► The best electric cars of 2019
► Our guide to the UK's top EVs
► Electric car buying advice and more
Slowly but surely, UK car buyers are shifting towards electric cars – and, as model line-ups continue to grow and prices fall, the rate of change is set only to increase. In July 2019, for example, a total of 2461 electric cars were sold; those cars may have accounted for just 1.1 per cent of the new car market but, more prominently, that finally tally represented a 61.7 per cent increase on 2018’s figures.
The increasing availability and accessibility of electric cars, in conjunction with ever-improving infrastructure, will lead to more buyers opting to replace their conventional petrol and diesel cars with all-electric alternatives. Consequently, the next few years will see the trickle of battery vehicle sales turn into a flood.
You, too, may be considering ditching fossil fuels for quiet and clean electric power – and, nowadays, you have plenty of options if you're in the market for an electric vehicle (EV). From the latest Tesla Model 3, Audi e-Tron, Mercedes-Benz EQC, Jaguar I-Pace and latest Nissan Leaf, to established options such as the Tesla Model S and Renault Zoe, EVs are proving ever more popular with the public and car makers alike. Automotive researchers at Sophus3 have also concluded that electric cars are now the fourth most searched-for category online.
So, if you're thinking about making the leap to an electric car, read on for CAR magazine's handy EV ownership guide – and our pick of the best EVs that you can buy now in 2019.
Further electric reading
- What is an electric car and should you buy one?
- How much does it cost to run an electric car?
- Best used electric cars
- Future electric cars: upcoming EVs
EVs might cost more than their petrol or diesel counterparts today, but that gap is narrowing. The latest research by analysts at Deloitte suggests that price parity with internal combustion cars is likely by 2021. 'In the UK, the cost of petrol and diesel vehicle ownership will converge with electric over the next five years,' predicts Michael Woodward, UK automotive partner at Deloitte. 'Supported by existing government subsidies and technology advances, this tipping point could be reached as early as 2021. From this point, cost will no longer be a barrier to purchase, and owning an EV will become a realistic, viable option for new buyers.'
Look past the currently steeper initial purchase price and rich savings beckon from the moment you buy an electric car. Your ongoing running costs are likely to be dramatically lower if you take the plunge and go for an EV, and you'll likely never have to visit a petrol forecourt again. You can even charge up your electric car wirelessly now; BMW launched inductive charging in 2018 and you can read more about it in our explainer here.
Want to know which is the best pure electric car for you? Keep reading on for full details – and use the quick links below to read more on the best EVs of 2019:
- Tesla Model 3
- Audi e-Tron
- Mercedes-Benz EQC
- Jaguar I-Pace
- Nissan Leaf
- Hyundai Kona Electric
- Hyundai Ioniq Electric
- Tesla Model X
- Tesla Model S
- VW e-Golf
- Kia E-Niro
- BMW i3
- Renault Zoe
- Smart Fortwo Electric Drive
- VW e-Up
Best electric car 2019: a buying guide
Like any fossil-fuel powered car, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) come in all shapes and sizes, and which EV is best for you will depend on a variety of factors – such as your average daily mileage, the type of driving you do and access to private or public charging points. There's no point having an electric car if it can't accommodate your usage, of if the infrastructure isn't there to support it, after all.
Research for leading Youtube channel The Fully Charged show suggests that only five per cent of electric car drivers would go back to a fossil-fuelled car once they've owned an EV. Of the 7700 people polled, the biggest stumbling block to purchase was higher list prices. But once you experience the delights of an EV, the chances are you'll be hooked by the saintly silence, clean conscience and lower running costs.
But don't forget, the UK government has been offering up to £4500 off zero-emissions cars for the past few years via its Plug In Car Grant, making the higher purchase price and showroom costs more palatable. Subsidies have put more than 167,000 plug-in EVs on the roads since January 2011 up to autumn 2018, but the incentives were curtailed late last year – much to the industry's chagrin. Plug-in and hybrid cars no longer qualify for government grants, while the discount for pure EVs has dropped to a maximum of £3500, and sometimes less. Expect the grants to dry up altogether in time, as electrification becomes the norm.
Pure electric cars account for a smaller slice of the plug-in market, as many conservative buyers plump for a plug-in hybrid car to assuage range anxiety. Last year in the UK, 15,474 pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were registered, compared with 44,437 plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and 81,156 hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). This article concentrates on the full electric vehicles with no back-up petrol or diesel engine. If you want to know more about the best hybrids on the market, check out our separate explainer here.
If you intend to use an electric car for longer journeys, make sure your local trunk roads and motorways have the infrastructure to support charging en route or consider an alternative, such as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). These mix battery tech and petrol or diesel power to provide a get-out-of-jail-free card for when pure electric range simply isn’t enough.
