Updated June 2022
In mid 2021 a friend, considering taking the step to an electric car, was kind enough to ask my views on the choice available at the moment. There’s actually quite a lot to this question, just the sort of thing to set me thinking and then deciding that I might as well turn my thoughts into this post.
The question was asked kind of “context free” so before getting specific I’ll set out some thoughts about how you’d approach a decision.
Also, given that the choice is contantly evolving I thought I’d better make it a living post as well, so periodically I’m coming back with updates. It may not always be right up to date, but I’m trying to keep it close.
What’s it for ?
The first question (even before budget) is what are your use cases? Or, if you don’t happen to have an IT background, how do you expect to be using the car? This is because the big first question about an electric is always “what’s the range”, but what really matters is that range is enough for what you want to do. Plus, of course, there’s what you need the car for as well as where you plan to go with it.
It terms of what you need the car for, being electric makes no difference to this so you should know if you just want a local runabout just for you, a car that a couple of you use for commuting / shopping / tip (or IKEA) trips / occasional holidays or something that must have the capacity to accommodate a growing family. Do you value style over function or is the car just a thing that does a job? I think you get my gist and there are now electric cars that fit the spectrum (from city runabouts via family hatchbacks and a load of SUVs all the way to a 1,900bhp 2 seat sports car).
How far do you want to go ?
So on to the range question… Let me use myself as an example. I live in Yorkshire, north of Leeds. For 6 years I ran a Vauxhall Ampera plug-in hybrid and I reckon at least 50% of it’s mileage (and most journeys) were done on electric only, within its 30-35 mile electric range. However, my daughter lives in London, 209 miles away and every now and again we have reason to drive there. Or to my brother in Norfolk (170 miles) or sister in Birmingham (145 miles). So this was a significant factor in choosing an electric car to replace the Ampera.
You can buy a £70,000 Mercedes EQC that won’t get from Leeds to London without a recharge but you can get (as I did) a Kia e-Niro for half that money which will get to London with range to spare. But does that matter to you? How often do you need to do 100+ mile journeys? When you do, how relaxed an approach can you take to journey time? I don’t think I’ve ever driven from Leeds to London without a break, which is rarely less than 30 minutes, but I would typically drive non-stop to my sister’s. Will your electric car be a second car: in that case it may be that long distance factors are not a concern.
Important note: I’m basically assuming here that you can charge at home (a 13 amp plug can be good enough), so beginning every journey fully charged (if you so wish) is not an issue. If you need to rely on public charging that’s a whole extra factor to consider.
Additional thought: the psychology of charging vs fuelling: with petrol (or diesel) cars we typically have an approach to fuelling of top it up then drive it until it needs refilling. Maybe once a week, often less, but typically only when you need to. With an EV which you are charging at home you often adopt a very different philosophy: do a journey, top it up, another trip, top up again. You just come home and plug in. Very rarely do you leave a charge until you need it. Consequently, most of the time “rapid” charging isn’t important, because you have all night (or all day) for it. But every now and again you’ll make a trip where you do need to charge en route, and then (and only then) does range and rapid charging speed become significant.
So at this point think seriously about your use cases and what you need and I’ll move on to my thoughts on what you might want to choose.
So much that could be said, but here I’m aiming to be practical and pragmatic. First thing, of course, is budget. In 2022 electric cars are still significantly more expensive than their internal combustion engined (ICE) equivalents. This will change over time, current thinking being that the cross over will occur somewhere between 2025 and 2030. So when I originally wrote this blog I chose specifically to comment (mostly) on models which then fell under the UK Government’s £35,000 price cap on EVs that they supported with a £2,500 grant.
Then in December ’21, without notice, the government reduced the grant to £1,500 and the price cap to £32,000 and now, in June ’22, they’ve done it again and got rid of the grant altogether 😦 However I feel the original £35,000 level remains a reasonable boundary for “affordability” (in this context, if not absolutely) so I’m continuing to use it as a loose guide. In any case you may, like me, be buying on a lease or hire contract in which case monthly payment is more important than cash price. Sometimes this can produce a different affordability result for particular cars, but the broad picture will be similar.
Back to the plot…
The other thing is that, for obvious reasons, used choice is much more limited than with ICE cars. Whilst there are a load of new choices today, and many more coming soon, there are fewer practical used choices and, because of the current rise in interest, used prices have risen noticeably in the last couple of years.
So in my review here I will be focussing on choice assuming you are looking at new, but referencing the used options when it seems relevant. Broadly my thoughts are in rising order of range (and loosely price), but then I have various groupings of vehicles as well which would represent a spread of range/price options.
