase an EV that allows you to manage (regulate) charge levels. Ask if you can set the maximum charge level. If the dealer says no, ask if the software design allows for reserves on both ends of the battery (The EV will show 0% when it has 20% SoC and 100% when it has 90% SoC). Another reason you want a vehicle that can have the charge level regulated is to prevent charging to 100% when not in use and plugged in. 

The ability to prepare the car for departure

You will also want the car to set cabin/battery temperature before arriving at it. Essentially, you want a passive heating and cooling system. It should allow the cabin to be cooled on a hot day and heated on a cold day. Be sure it brings the battery to operating temperature on cold days and charges the pack to 100% concurrently. It would also be wise to ask if the car keeps the battery cells cooled when no one is around to ensure it doesn’t get too hot on a sunny day.

In conclusion, make sure you get enough value out of your car. The EV industry dictates what they sell, but they react to what customers buy. As a result, you can control the quality of future EVs by making decisions that ensure you are purchasing a worthy product.

How Many Years Or Miles Until The Battery Needs Replacement?

Wabi~Sabi backed up against the side the Tesla service center / dealership with parking lights on. The Tesla logo is back-lit and sits in the upper left corner of the building.
My battery failed at 30% within 88,000 Miles and six years. She awaits a refurbished battery outside Tesla.

As you read above, proper maintenance determines how long the battery lasts. Therefore, guessing longevity is impractical. However, You can maximize your vehicle battery life by learning about and eliminating the variables that cause early wear. Age and time are not preventable (except maybe with time travel), but managing the other situations can prolong life.

Heat and battery life

Heat has the most significant impact on battery life. Undoubtedly, it makes the passive cooling system I mentioned above is an essential feature. With this in mind, it is imperative to keep your climate system in peak shape. Thus, repairing anything that goes wrong with it immediately.

The following produce heat levels that can reduce battery life:

  • Local climate
  • Cooling system failure
  • Quick discharging/recharging (super/fast charging and speeding)
  • Driving during hot days
  • Parking in the sun / over hot asphalt

Winter capacity woes

Winter temporarily reduces charge capacity, mainly causing trouble when the car sits in the cold off the charger for a while. It is not permanent or a cause for concern. As mentioned above, you want the car to warm the battery up before driving and ensure the charge is at the desired capacity during winter. Any vehicle that warms the cabin before driving is also a plus.

Remember, avoid charging to 100%. Just as important as staying above 20%. But never go to 0% for any reason. Avoid all of these by ordering a vehicle that meets your capacity needs (Total miles – 40% = Real capacity).  If you bought a car that allows charge capacity regulation, keep the car connected to a charger when not in use. If you have a vehicle that doesn’t, consider seeking a third-party charger that allows this functionality.

You are now ready to purchase or maintain your current electric car battery better. Please share this with anyone you know. Most of us will likely buy an EV in the future. Knowledgable consumers force companies to produce better products.

Endless stretched out road

Sunset on the horizon

Insufficient charge


Bonus Extra knowledge: What makes up a great electric car.

High battery capacity
Low weight
Efficient motors
Low energy loss due to cabin electronics
Low vampire power drain
Low drag coefficient
Low rolling resistant tires