The reality is that most owners will rarely have to charge up in public; if you have off-street parking and the ability to charge at home, the latest EVs will manage most of your day-to-day driving needs just by charging domestically overnight. One EV brand in China – Nio – is even pioneering battery-swap stations, where a robot will replace your car's depleted battery for a fully charged one while in just five minutes.
Don't forget that pure electric cars will also save you money every single year because they're exempt from road tax – for now, at least. Don't miss our handy guide to how VED car tax favours EVs.
How far can an electric car go on a full charge? This figure varies heavily, depending on the battery size of the EV in question. A small battery, such as the one in the VW e-Up, will be limited to 100 miles or so. Bigger batteries, as used in the Hyundai Kona Electric, will offer a much longer claimed range – almost 300 miles in top-spec form. Just remember that these in-the-lab figures may not translate to real-world range; around 150-200 miles feels like a realistic range to expect of most mass-market EVs, although that figure is creeping upwards every year.
We’ve split our favourite EVs into categories to suit different lifestyles, budgets and demand for green credentials. Browse 2019’s best electric cars in our listings below – and have your say in the comments at the foot of the page.
Best electric cars for families
The more affordable and long-awaited Model 3 has finally arrived in the UK. It might be the least expensive Tesla available but, even in entry-level form, few are likely to be disappointed – as even the base model packs a claimed 254-mile range and the ability to sprint from 0-60mph in just 5.3sec. It even comes with the Autopilot drive assistance system, which takes the edge off long trips and adds to the space-age feel. A dual-motor version with all-wheel drive and increased range is available as well; it can cover a claimed 329 miles and serves up a supercar-rivalling 0-60mph time of 3.2sec.
The first full series-production electric car from Audi is a triumph: you get the usual Ingolstadt quality and driving manners, all wrapped up in a very practical SUV bodystyle that's akin to a Q5 crossover. Performance is rapid, range decent and it just all feels so normal. One neat touch we really liked: a charging port on each of the front wings, allowing you to charge this I-Pace rival from either side. A range of 248 miles is claimed and, despite weighing in at 2490kg, the e-Tron is no slouch: it can accelerate from 0-62mph in as little as 5.7sec.
The EQC is the first car in Mercedes' new EV-only 'EQ' range and, while not exactly innovative, it's an unquestionably capable SUV. It has a range of 259 miles, features twin motors for all-wheel drive, can sprint from 0-62mph in 5.1sec and is loaded with technology; it also offers seating for five and a large boot – as you'd hope, considering its size and hefty 2425kg kerb weight. The EQC's a finely polished and thought-through affair, too, which makes it easier and less stressful to live with. Consequently, it might be ideal for buyers who are a little worried about making the switch from a straightforward petrol or diesel car.
Jaguar's first all-electric car, dubbed the I-Pace, is a tremendously slick affair – and one that's a tempting alternative to established rivals such as the Tesla Model X. It was unveiled at the 2018 Geneva motor show and, when we drove the production version, it was immediately clear that this cutting-edge car still steers, stops and goes like a Jaguar should – and there's space aplenty, too, thanks to efficient packaging. Twin motors serve up a mighty 395bhp and 513lb ft, as well as all-wheel drive, and the I-Pace is claimed capable of 0-62mph in 4.8sec. Refrain from deploying that punch, though, and you could eke 298 miles out of the Jaguar's battery.
The world's first mass-market electric car is back in v2.0 as a better-than-ever family electric car. Priced from around £28k, the latest Nissan Leaf uses carryover mechanicals but sprinkled with a whole lot of better battery tech and a fresh wardrobe to bring it in line with the latest Nissan family look found in models such as the Qashqai. Nissan quotes a real-world range of up to 239 miles if you opt for the E+ version, giving the Leaf true everyday practicality creds. The interior is a bit of a let-down, but this is a very viable electric hatchback for families. We put a Leaf through a ten-month test and, in the first 395 miles, we used electricity costing just £13.70 – revealing the true cost savings available with an EV.
The Kona is arguably one of the most versatile and accessible EVs on sale. It's affordably priced, for starters, and two distinct versions are offered – a 134bhp model with a 39kWh battery, or a 204bhp version with a higher-capacity 64kWh battery. In base form, the Kona can travel up to 180 miles on a single charge and sprint from 0-62mph in a perfectly sensible 9.7sec. Go for the more expensive model, though, and the range leaps to 279 miles while the 0-62mph time drops to 7.6sec. It's not a fun car to drive but it is very practical, with that crossover bodystyle swallowing bodies and bags with nonchalant ease. Expect to pay around £30,000 to buy one in the UK (after the government subsidy).
Hyundai offers its sensible Ioniq family car in a variety of powertrains – including a pure electric version, which costs £29,050 after the government grant. If you're still nervous about going full EV, you can alternatively pick a hybrid or plug-in hybrid version, providing a tad more reassurance on longer journeys. All Ioniqs have decent cabin space for families of four or five, as well as a decent boot, and their refined and relaxed nature makes them ideal for daily use.