Where I refer to range or cost, I have taken the number from the Electric Vehicle Database, which seems to be recognised as the go-to place for real world EV range information. Because I’ve consistently used their range figures here they will usually be less than the figures you’ll see quoted by manufacturers and on some web sites. They may also be on the low side – for my Kia e-Niro they quote 230 miles, but I don’t think I’ve ever been that low.
So here we go:
Citroen Ami – a cute, quirky starting point, but really included only for completeness. Officially (I believe) an electric quadricycle, a really dinky 2 seater urban runabout. 43 miles (claimed) range, 28mph top speed and all the motoring journalists love it! Due to arrive this year, available to pre-order now, its price starts at £7,695.
Smart (part 1: now) – those familar city cars, available new in the UK as only the traditional two seaters (there is a four seater on the continent). Very limited range (55-60m) so definitely a city car. Reviews I’ve read have not been keen. There was an electric version of the previous model, so may be some used ones around but definitely cars for a narrow use case. Upside – you can get an open top version, if you like fresh (city) air.
But also something new for ’22, see further down.
Dacia Spring Electric (2022, maybe (or not)) – was supposed to be announced whether it will be available in the UK early in 2022 but nothing as of June. However they have announced there will be a new model in 2024 so I suspect that’s made it less likely we will see this one here. The current model has rather limited range (105m) and a limited top speed (77mph) but it’s pricing in Europe (~£14,500) makes it a good value local runabout.
Honda e / Mazda MX30 / Mini Electric – three very different cars that I group together because they are all smart, small city cars that prioritise style and compactness over range. With ranges of 105 – 115 miles, you’d not want to set off on a 100 mile journey without knowing you could make a charging stop. All get enthusiastic reviews and if you think they’d fit your usage definitely worth a look. Their limited batteries (= range) helps keep the price down.
The MX-30 may become a slight wild card here because although currently only pure electric it is supposed to be going to be released in late ’22 with a compact, rotary range extender engine. At that point its use case range changes significantly (though not, of course, if you do not want to burn petrol).
There was briefly an electric version of the old Mini, so there might be some of them around on the used market. I suspect the range was very limited.
Seat Mii Electric, Skoda Citigo-e iV, Volkswagen e-Up – three different badges (and bits of styling) on essentially the same car. Well made, practical, small city cars. No flash style and gizmos but relatively inexpensive EVs with 125 – 130 mile usable range. Reviewers and owners seem to like them, they do the job. I believe that only the VW is now available new but there may be some second hand ones around.
One thing to watch out for is that the VW e-Up has been around a bit longer with a smaller battery so make sure you know what you are looking at if considering second hand.
Fiat 500-e – in many ways the 4th member of the smart, small city cars group above: compact, stylish, cool and reasonably priced. However I’ve separated it out because (unless you buy the small battery budget version) it does have a usefully longer range than them. EV-database says 135 miles. Plus, like the Smart, you can get one with an opening roof if that’s your kind of thing.
MG – possibly today’s bargain masters. An English brand on cars from one of China’s big EV manufacturers their latest announcement could really help shake up the market. The current models are not massively inspiring but both give you a lot of car for your money:
- ZS EV, electric version of their budget family SUV. Gets pretty average reviews (whether electric or ICE) but gives you a lot of car for your money. There was a significant update in November 21 where they smartened up the styling improved the interior and added a significantly larger battery option, the 230 mile ”Long Range” starting at £29,495. A good value option from this company, although higher spec versions move into the Kia e-Niro price space, which is generally considered a better car.
- MG5, a car I have a real soft spot for. A decently sized estate car, available only as an EV and with a range of 180 miles I don’t think there’s anything else comes close as an EV family car for the money (£26,095). Not flash, but reportedly a “does what it says on the tin” kind of car, which happens to be the only electric estate car on the UK market. July 21 update: MG have added a “Long Range” version of this car with 210 miles range costing from £27,495.
MG have now shown a new model, called the Mulan in China. It is expected to come to the UK as the MG4. It is a very stylish, up to date, compact family SUV/hatchback sized car with a range expected to be over 200 miles on its basic battery, with a larger battery version offering closer to 300 miles. It has been announced to be available in the UK this year with a price anticipated to be starting at £26,000. If it lives up to its promise it will be a very strong competitor.
Nissan Leaf – having said what I just did about the MG5, just £900 more gets you an entry level Leaf with moderate (140 mile from 36 kWh) range. As with many new EVs you can also pay more and get more range, with the 200 mile 56kWh battery version being the epitome of a practical 2021 EV for under £32,945. Spacious, comfortable, usable, not exactly inspiring: what should I say about the car which was for many year’s the world’s best selling EV.
