ElectraGirl: Take a summer road trip and get to know your Electric Car better

Saturday 30th May 2015

Two days and Two Electric Cars – How many miles can you drive with your Electric Car on a fully charged battery?

It was a Bank Holiday Monday, what to do? – Well we could always go for an adventure in our fully charged Smart Electric Drive and see how far you really can drive. So that is what we did.

The idea for this adventure was to drive on regular roads that varied between 25mph and 50mph and see just how many miles we could drive on a fully charged battery. According to the EPA that should be 68 miles. We didn’t use the AC but had the windows open about an inch, we didn’t go on the motorways and we did keep to the speed limit on all the roads. The temperature on this day was around 30℃/86℉. We didn’t drive to maximise range as though we were trying to set a record but, didn’t rush either. We certainly didn’t get in anyones way!

Smart Electric Drive App - Fully charged

Smart Electric Drive App – Fully charged

With 100% battery state of charge and 76 miles of predicted range (already 8 more than the EPA estimate) on the app and 90 on the cars display, we pulled out of the drive and onto the road with no sign of range anxiety anywhere in sight.

We had no time constraints and nowhere that we had to be so it was nice to be able to just enjoy life for a change and see where the Smart Electric Drive could take us.

With a general route planned out we sat back to enjoy the drive and the lovely spring scenery, heading to areas that we didn’t even know existed and an added bonus was that we saw the house that we would like to live in. After driving for half an hour or so it appeared that we were travelling about 1 mile for every 1% of battery used which already suggested that 100% of charged battery would give us 100 miles of range. Let’s see if that is still true when we are down to 1% of battery left.

The Smart was covering 1 mile per percentage or ‘1mpp

As the day was rather warm we decided that a cool refreshing drink would be lovely. We looked for somewhere local to where we were and found a place in Sergeantsville, that had a 5 star rating on Yelp so, we thought we’d check it out. It turned out to be the Sergeantsville General Store that sold one of almost everything.

Sergeantsville General Store

Sergeantsville General Store

Polka Bill Fleming

Polka Bill

It was a nice place with friendly people and that is where we met ‘Polka Bill Fleming’ – a seventy-something year old local radio DJ. He seemed to hang out there and lived just down the road. He was very interested in the Smart Electric Drive and had many questions for us. He told us a bit about the area and about the only covered bridge remaining in New Jersey, that just happened to be a couple of miles down the road. That then would be our next destination, it was unplanned but we had no worries as we still had over 40% battery and more than enough miles to get us back home, so off we set. The bridge is rather a short bridge, so after driving through it, I jumped out of the car while my sidekick did a loop around so I could take some photos of the Smart Electric Drive emerging from the bridge – old meets super new. The bridge sounded a little bit rickety so I was glad we were in a lightweight vehicle.

2015 Smart Electric Drive under the last remaining Covered Bridge in New Jersey

2015 Smart Electric Drive under the last remaining Covered Bridge in New Jersey

We drove on a little further to loop around, crossed a bridge in Stockton and realised that we’d actually crossed over the state line into Pennsylvania! Oops!

After another photo opportunity we put the return route into the navigation and set off with enough range plus a little to spare – hopefully! Only joking we had plenty!

The Smart Electric Drive was performing really well, the percentage charge was pretty much matching the miles driven.

At exactly 100 miles, we snapped the State-of-Charge gauge.

We live at the top of a mountain ridge and on the last long hill to our house we wondered if we would lose a lot of miles but, it turned out to be not too much and, as we approached our road we still had a few percent of battery left. We decided to continue on a bit further and see just how close we could get it to empty. We had already passed the 100 miles driven point so now it was exciting to see just how many more miles we could get out of the battery, while staying close to home – you know just in case, seeing as this was the first time trying this. As we drove along the percentage started to drop until we were at 1%. We decided to push it just a bit further and with 0% showing on the state of charge and with 110 miles driven we pulled into the driveway figuring we had probably pushed it to the limit. But, on checking the app once back in the house, it reckoned we could have driven another 2 miles! This suggests that there is a little bit more when you reach zero, which is good to know but I wouldn’t want to push it too far. As a little test, even at zero, flooring the accelerator in the Smart still delivered 100% power, so even with nothing left in the pack, the Smart was still zippy! Once back in the garage and plugged in you could almost hear the Smart Electric Drive slurping up all the electrons it could.

