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The (plug-) ins and outs of electric cars

  • What are the best electric cars?
  • What electric cars are available in the UK?
  • What is the best value electric car?
  • Is it worth buying an electric car?

Have you ever thought “I might just go electric when I buy my next car”? Or perhaps your last car was a hybrid and this time you want to do even more for the environment and go completely electric.

Well, it seems that the last few years have been very kind to you if you’re looking to upgrade to an electric vehicle. A number of manufacturers have announced improvements to existing models and others releasing information on new models that will be available throughout 2019.

Among those companies that have announced the release of a new EV in 2019 are MINI with the Cooper S E, Audi with the long-awaited luxury and stylish SUV, the e-tron and Tesla with the Model 3. Of course, if you’re looking for something a little more sporty, then in 2019 you’re lucky, as Porsche have announced the release of a 4-door coupe, which they’ve named the Taycan.

Electric Car being charged

What was the best electric car of 2018?

If you were looking for an electric vehicle in 2018, then it was quite a good year. Whether you were looking for a stylish luxury car like the Jaguar I-PACE, a versatile SUV like the Hyundai Kona, or a family car like the Nissan Leaf there were several vehicles for you to choose from.

There have been some delays when it comes to the release of new electric cars, with companies like Tesla and Audi experiencing issues with mass production of their electric motors. Audi’s delays led to their e-tron SUV being postponed for a further year (it will be released in the first half of 2019).

In August 2018, the number of electric cars sold in the UK rose to 8% of the total market. This increase was connected to the increase in the cost of fuel in that same period (in August 2018 the cost of petrol and diesel was the highest it had been for four years).

In 2018, the Nissan Leaf was the bestselling electric car on the UK market, selling over 19,000 units. It’s unsurprising that the Leaf is a popular seller when you consider it has a range of between 168 and 239 miles on a single charge and the entry-level model costs under £27,000.

The electric BMW i3 is a little more expensive than the Nissan Leaf, with prices starting at just over £35,000. But it was the second bestselling electric car of 2018 in the UK, with just over 9,000 being sold in the country. The i3 has an average range of 192 miles on a single charge, which is great news for anyone who wants one of these for their daily commute.

Tesla has to be somewhere on the list, and it is, taking the third spot on the electric car best sellers of 2018 is the Tesla Model S. The Model S is one of the most famous electric cars out there right now. Of course, it’s far more expensive than the Nissan and the BMW, with the entry-level 100D costing over £70,000, but for that price you get a lot of car. With a range of almost 400 miles on a single charge this car is definitely one to think about if you have a long daily commute and want to go electric.

What electric cars are available in the UK?

If you’re looking for an electric car there are quite a few available in the UK for purchase, from city cars to a robust SUV. So, never think that deciding on electric means there is very little to choose from.

City cars

If you’re looking for a car that’s perfect for driving around the city, something economical and easy to park then there are quite a few to choose from, when looking at electric vehicles.

The VW e-Up is a practical little car, with seating for 4 and a real world range of 74 miles.

The Mercedes-owned Smart marque has a nice range of city cars available. From the 2-seater coupe Smart EQ fortwo with a decent range of 99 miles on a single charge to the Smart EQ forfour that has (obviously) 4 seats and a range of 96 miles.

The Peugeot iOn is a city car that’s shaped just a little bit like an egg, it’s also a 4-seater that can go up to 93 miles between charges.

BMW’s i3 is a little more expensive than the other supermini/city cars on the list but it also has a much higher range between charges of 223 miles.

Citroen’s C-Zero launched 10 years ago this year, and it’s still going. This electric car has a range of 93 miles – the same as many other electric city cars. It has 4 seats and a boot with 166 litres of space, quite generous for a city car.

The Renault Zoe has been around for a while, this supermini was first released for sale in 2012, since then it’s had a few battery upgrades and this 5-door, 5-seat vehicle can go up to 250 miles before it needs recharging.