Because it’s been around for so long it’s also one of the most widely available used EVs. I couldn’t produce a buying guide, but (as with all second hand EVs) make sure you know what you are buying in terms of battery capacity / range because this keeps changing and advancing over the years and early Leafs have been known to show battery / range degradation. (Tech note: the Leaf uses an air cooled battery which I would say does not seem to hold up as well long term as the now more usual liquid cooled).
BMW i3 – another old-stager that started life as BMW’s radical production EV back in 2013 but they have announced they will be ceasing production in ’22. Compact, distinctive, dramatic, arguably still looking futuristic it’s high price limited UK sales. Ironically, before the government cut the £2,500 grant, as an under £32,000 new car with 145 mile range it possibly looked the best value it ever had, but hit by the change it now comes at a bit under £34,000, maybe not so good. It is a high end compact car, but quite spacious for its size, with a lot of high tech manufacturing.
Because it’s been around for a long time there are also quite a lot on the used market. Again, watch the battery spec – early ones had a range of well under 100 miles, although there was also a range extender version with a little petrol motor that feeds an empty battery, but it’s tank is dinky so needs refilling every 70-80 miles.
Citroen e-Berlingo / Citroen e-C4 / DS3 Crossback E-Tense / Peugeot e-208 / Peugeot e-2008 / Peugeot e-Rifter / Vauxhall Combo-e / Vauxhall Corsa-e / Vauxhall Mokka-e – what a collection of cars under one heading! Gathered here because, whilst offering an array of brands, styles, types (hatchback, SUV, something between, van based mini MPV – even a 7 seater!) and sizes underneath they use the same platform so all offer broadly similar performance and, according to EV database, 155 – 175 mile range (125ish for the van based MPVs) with prices starting at around £28,000. As such they probably represent today’s centre ground of price / range / practicality. Unusually all of these use the same battery and there are no larger battery / longer range options in this group, only levels of spec within the models. Have a look across the range and see which you fancy! (Note that there are also ICE versions of all of these, because this is a cross-functional platform, so they are not “pure EV” designs).
Of this collection, the Citroen is (I think) the largest, oriented towards comfort. For me it’s the most interesting, most appealing, but I do have a long standing bias towards Citroen. The DS majors on “French stylish luxury” with a distinctive look and really quite quirky, heavily styled interior. The Peugeots have a slightly more sporting inclination (I would say) with an upmarket style to their interiors which generally gets good ratings, albeit with the company’s distinctive and controversial e-cockpit (small steering wheel that you are supposed to look over for the instruments: I’ve never tried it). The Vauxhall’s are probably the most conventional of the set, especially the Corsa-e. The Mokka has a fresh style and a more digital “wide screen” interior style.
The e-Berlingo / e-Rifter / Combo-e represent a different direction, being essentially vans with seats and windows. If you value space and practicality over style then definitely worth a look. Plus the only option in this budget with 7 seats.
Hyundai Ioniq – today’s Mr Boring? Probably often overlooked, good sized family hatchback with a reasonable range at a reasonable price and nothing to get excited about. Definitely a practical choice. This year’s model range is quoted at 155 miles. They have been around for a few years so there are second hand options. Once again, check out the battery spec – the earlier ones didn’t go so far. This is also available as a plug-in and traditional hybrid.
Cupra Born / Skoda Enyaq / Volkswagen ID3 / Volkswagen ID4 – Like the Citroen / DS / Peugeot / Vauxhall collection above a range of cars built on the same platform. The difference here is that this VW’s purpose built new pure electric platform so what you have is a collection of true 2020s EVs with associated designs, software etc (VW has had a few challenges with the software, apparently there are still gitches but a significant update due this year).
The Cupra Born and VW ID3 are the family hatchback twins, the Skoda Enyaq and VW ID4 noticeably larger family SUVs, but all have versions that fit into my price parameters. They also have more expensive versions. The lowest reference range is 170 miles with the current base Skoda Enyaq having a larger battery and 205 mile range. All have larger, longer range batteries available with, for example, a 215 mile version of the ID3 within my price range.
Overall very interesting, practical, “affordable”, modern EVs which are definitely worth looking at. Pick your style, range and price. If you like SUVs the Enyaq looks me like a typically Skoda good value proposition. I’m keen to see what their version of the ID3 will be, when it comes (disappointingly not rumoured for ’22).
