The best electric cars 2018 UK: The best EVs for sale in the UK
In 2018 an electric vehicle (EV) is a viable choice for those in the car market. What’s more, the government has been told it needs to be far more ambitious with electric cars, suggesting that three-fifths of cars sold by 2030 should be electric. That means we’re going to see more and more EVs on our roads in the coming decade.
In fact, as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark pledged to increase the National Productivity Investment Fund to £31 billion while planning to support the rise of electric vehicles by investing £400 million in charging infrastructure. It has additionally offered an extra £100 million to extend the plug-in car grant.
Furthermore, the new Nissan Leaf recently launched, while BMW recently unveiled its sportier i3s model to make electric cars appeal to more people. BMW also announced last year it will be making an all-electric Mini in its Cowley plant, while Volkswagen unveiled plans for an electric campervan, officially known as a Microbus, to be released in 2022. Oh, and even James Dyson has announced plans to launch his own EV by 2020.
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Here, we’ve put together a list of the best EVs available in the UK, and we’ll also explain why we’ve chosen each car. At the end of this list is more detail about the government grants available for low-emission vehicles and you can find your nearest electric car charging station on Zap Maps.
The best electric cars in the UK 2018
1. Jaguar I-Pace (starts at £58,995 after government grant)
The Jaguar I-Pace has been one the most anticipated SUVs since the first Concept was unveiled at the LA Motor Show in 2016. It’s significant not just because it’s the first all-electric Jaguar production car, nor because it’s one of the first electric SUVs out there, but because it signifies a change amongst premium automakers deliberately targeting Tesla’s product space.
Having been hands-on with the Jaguar I-Pace, it’s clear to see that it offers a level of finish and quality that just can’t be matched by Tesla’s Model X. It may not have the same raw power to draw upon that the Tesla vehicles do, but the way it feels to drive is simply unparalleled in the EV space. It helps that Jaguar has brought in all of the hallmarks of its car design, creating a comfortable interior space that feels just like a Jaguar, rather than an empty husk with little personality.
In terms of power, it jumps from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, comes with a 298-mile range and utilises a rapid-charging 90kWh battery. You can charge from 0-80% in just 85 minutes with a 50kW charger, or just 40 minutes with a 100kW socket. You’ll also get a total of 349bhp from its two motors, which provide Jaguar’s signature All-Wheel Drive capabilities.
Prices start at £63,495 for the entry-level I-Pace S and run to £74,445 for the I-Pace HSE. If you were lucky enough to order in time for an I-Pace First Edition, you could get one of those for £81,495 and, thanks to the UK government subsidy on electric vehicles, UK buyers can slash £4,500 off the price of any I-Pace model to take the sting off things just that little bit.
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2. Tesla Model S (starts at £53,500 after government grant)
The Tesla Model S is the ultimate poster boy for the electric car – now available in 75D, 100D and P100D flavours, so there’s something for everyone. We reviewed a Tesla Model S and found it combined the perfect blend of innovation, style and ludicrous performance. When you throw in the ridiculous 17in touchscreen, Tesla Autopilot and a 0-60mph of 2.6 seconds, the Tesla Model S might be the ultimate car – never mind electric one.
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3. Nissan Leaf (starts at £21,990 after government grant)
The pre-2018 Leaf was the most popular electric vehicle in the UK and it’s easy to see why. Although it looked like a large Nissan Micra from the outside, the Leaf was a revolutionary vehicle and, throughout its life, it kept getting better. Originally launched in 2011, the Leaf passed 300,000 units sold early in 2018 and was so popular that, in the UK at least, Nissan ran out of new vehicles ahead of schedule at the end of 2017.
The new model has now arrived and it’s an even better car, with improved performance, range and interior quality and equipment and no notable increase in cost. The Nissan Leaf 2018 comes in four different trims: Visia, Conecta, N-Connecta and Tekna, with a “special version” – the limited-edition 2.Zero – available in limited numbers at launch.
It’s not super powerful compared with its non-electric counterparts but it is relatively fleet of foot for electric cars in a similar style. Nissan quotes a 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds, which is only second to the BMW i3 and sportier i3s but it is quicker than the VW e-Golf (9.6 seconds) and the relatively uninspiring Renault ZOE (11.9 seconds with the new 106bhp R11 motor).
