► The best electric cars 2019
► Our guide to the UK's best EVs
► Battery cars, plugs-ins and more
The UK is switching on to electric cars in 2019, slowly but surely: Brits bought nearly 60,000 plug-in cars last year and the next 24 months will see the trickle of battery vehicles turn into a mainstream flood as prices reduce to become more competitive with petrol and diesel cars. Drivers are increasingly looking to ditch fossil fuels, but which electric vehicle (EV) should you buy? And is an electric car right for you in the first place?
From the latest Jaguar i-Pace, Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S to forthcoming electric SUV rivals the Audi E-tron, Mercedes-Benz EQ C and Tesla Model 3 launching this year, EVs are proving ever more popular. Sales of electrified cars in the UK rose 21% in 2018 and automotive researchers at Sophus3 concluded that electric cars are now the fourth most searched-for category online. In this handy guide, we talk you through CAR magazine’s pick of the best EVs that you can buy now in 2019.
Further electric reading
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. The window to be an early adoptor is closing...
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.'
We test the new electric London taxi
Look past the currently steeper initial purchase price, and rich savings beckon from the moment you buy an electric car. Your ongoing fuel bills 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 handy explainer here.
Pure electric cars make up a smaller slice of the plug-in market in 2019, 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.
So, want to know the best pure electric car for you? Keep reading for full details - and use the quick links below to read more on the best EVs of 2019:
- Nissan Leaf
- BMW i3
- Hyundai Kona Electric
- Jaguar i-Pace
- Tesla Model S
- Renault Zoe
- Hyundai Ioniq Electric
- Kia E-Niro
- Tesla Model X
- VW e-Golf
- Kia Soul EV
- 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. You’ll need proper access to charging points at work and/or home, so you can top up your battery enough to meet your typical daily range. There's no point having the hardware if you don't have the infrastructure to support it, after all.
Research for leading Youtube channel The Fully Charged show suggests that only 5% 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.
Don't forget that pure electric cars will also save you every single year in cheaper road tax. Don't miss our handy guide to how VED car tax favours EVs.
Explained: the UK's electric car charging network
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) which mixes 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.
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, like the cell in the VW e-Up, will be limited to 100 miles or so, if you're lucky. But bigger batteries, like in the Tesla 100D and suchlike, will boast a much longer range, typically upwards of 300 miles. Just remember 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 - and 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 be sure to sound off in the comments at the foot of the page.
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Best electric cars for families
The first all-electric Jaguar is on sale now, and now we’ve driven the production car – you can read our full review here. The car was unveiled at the 2018 Geneva motor show and we can now see that the styling is compatible with E-Pace and F-Pace, but with an added electric twist - and there's electrical wizardry aplenty under the bonnet to decimate your fuel bills and a whole new lexicon of Jag driving dynamics. It stills steers, goes and stops like a Jag should, but there's space aplenty thanks to the efficient packaging.
Read our full Jaguar i-Pace review
Browse Jaguar i-Pace for sale
The world’s first mass-market electric car is back in v2.0 as a better-than-ever family electric car. Priced from around £26k, the new 2018 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 espoused by Qashqai et al. Nissan quotes a real-world range approaching 200 miles, giving the Leaf true everyday practicality creds. The interior is a bit of a letdown, but this is a very viable electric hatchback for families. We're living with a Leaf at the moment and in the first 395 miles, we've used electricity costing just £13.70 - proving the cost savings available on an EV.
Read our full Nissan Leaf review
Browse Nissan Leaf cars for sale
Hyundai Kona Electric
There's a new electric family car in town - and it's arguably one of the most versatile EVs on sale right now. It comes with a capacious 64kWh battery which is enough, says Hyundai, for a 292-mile range - enough for virtually all your everyday needs. Performance is predictably brisk, with 0-62mph in a hot hatch-shaming 7.6sec and we found the range was solid and reliable, averaging well over 200 miles between recharges. It's not a fun car to drive, but it is very practical, that crossover bodystyle swallowing bodies and bags with nonchalant ease. Expect to pay around £32,000 to buy one in the UK (after the government subsidy).