BMW i3

Cars for the family

If you need a car that was designed with a family in mind, with slightly better mileage to the charge, and room to fit your children, the dog and perhaps some groceries, then the electric vehicles available in the UK should make you happy.

If you’re after less of a run around and more of a family car, then the Hyundai Ioniq could be just what you’re looking for. With room for a family of 5, and a range of 174 miles on a charge, it’s ideal for the daily commute or school run and that massive weekly shop.

Probably one of the best known electric family cars on the market is the Nissan Leaf. With room for 5 and a hatchback it’s ideal for the small family. It has a generous range of 239 miles between charges and though it takes 9.5 hours to charge as standard, it also has a 30-minute rapid charge.

The Hyundai Kona is a small crossover that is ideal for the smaller family. The 5-door, 5-seat hatchback has a rapid charge and a generous 180 mile range.

Just like Hyundai, Kia has a few crossovers to choose from. First there is the e-Niro, with room for 5 and with a range of 282 miles between charges it’s designed for the weekly commute, any errands you need to run and even the school run before you need to plug it in again. They also have the Soul, the range is slightly lower, with 155 miles to the charge, but with a 4-hour charge and a rapid charge facility it has many benefits.

If you love the familiar, then VW’s e-Golf might be just what you’re looking for. Styled to look like its petrol and diesel twin, the e-Golf has a generous 186 mile range, can charge from empty in 5 hours and also has a rapid charge facility for those days when you’re running low on time and the battery is flashing a warning light at you.

If you are looking for even more room in the back, perhaps for a buggy or a wheelchair, then Nissan has something for you in the form of their e-NV200 Combi, this MPV has a versatile interior and can do up to 174 miles on a single charge. Perfect, if you’re someone who packs the car full when you go out.

Nissan Leaf

If it’s style you’re after, and cost isn’t an issue, then there are a few sleek SUVs and saloons to choose from, starting with Jaguar’s SUV, the I-PACE.  With a massive range of 298 miles to the charge you won’t need to plug this in every night and there is plenty of room for the average-sized family.

Audi’s first e-tron came out last year, and this SUV, like the I-PACE, has a generous range. Managing 259 miles before it requires another charge.

Tesla is clearly ahead of the game when it comes to the number of miles their cars can travel on a single charge and, if money is no object, then perhaps their Model S Saloon with a rapid charge, space for 5 and a 393 mile range is exactly what the doctor ordered. Of course, if you’d prefer an SUV then Tesla has one of those too, in the form of the Model X. The Model X has space for 7 and a range of 351 miles to the charge, so it’s perfect if you’re someone who doesn’t want to be charging every week, or you drive a fair distance on a daily basis.

Tesla Model S

Is it worth buying an electric car?

The sort of car you buy is a very personal decision. Yes, the initial outlay can be higher than if you decided to purchase a petrol or diesel equivalent. However, long term there are considerable savings to be made, especially if you make use of the grant that the UK government is currently offering to those who have purchased electric vehicles who would also like to have a charging point fitted in their homes. There is also a plug-in grant of up to £3,500 which will be deducted from the purchase price of your car.

Maintenance costs for electric cars are lower than for other fuels thanks to their dramatically reduced number of moving parts and it’s estimated that an annual service should be around £300 cheaper than one for a regular car (though you will have to find a specialist dealer to get a service carried out).

As the technology behind the batteries in electric cars continues to improve the savings keep on rising. The biggest saving that you can have as the owner and driver of an EV is in the price of a charge. The average electric car costs £2 to charge for a 100 mile journey, while the equivalent in a petrol or diesel-powered vehicle is £12 (these prices depend greatly upon location).

Ultimately, by 2040 the UK Government aims to have the roads filled with nothing but zero-emission vehicles, so prices will drop as more and more companies produce a wider variety of electric cars. It’s down to the individual whether they wish to be an early adopter or wait until the road ahead is clear and more vehicles are available.

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