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What’s driving you towards an all-electric car? Cost of petrol or concern for the planet’s future? Whatever’s pushing your buttons, you need to do some homework before choosing your plugin wheels.
Here’s a summary of the pure electric cars (not hybrids) that most commentators are likely to include in their top 10. They’re in no particular order, because the best EV for you will depend on things like your driving style, how far you need to go between charges and your budget.
The ranges (distance driven on a single charge) quoted here are from www.ev-database.org and based on real-world driving in mild weather without the use of heating or air conditioning. Actual ranges will always depend on driving style, speed, terrain and weather.
Nissan has sold more battery electric vehicles (BEVs) than any other manufacturer. The early ‘bug’ style Leaf, with its 24kWh and 30kWh batteries, has a very loyal following. In 2017, Nissan introduced the more visually-appealing second generation version. This came with a larger 40kWh battery, to provide more range. In 2019, Nissan added a 62kWh model known as the Leaf e+.
The second generation Leaf also has a more powerful electric motor and some new driving technology. This includes the option to select E-pedal, which electronically blends regenerative braking and normal friction braking as you ease off the accelerator. When selected, you seldom have to use the brake pedal. The top-of-the-range models also come with Nissan’s Pro-pilot driving system, which includes adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance.
Nissan Leaf (40kWh) range:
- Around town – 325km, 200 miles
- Mixed – 250km, 155 miles
- Highway – 200km, 120 miles
Nissan Leaf e+ (62kWh) range:
- Around town – 485km, 300 miles
- Mixed – 375km, 235 miles
- Highway – 300km, 185 miles
If you are looking to buy an electric car make sure you check out insurance prices when you are weighing up purchase, on-road and running costs. You can get an online quote for insurance here.
Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Appealing to the same market as the Nissan Leaf, the Ioniq electric is not quite as zippy and the interior finish has more hard plastic. But it does have a sporty Power mode that improves performance when required. The regenerative braking comes in five levels, which can be quickly selected using the handy steering wheel paddles.
Both the Entry and Elite versions come with a 38.3kWh battery, smart cruise control and lane keeping assist. The many extra features of the Elite model include leather trim, LED headlights, blind-spot collision warning, a larger touchscreen and heated front seats.
Hyundai Ioniq Electric range:
- Around town – 390km, 240 miles
- Mixed – 300km, 185 miles
- Highway – 240km, 150 miles
Hyundai Kona Electric
The Kona Electric is a small front-wheel-drive SUV with a huge range, thanks to its 64kWh battery. There’s also a 39kWh battery version. Often described as a fun car to drive, the Kona Electric comes with an impressive array of technology, including smart cruise control. You’ll find additional nice-to-have and luxury features in the high-end version.
Space is good in the front seats, but more limited in the rear. It’s a sub-compact SUV, so don’t expect a lot of luggage space. There’s enough for two people touring, without folding the seats down, but four passengers would be limited to a small bag each.
In many markets, one of the Kona Electric’s biggest attractions is its price, particularly for the 64kWh version. It often compares well with other battery electric vehicles with a similar long range.
Hyundai Kona Electric 39kWh range:
- Around town –385km, 240 miles
- Mixed – 295km, 180 miles
- Highway – 230km, 145 miles
Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh range:
- Around town – 605km, 375 miles
- Mixed – 470km, 290 miles
- Highway – 370km, 230 miles
Long recognised as one of Europe’s most popular EVs, this affordable and stylish subcompact city car now has enough range and zip to tackle highway journeys with a smile.
In 2019, Renault launched its third generation Zoe, with a ZE50 52kWh lithium-ion battery and more powerful 100kW R135 electric motor. The previous R110 80kW motor is still available in the entry level version. The third-gen Zoe also added 50kW DC fast charging and, like the Nissan Leaf, a selectable B mode for stronger regenerative braking. Safety features now include active emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring and automatic high/low headlamp switching.
Renault Zoe ZE50 R110 range:
- Around town – 490km, 300 miles
- Mixed – 370km, 230 miles
- Highway – 290km, 180 miles
Renault Zoe ZE50 R135 range:
- Around town – 480km, 295 miles
- Mixed – 365km, 225 miles
- Highway – 285km, 175 miles
Widely recognised as one of the best small premium EVs, the BWMi3 will appeal if you want a little more on luxury and technology, while helping to save the planet.
Already well tried and tested, the i3 had a styling refresh in 2018, but kept its existing motor and 33kWh lithium-ion battery capacity. At the same time, the sportier i3s version was launched, which typically sells for around 10% more than the standard version. As with most BMWs, there’s also a long list of optional extras to choose from. In 2019 BMW increased the i3 and i3s battery capacities from 33kWh (94Ah) to 42.2kWh (120Ah), which is twice what it had when first produced in 2013.
