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Summary
  • Range means miles to empty or the maximum distance your vehicle can travel before it runs out of fuel or charge. These numbers, however, are generally accepted as estimates.
  • There are other automotive terms that use range for measurements, including fuel, electric vehicles (EVs), and hybrid EVs.
  • Factors that affect range include bad driving habits, underinflated tires, and the use of electrical features. Make the most out of your vehicle’s range by charging your EV regularly, planning ahead, and using regenerative braking whenever possible.

First-time car owners usually have a lot of information to digest when it comes to the inner workings of their vehicles. Aside from fuel type, tire pressure, and maintenance schedules, another thing they should know about is their vehicle’s range.

What Does Range Mean In a Car?

Range means miles to empty or the maximum distance your vehicle can travel before it runs out of fuel or charge (for electric and hybrid vehicles).

Range is often quoted when buying a new car regardless of whether it’s a fuel or battery-powered one.

These numbers, however, are generally accepted as estimates. There is a margin of error for these figures, ranging from 2.8 to 6.4%.

Range Applications

There are other automotive terms that use range for measurements, including fuel, EVs, and hybrid EVs.

Fuel Range

Fuel range is better known as miles per gallon (mpg) or the calculation of a vehicle’s fuel economy. Mpg ratings are calculated by dividing the total miles traveled by the number of gallons (of fuel) consumed.

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According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the fuel range of full-size cars can go over 200 miles a tank with 26 to 27.5 gallons’ worth of fuel on average.

EV Range

EV range is also referred to as miles per gallon equivalent (mpge) or miles per kilowatt hour (kWh). This is the maximum distance an EV can travel on a full charge.

According to the International Energy Agency, the average range of electric vehicles grew by 152% over the last decade.

In 2021, the maximum range of EVs stood at 217 miles (349 km).

Hybrid EV Range

The range of hybrid vehicles, meanwhile, depends on both fuel and battery life.

Many hybrid vehicles rely on their internal combustion engine for power while the battery pack serves as a backup.

There are also some hybrids with batteries that send power to the wheels while the combustion engine recharges them while driving.

Each hybrid vehicle is built differently, which is why there can be several ways to calculate their range.

On average, hybrid vehicles can reach moderate distances on battery power alone, which is anywhere between 15 and 60 miles, according to a report from the Alternative Fuels Data Center of the US Department of Energy.

Factors that Affect Range

Regardless of whether you’re driving a vehicle with an internal combustion engine, a battery-powered one, or a hybrid, these are some of the factors that could affect its range.

Bad Driving Habits

Aggressively stomping on the pedal and forcing the engine to churn more power than a gear can handle is one way of reducing a vehicle’s range.

Driving fast all the time isn’t economical, either. This is because air resistance increases the faster you go, which means the engine will need more power to maintain a certain speed.

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Underinflated Tires

Underinflated tires can stick to the road, creating drag. This forces the engine to do more work to get the vehicle moving. Always inspect your tires before hopping in your car to make sure you won’t encounter any issues down the road.

Use of Electrical Features

Advanced infotainment systems, heated car seats, and top-of-the-line sound systems are some of the many luxuries found in new vehicles. But as convenient as they are, they do consume a lot of power, which can reduce range.

Extremely Cold Temperatures

Not all EVs work well in extremely cold temperatures. In fact, their range can drop by as much as 35%.

Home charging stations come in handy when driving an EV in colder areas because the vehicle can warm up until it reaches its operating temperature without consuming battery life.

Battery Weight (for EVs)

The principle of weight in fuel economy applies to batteries as well一the heavier your car’s battery is, the more likely it will consume more power because of its weight.

It also takes longer to charge a huge battery, which could mean more expenses.

Poor Vehicle Maintenance

Proper maintenance will always be your best defense against car trouble. If you’re not too keen on keeping up with your vehicle’s oil change intervals, fluid checks, and other tasks, you can expect to encounter more than one problem down the road.

Driving with low or contaminated engine oil, for example, creates frictional resistance between metal parts. It’ll also be impossible for heat to dissipate because there’s no oil that will carry it away from the engine. As a result, your vehicle’s fuel economy will decline.

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Low coolant levels can also cause the engine to overheat and metal parts to expand. This will cause your vehicle to consume more fuel to accomplish basic tasks

How to Make the Most Out of Your Vehicle’s Range

We’ve already talked about the things that could negatively affect your vehicle’s range. In this section, we’ll discuss some of the tricks you can use to make the most out of it.

Charge Regularly (for EVs)

For EVs, it’s a rule of thumb to keep the battery life anywhere between 20% and 80%. Staying within this range ensures that the battery is in good operating condition.

Plan Ahead

Uphill climbs and rocky terrain can significantly reduce your vehicle’s range. Fortunately, planning ahead and looking for alternative routes can help you avoid these situations.

Use Regenerative Braking (If Possible)

Some vehicles have the capacity to perform regenerative braking, which is when an electric motor serves as a generator that stores heat energy.

Regenerative braking can add a few more miles of range but only if you drive smoothly and avoid sudden braking.

Travel Light

To travel light means to remove any unwanted accessories and items from your car before going for a drive. This prevents the engine or battery from exerting extra effort to move the vehicle at a certain speed.

You might also want to keep your windows up to minimize drag while you drive.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Automotive Features Reviewer at CarParts.com

Lisa Conant grew up in Canada around a solid contingency of gear heads and DIY motor enthusiasts. She is an eclectic writer with a varied repertoire in the automotive industry, including research pieces with a focus on daily drivers and recreational vehicles. Lisa has written for Car Bibles and The Drive.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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