13.2.2018Best electric cars 2018
With a number of models on the market, and increased awareness from buyers as to the benefits that running a plug-in car can bring, electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular. Drivers of EVs can see lower fuel, tax, and maintenance costs compared to conventionally powered cars, with many owners able to save large sums by using an electric car.
For drivers that cover an average of less than 150 miles a day, an EV could well prove an ideal car. That's especially true for those who have a number of regular routes - such as the school run, commuting to work, driving to the shops etc - and are familiar with the area.
The fact that an overnight charge will only cost a few pounds is the most obvious benefit, though there are others to be aware of. Servicing bills are typically less than those for petrol or diesel cars because of fewer moving parts, and brakes last longer thanks to brake energy recuperation systems that top up the battery to slow the car down, rather than relying only on the pads and discs. Also, all EVs are rated in VED Band 0 g/km CO2, meaning they cost nothing to tax each year.
Below, Next Green Car has picked the best EVs currently available in the UK (in no particular order), with a wide variety of models on show.
An exceedingly popular electric car in Europe, Renault's Zoe offers buyers one of the longest ranges available from a mainstream EV in the shape of the Zoe Z.E. 40. Available with an official range of 250 miles, the Zoe Z.E. 40 proves excellent value thanks to its large capacity battery and modest price.
The supermini is a good all-round EV that could work well either in a one-car household, or as an ideal second-car for a great many buyers. It is available in a number of different configurations to fit various needs and budgets. With a choice of two battery sizes, the Zoe can also be specified to be rapid charge capable, and buyers can either purchase the Renault outright, or get the car with a battery hire option. All of this means that a Zoe is available for a little under Â£14,000, while even a 250 mile model will cost less than Â£18,000 to buy outright.
Surprisingly practical for such a highly styled machine - and a supermini to boot - BMW's i3 has one of the best electric ranges on the market. Benefiting from a mid-life battery upgrade, BMW has improved the i3 to keep up with rivals, since regular improvements in a car's range have become the norm for EVs.
Now with a quoted 195 miles of range, the i3 keeps itself towards the top of the range league table in terms of mainstream EVs. The rest of the i3 hasn't changed much, apart from some sharper styling as part of a model refresh. The interior is one of the finest in its class - or a number of others come to that. Created using recyclable and recycled materials, the clean and crisp cabin could come from an advert for a Scandinavian interior design firm, while the rear-hinging doors make access to the back seats easy considering how small the car is. Perhaps of equal importance though is the fact that the i3 is fun to drive, a point emphasised with the launch of the BMW i3s - the world's first EV hot-hatch - which sacrifices a little driving range for more fun. Improved power from the motor and a wider track mean the i3s is nippier to drive than the far-from-sluggish i3, making the most of BMW's considerable expertise in electric powertrains.
Tesla Model S
The Tesla Model S costs much more than other EVs - apart from its Model X stable-mate - but then it can travel much further on a single charge too. Now a familiar sight on British roads, the Model S is the halo model for EVs, bringing an excitement about the technology to the general public.
It's very fast and will typically cover more than 300 miles on a single charge - depending on which model you pick - making it a good alternative for buyers looking at executive cars. The interior is light and spacious, and can be specified with two rear-facing seats that fold into the boot floor if transporting more than five people is a regular occurrence for buyers. Perhaps the biggest benefit though is Tesla's Supercharger network, offering ultra-rapid charging to Tesla drivers all over the world.
Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Hyundai's first all-electric offering is a very good one, instantly competing with established players such as the Nissan Leaf. A family sized hatchback, the Ioniq Electric is a practical car and one that performs well as an EV, with an official range of 174 miles, and rapid charge capability.
Thanks to an efficient energy recovery system, and a set-up that defaults into Eco mode, the Ioniq holds its charge well too, better than much of the competition. An extensive Hyundai warranty and high levels of equipment help contribute to the Ioniq's excellent value for money offering, and could easily tempt more buyers into electric car ownership.
It doesn't have the headline-grabbing 200+ mile range of a Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe, but the VW e-Golf is one of the best EVs money can buy. A range of 186 miles means the VW will cover many journeys without requiring a charge, while the rest of the e-Golf is just the same as a 'normal' one - excellent.