BMW i3 range:
- Around town – 365km, 225 miles
- Mixed – 275km, 170 miles
- Highway – 215km, 130 miles
BMW i3s range:
- Around town – 355km, 220 miles
- Mixed – 265km, 165 miles
- Highway – 205km, 125 miles
Tesla Model S
Launched way back in 2012, as Tesla’s first model, the S made the motoring world sit up and take notice. A lot has changed in the EV world since then, but the Model S continues to impress. It’s a large, wide and comfortable sedan, with plenty of pep and good road handling to match. With an electric motor on each axle and plenty of smart electronics, the model S delivers enhanced all-wheel drive performance and safety. The 100kWh battery ensures significant range for both the long range and performance versions.
As with all Tesla cars, the technology is impressive. Nearly everything is displayed and controlled from a central 17-inch portrait touchscreen. Updates and new features are simply added over the internet, so you can always have the latest versions without visiting the dealer to get them.
Priced at the higher end of EVs, the Tesla Model S is a car for connoisseurs who appreciate innovative technology that works well.
Tesla Model S Long Range range:
- Around town – 750km, 465 miles
- Mixed – 600km, 370 miles
- Highway – 490km, 305 miles
Tesla Model S Performance range:
- Around town – 730km, 455 miles
- Mixed – 585km, 360 miles
- Highway – 475km, 295 miles
Tesla Model X
The model X is best known for its falcon-wing doors, which open in just 28cm (11 inches) of space to provide cavernous entry to the back seats. It also comes in optional 6 or 7-seater versions. The 100kwh battery provides excellent range. There are two electric motors, one on each axle, providing four-wheel-drive safety and spritely performance figures. You can choose the Long Range or the more expensive Performance model, which accelerates from 0-100km/h (62mph) in just 2.9 seconds.
Tesla’s full auto-pilot is also available as an option. While adaptive cruise control is standard, the auto-pilot option adds the ability to simply rest your hands on the wheel and let the car steer itself. The additional sensors fitted for auto-pilot also enable future features to be added through Tesla’s ongoing online software updates.
Tesla Model X LR range:
- Around town – 655km, 405 miles
- Mixed – 520km, 320 miles
- Highway – 420km, 260 miles
Tesla Model X Performance range:
- Around town – 640km, 395 miles
- Mixed – 505km, 310 miles
- Highway – 405km, 250 miles
Tesla Model 3
Following the Model S and Model X, Tesla’s Model 3 was designed to be the brand’s first mass-market EV. Through clever design and sound engineering, Tesla has succeeded in capturing the world’s attention with the Model 3. Smaller, competitively priced (at around half the price of the earlier higher-end models) and still offering plenty of range, the Model 3 is a highly sought after sedan around the globe.
The entry-level Standard Range Plus model has a single motor driving the rear wheels and a 50kWh battery. Above that there are two models, each with a 75kWh battery and two motors giving all-wheel-drive performance. Tesla calls them the Long Range Dual Motor and the Long Range Performance. The long range models are also capable of even faster charging than the standard range. As you’d expect, the performance variant has a slightly shorter range.
The Model 3 is a quick and nimble car, especially the dual motor versions. From battery management and onboard technology to the effortless online updates, everything about the Model 3 has the Tesla stamp of innovation. With an almost cult-like following from owners and the general public, the Model 3 is surrounded inside and out with a simmering element of excitement.
Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus range:
- Around town – 495km, 285 miles
- Mixed – 365km, 225 miles
- Highway – 295km, 180 miles
Tesla Model 3 Long Range Dual Motor range:
- Around town – 665km, 415 miles
- Mixed – 535km, 330 miles
- Highway – 435km, 270 miles
Designed for luxury SUV buyers who want to go electric, the Audi e-tron is similar in size to the popular Audi Q7. Visually, it stays true to a conventional Audi SUV in form, except perhaps for the introduction of side cameras instead of mirrors. But beneath the surface, the e-tron has been significantly adapted to suit the new powertrain.
With an electric motor on each axle, the e-tron delivers plenty of power and four-wheel-drive traction. Initial braking is automatically achieved through regeneration to the battery before the friction brakes are seamlessly introduced. You can increase the regenerative braking through two-levels using steering wheel paddles, which is a bit like changing down in an ICE (internal combustion) car.
Both the Audi e-tron Quattro and e-tron Sportback Quattro are available with a 71kWh battery (the ‘50’ models) or a 95kWh battery (the ‘55’ models). For both battery options, the Sportback’s range is slightly more. Audi is also producing a sport version and GT model.
Audi e-tron 50 Quattro range:
- Around town – 410km, 255 miles
- Mixed – 325km, 200 miles
- Highway – 260km, 160 miles
Audi e-tron 55 Quattro range:
- Around town – 525km, 325 miles
- Mixed – 415km, 255 miles
- Highway – 335km, 205 miles
Large, spacious, luxurious and quick, this impressive electric ‘SUV’ was designed from the ground up to deliver exceptional performance and handling. It has easily claimed a well- deserved place in the long-range premium EV market, previously occupied by Tesla. In fact, the I-Pace will appeal more to buyers seeking a truly premium vehicle, while the Tesla Model X probably favours wealthy technology lovers.
With a 90kWh battery driving a motor on each axle and a sophisticated array of technology, the I-Pace delivers high-end range plus excellent traction and handling. Commentators have described it as a ‘proper’ Jaguar. There’s even self-levelling air suspension available as an option to further enhance its road-hugging capability.