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Polestar commissioned an independent range test for four different electric cars.


How far can you drive an electric car at 70mph before it stops?

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The personal car has been sold to society as an engineered expression of freedom, as told through stories as varied as the dust bowl migration of The Grapes of Wrath to the irresponsible road racers of The Cannonball Run. And decades of dependence on fast-flowing liquid hydrocarbons for fuel have left little tolerance for spending many minutes more plugged in and stationary, waiting for lithium-ion cells to recharge. So when it comes to bench-racing electric vehicles, the only statistic most people care about is how far it can go before you need to plug it in again.

The situation isn’t exactly helped by the tests used by regulators. In Europe, the WLTP test cycle averages 29mph (47km/h) and generates range estimates that should be considered mere fantasies on North American roads. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s test averages almost twice that, but then gets subjected to a fudge factor that heavily penalizes some while flattering others. Which is why it’s interesting to see the results of an independent range test of several EVs that involved charging them up then driving them at a steady 70mph (112km/h) until they ground to a halt.

The study was commissioned by Polestar, which wanted to rank its new Polestar 2 EV against three competitors: the Tesla Model 3 Performance, Jaguar I-Pace, and Audi e-tron. The test procedure, conducted on July 28 on a three-mile (4.8km) oval at Fowlerville Proving Ground in Michigan, was quite straightforward.

Each car was brought to 100-percent state of charge and set to its default drive mode with regenerative braking turned off (or in its most gentle setting). The interior temperature was set to 72˚F (22˚C), the tires were inflated to the pressures recommended on each car’s door placard, and the headlights were turned on (a requirement of the test track).

The cars were then driven slowly (under 25mph for 1.3 miles/40km/h for 2km) from the staging and charging area to the oval whereupon each was gently accelerated (at 0.3G) to a GPS-verified 70mph, and kept there with cruise control, all running spaced out in the same lane at the test track. Each car was driven until it could no longer maintain a speed of 70mph due to battery depletion.

Tesla’s experience shows

It should not come as a surprise that the Tesla Model 3 traveled farthest, reaching 234 miles (377km)—75 percent of its EPA range—before dropping below 70mph. Tesla has spent more than a decade continuously refining the range efficiency of its electric powertrains and clads its vehicles in low-drag bodies, and that wealth of experience showed on the test track, even when optioned with 20-inch wheels and high-performance tires.

The Polestar 2 was the runner-up, traveling 205 miles (330km) before 70mph was too much. Polestar is still waiting on the official EPA range estimate for the Polestar 2, but if that comes in at the expected 250 miles (402km), that would be 82 percent of the car’s official range.

In fact, the company supplied a pair of Polestar 2s for the test, one of them equipped (like the car we tested a few weeks ago) with the Performance Package’s bigger 20-inch wheels and sticky summer tires. Big wheels and sticky tires are the last thing you want on a car when it comes to eking out more miles per electron, and that penalty was on display as a range reduction of eight miles (13km), or about three percent, compared to the same car on 19-inch wheels and low-rolling resistance rubber.

Next was the I-Pace, an EV400 HSE trim shod with 22-inch wheels. The British battery EV completed 188 miles (302km) before crying Uncle, 80 percent of its EPA-rated range of 234 miles (377km). (Jaguar recently sent out a software update for the I-Pace that boosted range efficiency by up to 12 miles (19km), but that has not affected the BEV’s official EPA range.)

In last place was the Audi e-tron, which managed 187 miles (300km) before calling it a day. However, the bright side for Audi’s engineers is that the e-tron made it closer to its EPA range than any of the others, traveling 92 percent of the officially rated 204 miles (328km). The Audi was also the first to come to a complete stop. Each of the other cars happily traveled another couple of miles to exit the oval and return to a plug, even with an indicated 0 miles on the dash; the e-tron ground to a halt after 1.9 miles (3km).

As continues to be the case, if you’re in need of an electric car to make urgent coast-to-coast deliveries, you still can’t beat a Tesla.

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