Read our full Hyundai Kona Electric review
Browse Hyundai Konas for sale
The first full series 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, akin to a Q5 crossover. Performance is rapid, range decent and it just all feels so normal. One neat touch we really liked: twin charging ports on both front wings, meaning you can charge up on either side.
Read our Audi E-Tron review
Browse Audis for sale
Hyundai offers its sensible Ioniq family car in a variety of powertrains - including a pure electric version costing £29,495. If you’re still nervous about going fully 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 and a decent boot.
Read our full Hyundai Ioniq review
Browse Hyundai Ioniq cars for sale
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’s pricey though, costing from £75k in the UK for a Model X 75D entry-level model.
Read our full Tesla Model X review
Browse Tesla electric cars for sale
The Model X’s more sensible four-door 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, nudging 300 miles in many trim levels, and performance is - quite literally - Ludicrous in the higher-powered models, which can dispatch 0-60mph in around three seconds dead. These are practical saloon cars, with plenty of space for five, a fully flat floor for rear-seat passengers and there are even occasional pop-up sixth and seventh bench seats in the boot available as an option for short-haul trips. All Teslas benefit from the brand’s fledgling Supercharger network for rapid recharging.
Read our Tesla Model S long-term test review
Browse Tesla electric cars for sale
Everything you like about the VW Golf, just in a cleaner, silent electric package. This is grassroots motoring, albeit at a price: the electric e-Golf starts at around £32k in the UK. For that outlay, you get all the usual Volkswagen attributes - first-rate build quality, clever connectivity and generous packaging - but with a silent powertrain that will save you plenty of cash in cheaper running costs. For many, this could be the ideal stepping stone electric car - mixing conventional looks with cutting-edge technology.
Read our VW e-Golf review
Browse VW Golf cars for sale
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. Its range is claimed at 282 miles, giving it the legs that motorists are demanding. And its UK price has been confirmed at £33k - putting it in the sweet spot of accessibility for more motorists.
Read our Kia E-Niro review
Browse Kia Niro cars for sale
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. Prices start at around £34,000 and there are usually monthly finance deals starting at less than £300 a month - bringing EV ownership to within reach of more motorists.
Read our BMW i3 long-term test review
Browse BMW i3 cars for sale
Another conventionally shaped car with a radical all-electric powertrain. It’s pricey for a small car (costing around £30k in the UK), but these batteries don’t come cheap, remember - and the electric Soul will qualify for the Government’s plug-in car grant, lopping £4500 off the list price. Kia quotes a driving range of 132 miles, so it won’t go as far as some rivals, but it’s pleasant to drive and performance is brisk around town. This remains a funky-looking tallboy hatchback; just watch out for the small 281-litre boot, which is on the tight side. Read on to find out about the new 2019 Kia Soul electric car, which has now been unveiled and will replace the old Soul soon.
Read our Kia Soul EV review
Browse Kia Soul cars for sale
What is the cheapest electric car to buy? The evergreen Renault Zoe! One of our favourite small electric cars, it's cracking value at around £14,000 once you’ve factored the Government’s Plug-in Car Grant which lops £4500 off the list price. 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.
Read our Renault Zoe review
Browse Renault Zoe cars for sale
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 Electric Drive models for many years now and it’s managed to get the cost of Fortwo EV 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.
Read our Smart Fortwo Electric Drive review
Browse Smart Fortwo cars for sale
‘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, it broaches the £20k price threshold and has an unfortunately short 99-mile EV range, which will limit its 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.
Read our VW e-Up review
Browse VW Up cars for sale
Best electric cars for enthusiasts
Electric cars don’t come any more thrilling than this: the classic Morgan Three-Wheeler tuned up with an electric powertrain. So you get all the fun and hand-crafted special feeling of the bespoke Three-Wheeler with bang-up-to-date technology for an unusual ancient-meets-modern transport. Impressively, the Morgan Motor Company claims the finished result weighs less than 500kg and quotes a range of 150 miles. The Morgan EV3 is being built in partnership with Frazer-Nash Energy Systems and will go on sale in 2018. One for if you’re feeling brave…
Read more about the Morgan EV3
Browse all our Morgan reviews
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...
Read our Nio EP9 review
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!
Further reading on electric cars