Need space for seven? A swanky Tesla badge? And all the modernity and clever-clogs tech the brand has become famous for? Step this way: the Model X is half crossover, half MPV, but all Tesla electric car. Famous for its cleverly hinged gullwing rear doors that open even in the tightest of car park spaces, the interior is roomy for five and the rearmost third-row seats are fine for kids on short journeys. It is pricey though, costing from £74k in the UK for an entry-level Model X.
The Model X's more sensible saloon sibling, the Tesla Model S, is the landmark electric car that set the cat among the pigeons. It's well established now and brought a dash of executive style to the EV marketplace years before the Europeans finally caught up. It has a very long range, exceeding 300 miles in many trim levels, and performance is – quite literally – ludicrous; go for the top model, opt for the 'Ludicrous' upgrade and you'll have a car capable of 0-60mph in a blistering 2.4sec. These are practical saloon cars, that said, with plenty of space for five and a fully flat floor for rear-seat passengers. All Teslas benefit from the brand’s Supercharger network for rapid recharging, too, which makes them far easier to recharge than many rivals – as the alternatives often have to rely on independent, and frequently unreliable, charging networks.
Everything you like about the VW Golf, just in a cleaner, silent electric package. You also get all the usual Volkswagen attributes – first-rate build quality, clever connectivity and generous packaging – but with a quiet powertrain that will prove far less costly to maintain and operate than a conventional diesel or petrol car. For many, this could be the ideal stepping stone electric car, as it mixes conventional looks with cutting-edge technology.
The electric Niro is a great example of the new breed of electric cars arriving in 2019: it's a right-sized package and ticks lots of boxes. It's an SUV shape, which the market is demanding, while its range is a claimed 282 miles – giving it the legs that motorists are demanding. Its UK price has also been confirmed at £33k after the government grant – putting it in the sweet spot of accessibility for more motorists. You even get a seven-year warranty, which should allay any concerns about long-term reliability.
Best small electric cars for urban use
Until autumn 2018, you could pick your BMW i3 in pure electric or plug-in range-extender forms – but the get-you-out-of-jail petrol engine onboard is being dumped for 2019. The i3 EV is the simplest of all, and mixes clever F1-spec carbonfibre construction with futuristic styling to make a great city car. With the tightest turning circle you've ever driven, this tiny BMW is extremely agile around town and there’s plenty of room in both rows of seats for bodies, although a small boot is a blot on the copy book. It feels every inch a small BMW to drive, with agile handling and that Germanic precision to the controls that impart a true premium feel.
What is the cheapest electric car to buy? The evergreen Renault Zoe! It's one of our favourite small electric cars and is cracking value at around £18,000 once you’ve factored the Government's Plug-in Car Grant. This is a bespoke EV, with no petrol or diesel iterations available, and changes wrought in 2017 added a significantly longer battery range of up to 250 miles on the official cycle. In the real world, that translates to 186 miles in warm weather, falling to 124 miles in the winter for the big-batteried model. A new version is just around the corner, though, so those seeking the most modern experience may do well to wait until the latest version arrives.
If ever a regular combustion engine car was ready for electrification, it was the Smart Fortwo. This diminutive two-seater has been streaking around our city streets for two decades now and Daimler has seen sense and equipped it with an electric motor and battery for zero emissions and whisper-quiet urban transport. Smart has been developing its EQ models – originally called Electric Drive – for many years now and it’s managed to get the cost of EQ Fortwo down to around £16k after the Government grant. It drives much like a regular Fortwo and we found performance around town to be more than ample; only out on M-ways and faster roads did we feel it felt out of its depth. A cabriolet and four-seat Forfour version are also offered, widening the appeal of the compact city car further.
'A Smeg fridge on wheels', we opined when we first drove the electric Up city car. Despite having a name that'd make a Yorkshireman grimace, the e-Up is a typically polished Germanic affair with all the usual Volkswagen quality and attention to detail. However, its expensive pricing, availability and unfortunately short 99-mile EV range will limit its appeal and practicality. If you really do just want to strut around town silently in a tax- and environmentally-efficient fashion, the VW e-Up might be for you. If you need more miles in your range, then look elsewhere.
Best electric cars for enthusiasts
If money really is no object, the Nio EP9 is one of the most extreme electric cars on sale anywhere. It's already shattered the Nurburgring lap record thanks to a megawatt of power from its brawny electric motors. Yes, that's the equivalent of 1360bhp and there’s an equally punchy-sounding 1092lb ft of torque to boot. The end result is 0-62mph in just 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 196mph. You can read our review below to find out just how extreme that performance feels, but there might be a small fly in the ointment: this thing costs £1.2 million (before tax) and is very much in the experimental pioneer phase...
The list of electric cars is growing month by month, and we'll be updating this story regularly. We've also written a guide to the best upcoming and future electric cars - check out our separate listing of the EVs waiting in the wings here. Your shopping list is about to get an awful lot longer!