2015 Smart Electric Drive crossing over into Pennsylvania

2015 Smart Electric Drive crossing over into Pennsylvania

More that 10% left on the SoC after 100 Miles

11% left after 100 Miles

We have to say we are very impressed with the Smart Electric Drive and its 110 miles of range. We now need to test to see how many miles we can get on the motorway and how many miles with the AC on and how many miles when it’s cooler out, etc, etc, etc.

I think this is a worthwhile exercise for owners so that they understand their cars limits and how far they really can go on one charge and also, don’t believe the EPA rating of 68 miles in the case of the Smart Electric Drive.

This drive also taught us how far the car can go if you’re careful so, when we’re on the motorway and it’s 30 miles to home but the guess-o-meter is saying that there’s only 20 miles range left, we know that, if we pull off onto back roads and drive carefully, that we’ve got more than 1 mile per 1% (1.1mpp).

One thing that we planned for this trip out was to take a route that wasn’t just directly away from home. Instead we drove north, then east, then south to ensure that, at any time, we were only 30-40 miles from home. That ensured that we could push the limits without as much risk compared to just driving out until we hit 50% – big hills on the way home and/or a poor state-of-charge gauge could catch us out.

In summary, the Smart Electric Drive covered 110 miles from it’s 17.5kWh battery pack.

Smart Road Trip Range

The following day, with the same weather, we thought, what will the 2014 BMW i3, with its bigger battery, do in the same circumstances? Check out part 2 next week to find out just how different it can be…

2015 Smart Electric Drive - Flat battery

2015 Smart Electric Drive – Flat battery


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  • vdiv

    Crossed into PA, oops! 🙂

    Wonder why the range displayed on the app is different from that displayed in the car. Maybe one is in nautical miles 😉

    • Electra Girl

      I guess that they both use different algorithms.

      • vdiv

        Similarly the Model S can display a “rated” or an “ideal” projected range. The Spark EV projects the range with a variation (best and worst case). Interestingly EV drivers tend to develop a feel for the range of the car that is amazingly accurate when driving on familiar roads. I have gotten home with 1 mile left on many occasions. Of course driving an extended range Volt really helps to push that limit.

        • Electra Girl

          The Tesla Roadster displays an Ideal Range and an Estimated Range.
          I agree that we do get to know how far we can drive when driving on familiar roads and really we don’t think that much about the range in those circumstances.

  • Dennis Pascual

    Great article. We’ll have to ask about that last remaining covered bridge in NJ for the next time we’re out there.
    And see if we can fit a Model S through it.

  • D. Harrower

    Beware the Headless Horseman!

  • RickB

    Nice writeup. I’ve had a Smart ED for the past 18 months and I love it. I’ve never been tempted to drive it to 0 but I drove it 60 miles on one trip last month and used 60% so I too figured it could go 100 miles or more. Winter is a different matter but I love how freeing the range feels in the summer.

  • Mark Williams

    Love the article! My smart electric drive is a lot of fun and I use it to drive to work and around our mid-sized city. With decent weather, I like driving with at least my window down, no heat or air, and I achieve 3.6mkWh to 3.9mkWh. Air conditioning drops that to around 2.6mkWh. My eco gauge gets up into the 70s but rarely higher. On occasional trips to the dealership (9 miles away and fewer traffic stops) I may see over 4mkWh and eco readings over 80, but that is as good as it gets for me. And since it costs very little to charge this car, I am OK with that but when I read about folks who get considerably better range I have to wonder what sort of techniques they use. Any thought to starting a forum for driving techniques?

  • jstack6

    Drive like a girl and you go further and look better too. One of our members of the Phoenix EAA beat everyone in our annual 100 Electric Mile rally. She uses the least amount of kWh per mile and goes further than the 100 mile course we set. .She even did it last year when her Smart-ED was 5 years old.

    Adjusting the loose nut behind the wheel is the most important item on any vehicle. Aero Dynamic, Low Rolling Resistance tires and REGEN all help but low speed and the driver are key.