There are no real weaknesses in the e-Golf's armour, with the only wish being a little extra range on offer - something that will always be welcome though, whether you're in a Twizy or a Tesla. The styling inside and out, levels of equipment and build quality are all top notch though, which is unsurprising given the Golf is one of the best cars in its class. Add in the low running costs of an EV, minimal environmental impact, added extras such as pre-conditioning, and a practical interior, and the e-Golf is more than worthy to wear the badge of VW's best-selling car.
As time has gone on, the Nissan Leaf - for so long a mainstay of these 'Best EV' lists - dropped off the bottom, surpassed by its plug-in rivals. Now though it's back, and rightly so. With an official range of 235 miles, the Leaf has more than enough battery capacity to compete with any of its mainstream rivals.
Yes, we've expanded our Top 5 EV list into a Top 10 (a reflection on how the market has progressed), but even without that expansion, the Nissan Leaf would comfortably have made its return as one of the class leaders once again. With less distinctive styling and an improvement in quality inside and out, the Leaf has grown up. Nissan has used the opportunity presented by launching a second generation model to smooth over those aspects of the Leaf that were compromises in the past. Now, the Leaf is more stylish, faster, and more efficient - and that's ignoring the significantly increased range on offer. With an improved car all-round backing up the increased range too, Nissan has a winner on its hands.
It's a bit of a cheat featuring three models in one as part of a Top 10 list, but the Smart fortwo ed, fortwo cabrio ed, and forfour ed are all effectively the same model - certainly from a powertrain point of view. And the best thing is that, whichever version you look at, they all work brilliantly as electric cars.
The electric ranges on offer are low by current standards, but that's not the point of the Smart ed line-up. These are designed as city-cars first and foremost, created to cover short distances, be agile and nippy, and provide practical, low-cost urban motoring. Adding a plug-in powertrain to the models simply makes them better than the comparable petrol models, with the electric attributes complementing the car's natural characteristics. It's not a pick for those looking to regularly do a bit of long-range EV-ing, but if you stick to town for the majority of your trips, one of the Smart ed line-up is worth looking at.
Tesla Model X
Tesla's Model S is the more famous model, but arguably the better car in its line-up is the Model X. Offering very similar range and performance figures, the Tesla Model X has more space and greater flexibility than the Model S. It is expensive, but the Model X has the attributes to back up its price.
Fast, practical, and capable of covering well over 300 miles on a single charge, the Model X can use Tesla's Supercharger network for ultra rapid charging. The Model X is an EV truly capable of covering long-distances with ease. It is able to be specified as either a five, six, or seven seater, and the Model X is also able to be fitted with a tow-bar - a rarity amongst plug-in models. Featuring the eye-catching Falcon-doors, the Model X is a head-turner wherever it is driven, but underpinning everything is a level of practicality normally associated with MPVs. A spacious interior is easy to access, and the twin boots - one up front and one at the rear - mean the Tesla Model X makes a superb family workhorse.
As with the Smart line-up, it might be surprising to see a model with a relatively short range make it on to this list. But also like the Smart fortwo et al, the VW e-up! is an urban runabout that arguably works better as an EV. Compact, fun-to-drive, and well built, the e-up! is a great citycar.
The small footprint means that the VW e-up! is easy to pilot around town, and the electric motor means the little Volkswagen is quick away from the lights or out of a junction. Only available as a five-door model, the VW e-up! is more practical inside than it might first appear, thanks to some intelligent packaging. A mid-life refresh gave the e-up! sharper styling and an improved interior. It's one of the most grown-up small cars on the market, and with an electric powertrain, one of the cheapest to run too.
Kia Soul EV
Kia's Soul EV is one of the older models on this list - an indication as to just how fast the electric vehicle market moves - but it remains a good one. Despite offering what is now a relatively short electric range, the Kia Soul EV is a practical model and has more than enough battery capacity to prove a useful EV.
Spacious but compact, the Soul EV is also one of the better cars on the market for retaining its electric range - even at motorway speeds. The Soul EV is well equipped, easy to drive, and includes Kia's industry leading seven year warranty, offering good value EV motoring for those interested in switching to electric.
Top electric vehicles 2018
As the year progresses it is likely this list will evolve, and at pace. There are a number of models confirmed to make it into production in 2018 that are expected to become best-sellers, so keep coming back and checking on this Top 10. In the meantime though, the strength in depth displayed above means there really is an EV for just about any driver.
For those who want to see what other EVs are available to buy, use NGC's Electric Car Search for a complete list. It's worth taking a look at our buying guide too which explains in greater detail the positives and negatives of EV ownership and what to look out for, to make sure a plug-in car is the best choice for you.