The choice of electric cars is expanding rapidly. While an £80,000 Tesla was once the default EV for wealthy early adopters, new models are now available for less than £20,000.
Buy used and you can begin ‘motoring electric’ for less than £5,000. However, choosing the right car is vital.
Here, we run through the major judgments to make before you buy. Answer these questions and your path will become clearer.
Should I buy a new or used electric car?
There have been viable electric cars on sale for 10 years, but only recently have decent used options become available.
We discuss the issues around used electric cars in detail here. However, the overriding factor that might steer you towards a new EV is the technology ramp-up.
Year-on-year, manufacturers simply build better electric cars. The technology is still young, so development is happening at a rapid pace. Even existing models receive mid-life tech updates to increase their range and efficiency.
New cars also come with some great finance packages that you’d be hard pressed to match with a used model.
Also, bear in mind that electric car batteries degrade with time. This isn’t catastrophic, but it’s enough to be a concern. Consider the original Nissan Leaf. When new, it might have covered 100 miles on a charge. That looks weak today, but worse still, with a well-used battery, that figure might fall to just 60 or 70 miles.
Do I drive in town or on the motorway?
“How far will it go on a charge?” It’s always the first question electric car owners are asked, often followed by a dismissive response that it would be impossible to live with such a low range.
Electric cars do require their owners to adopt a new mindset. Even the best only nudge over 300 miles before you need to charge up. For comparison, an Audi A6 diesel can manage 700 miles on a tank.
That’s why Teslas remain popular for those who need to drive long distances. Their range is the benchmark, and their Supercharger network is the fastest and best.
Most electric cars have a range of between 100 and 200 miles, but owners learn to live with that. They reason that the vast majority of trips are short, so recharging overnight at home becomes part of their routine. The Honda e, for example, offers a range of just 130 miles. Rightly, Honda reasons that urban cars like e simply won’t be used for long-distance travel.
You have to make that call. Many electric car owners will have another car, with petrol or diesel power, capable of making a long trip when needed.
What size of car do I need?
There used to be a trade-off here. To get the best range, you’d need a car with a big battery, and that generally meant a large car to accommodate it. Think Jaguar I-Pace, Audi E-Tron or Tesla Model S.
That’s no longer the case. Smaller electric cars such as the Kia e-Niro, Kia Soul EV and Hyundai Kona Electric use clever engineering and a lighter package that places fewer demands on the battery. All three can cover around 280 miles on a charge, blurring the boundary of urban and long-distance use.
If you want to go for the smallest option possible, the Renault Twizy is a zany two-seater akin to a four-wheeled motorbike. It’s an exhibitionist’s choice: great fun, but very exposed and with a range uncomfortably close to 50 miles.
Family sized cars like the Nissan Leaf and the Volkswagen ID.3 start at around £25,000. Brand new models like the ID.3 are likely to sell at list price, while the Leaf costs closer to £20,000 after discounts.
If you want a really large family car, Tesla has the market wrapped up with its Model X SUV. But not for long, we suspect…
The decision has to be yours
Which electric car is right for you depends on many factors – only you can make the final call. Price is obviously a big deal, but if you are considering an EV you have already accepted you will pay a premium.
Size and range are two other key factors. There’s no point paying thousands more for the best possible range if you don’t take advantage of it. If you do need to make longer trips, though, plenty of sub-£40,000 electric cars could fit the bill.