Real-world EV range vs WLTP: Why the shortfall?

WLTP versus real world electric car range-min

Range anxiety haunts potential EV buyers but dramatic headlines about electric cars running out of juice mid-journey miss the mark. The truth lies between ambitious WLTP figures (claimed range) and real world experience.

In short, the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) overestimates electric vehicle range just as it does petrol fuel economy.

Our experience is that WLTP figures have a 10-30% discrepancy depending on factors like journey type, driver behaviour and ambient temperature.

We provide more insight below.

What is WLTP?

The Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) is the official test used in Europe to measure electric vehicle range. Introduced between 2017-2018, it replaced the outdated New European Driving Cycle (NEDC).

WLTP aims to better represent real world driving with a more dynamic 30 minute test cycle. It doubles the distance covered and includes more realistic speeds, acceleration, braking, and temperatures. Optional equipment is also factored in for weight, aerodynamics and power consumption.

While a marked improvement over NEDC, WLTP still occurs in laboratory conditions. As such, it cannot account for variables encountered on the road.

Real world factors like traffic, hills, vehicle loading, speed, acceleration, cold weather, and driving style all affect range. Aggressive driving, high speeds, heavy loads, and cold temps decrease range. Careful “hypermiling” can extend it.

Motoring publications conduct their own “real world” tests to give consumers a better idea of actual range. Generally these find EVs achieve around 15% less than the WLTP figure under more realistic driving. However, an EV’s design and driving conditions sway results.

Is WLTP fit for purpose?

While WLTP has flaws, it provides a standardised way to compare the range of different electric vehicles. Like the fuel economy estimates for petrol cars, WLTP gives consumers a starting point rather than a guarantee on electric vehicle range.

So is WLTP fit for purpose? As a laboratory test, it will never match everyone’s individual driving habits. However, it’s meant to provide a reasonable estimate of range based on average driving. In that respect, WLTP succeeds in giving us a benchmark for electric vehicle capabilities.

No test can account for every eventuality. But WLTP marks a major improvement over the previous NEDC standard. The expanded test cycle and incorporation of optional equipment make the results far more indicative of what drivers can expect.

How to extend the range

Here are some tips to extend the range of your electric vehicle:

  1. Charge fully before a long trip. Get an 80% or 100% charge the night before to start your journey with maximum range.
  2. Drive smoothly and steadily. Avoid rapid acceleration and hard braking, and keep your speed moderate. This driving style maximises efficiency.
  3. Precondition while charging. Use the pre-entry climate control to get the ideal temperature without draining the battery.
  4. Select eco climate mode. Activate the eco setting for the HVAC system to conserve energy used for heating and cooling.
  5. Coast instead of braking. Let the car glide as far as possible before stopping to take advantage of regenerative braking.
  6. Lighten the load. Remove any unnecessary cargo or roof racks to reduce weight and drag.

Getting the Most from Your EV

Despite the gap between WLTP and real world range, a few simple techniques can help drivers maximise mileage:

  • Activate Eco Mode to increase regenerative braking.
  • Drive smoothly with gradual acceleration and braking.
  • Reduce speed and avoid sudden high speeds.
  • Check tire pressure monthly.
  • Remove unnecessary weight.
  • Use climate control judiciously.
  • Recharge regularly to avoid deep battery discharge.

With experience, most EV drivers learn to conservatively extend their range.

Long Distance Travel

For daily commuting, most EVs deliver ample range. But longer trips require planning. If driving over 200 miles, expect to stop for 30 minutes to recharge. Fortunately, this coincides with typical food and restroom breaks.

Before a long journey, identify charging stations along your route. Watch your range and top up when running low. Focus on smooth driving. A long-range EV with 300+ mile WLTP range may not need recharging.

Jakk is the founder and chief editor of Top Charger. He drives a Volkswagen ID.3 Family Pro Performance, and despite having a lead right foot, he consistently gets over 200-miles of range.