Ora Cat – a much trumpeted new entrant pure EV from one of China’s largest manufacturers. It’s very similar size to the VW ID3 with a retro/cute styling which I’m not sure about but some reviewers like. Whilst exterior is a bit retro interior is definitely up to date. 2 battery sizes with claimed ranges of 209 and 261 miles (realistically 165 and 210 maybe). If it lives up to its promise this will be a serious competitor. Deliveries are now expected in the autumn with a base battery model coming in at about £32,000 which is perhaps higher than anticipated. Larger battery longer range models will follow.
Smart (part 2: 22/23) – Announced in spring ’22 to be available at the start of ’23 a new Smart model, the #1. It’s a good looking, high tech compact family car sized electric SUV/hatchback with a realistic range of 230 miles and a price expected to be £35,000 so just fitting in here. It looks good.
Renault – they have one of the longest standing useful EVs and have also announced the really interesting looking Megane E-Tech.
- Zoe – the third of the “old timers”, the Zoe has been around a long time as one of the most affordable, practical, compact family hatchback EVs. I believe is it essentially built on the same platform as the Nissan Leaf but with a more compact and arguably more stylish body style. It is also very practical, the current UK models all having a 195 mile range, which is an interesting contrast to the newer “stylish compacts” I referenced earlier. It is also available for about £3,000 less than a Leaf with similar range.
- As with the others that have been around for several years, there are quite a few Zoes available second hand but, as ever, watch the battery spec! Early ones will only have a range of around 100 miles. Another factor here (which did also apply to the Leaf but less often) is that Renault often used to lease the battery which brought down the purchase price of the car but required a significant ongoing monthly outlay (I believe £75+). Watch for that!
- Megane E-Tech (2022) – Renault’s competitor to the VW group models above, built on a new purpose built EV platform. Interesting looking “high rise hatchback” model with 150 and 220 mile range variants expected to come within the budget. However won’t actually be available here until “end of 2022” according to the Renault UK web site, although you can register interest now.
Hyundai Kona Electric / Kia e-Niro / Kia Soul – Again, three models on a common platform. The Kia e-Niro and Soul are only available with a 64kWh battery providing a 225 / 230 mile range, with the 64kWh Kona assessed as 245 miles. The Hyundai Kona has also been available for a while with a smaller, 39kWh, battery for 155 mile range and this was added as a reduced cost option for the e-Niro in ’21 (quoted at 145 miles) but quite quickly dropped.
All three are well liked, practical EVs with very good efficiency (hence range for the battery size). The Soul has its own upright, quirky styling: if you like it, there is no reason not to go for it. The e-Niro and Kona are family SUV style vehicles. The e-Niro is slightly larger, definitely more spacious inside, relatively plain looking whilst the Kona is a bit sportier with somewhat more distinctive styling. (The e-Niro is also available as plug-in and regular hybrids).
A new significantly updated and sharper looking e-Niro has been announced, due to arrive in mid-22. If it holds onto current pricing it will be very competitive.
Lastly, and breaking my budget. What if you need a car for regular trips up and down the length and breadth of Britain and/or across Europe? In 2022 the answer is buy a Tesla (any model). The thing is, Tesla is the complete EV package: car and charging network, properly integrated. No-one else comes close. Yet.
Additional background to making the decision
There are a few pages I’m going to point at that address other aspects of making the move to an electric car, covering things that I’ve consciously not looked at here.
One is on the Which? web site, with a self explanatory title Eight things electric car owners should know (I don’t think you have to be a member to read it)
The other is an interesting blog post by an ex-colleague, as he explores things that are significant in choosing to go electric for the first time: Five things the manufacturers don’t tell you about EVs
As a look a side of things people new to EVs might not think about, DriveElectric have published a blog post “What’s the Etiquette for Electric Vehicle Drivers?“. I mostly agree.
One of the big questions is, of course, about charging using the public networks. Because this is, in all honesty, still rather hit and miss in 2022 (though the direction is hopefully towards better) I’m keeping a blog of my charging experiences here. It is somewhat intermittent because much of my driving is relatively local so charging is done at home and so it only comes into play when I have the opportunity for a trip.
The first thing people often ask about EVs is the range, but there is another important aspect: efficiency. This is the electric equivalent of MPG for a petrol car and can be impacted by various things. I have a couple of posts about running the e-Niro, focussing on this topic. The first shares experience across a range of journeys from home and around Yorkshire, the second records the ups and downs of an 1,100 mile, 13 day holiday trip down south in May ’21.
However, whichever way you go, have fun!