A highlight of the Leaf is its e-Pedal which lets you send energy back to the battery without having to apply the brake to make it a smoother, more energy efficient ride. Elsewhere, it has a maximum torque of 320Nm which gives a good level of mid-range power.
When it comes to charging, you can use the 6.6kW charging socket, or a high-voltage 50kW CHAdeMO quick charger. As you’d expect, the latter will give you more juice in a shorter period of time and Nissan claims it can take the Leaf from empty up to 80% capacity in around 40 minutes, compared with 7.5-hours with a 6.6kW charger. You can also charge your car using a traditional UK mains socket, but this takes the charging time to 21 hours.
Prices for the Nissan Leaf start at £21,990 with the government grant of £4,500 applied and the price rises to £27,490 for the top-of-the-range Tekna.
You can read our original Nissan Leaf review here and our Nissan Leaf 2018 review here.
4. Renault ZOE (starts at £17,854 excluding battery rental)
It’s been five years since the original Renault ZOE launched and it was recently given a power boost when the range was refreshed. The older, Renault Z.E. 40 model, came with 92bhp and went from 0-62mph in 13.2seconds. The refreshed range introduced the R110 motor to the ZOE, which offers 106bhp and 225Nm of torque, and a 0-62mph time of 11.9 seconds, while keeping the weight of the motor and range the same.
While this is faster than the older model it won’t make a huge amount of difference to the way the car drives at low speeds, around town. It’ll help on motorways and dual-carriageways but that’s not the Zoe’s natural habitat anyway. The Zoe remains some way off its rivals in terms of out and out performance and it’s also a touch behind cars like the Nissan Leaf and the Smart Forfour and Fortwo EVs in terms of the way it drives and equipment levels. However, the new Zoe is available with Android Auto
The improvements obviously push up the price of the newer Renault ZOE, and you can get the 2018 model for £18,420, which includes the government grant discount. Note, though, that this price excludes the minimum £49 per month you have to pay to lease a battery for the car, which pushes running costs up. Also worth noting is that this is for the 22kW battery; the 40kW, battery is £59 per month.
Range-wise, Renault places the ZOE at a maximum of 250 miles for the 40kW battery and using the ZOE’s Chameleon Charger, Renault offers a ‘Q90’ option on both ZOE trims to give its charging capacity a boost. When connected to a 43kW charger, the Renault ZOE can go from empty to 80% in a little under an hour.
5. Tesla Model X (starts at £71,900 after government grant)
With all the hype around the more affordable Model 3, it’s very easy to forget all about the Tesla Model X – but you really shouldn’t. Simply put, the Model X could be the ultimate electric car and combines sports car-like performance with all the storage and practicality of a real, full-sized SUV. It’s hard to look past those amazing falcon-wing doors, but the rest of the Model X features incredible design, too. Whether it’s the extended windscreen or car’s Autopilot mode, the Tesla Model X could be the best electric SUV – until the i-Pace that is.
The main draw of the Tesla Model X is that it doesn’t look or feel like an electric car. Tesla has gone to great lengths to make it rival sports cars from “traditional” manufacturers and in a recent drag race with a Lamborghini Aventador, the Tesla won by 0.05 seconds. It also broke the world record for being the fastest SUV.
6. BMW i3 (starts at £25,680 after government grant)
One of the most sophisticated cars on the market today, the BMW i3 gives you everything you’d want from an electric car in a small, compact package. It’s a rear-wheel drive, like a traditional BMW, but that’s where the similarities end. Under the hood, you won’t find much, because the BMW i3 is actually powered by a 168hp electric motor in the car’s boot. It is likely, following the unveiling of the new BMW i3 and i3s electric car that the price of the original model will drop so stay tuned for updates.
The car giant also has plans to launch an electric Mini in 2019 and recently announced it would be building the range at its Cowley plant in Oxford. Images of the Mini Electric Concept have released ahead of the Frankfurt Motor Show and show it in silver and yellow with a closed radiator grille and Union Jack rear light array. The electric Mini is expected to be priced between the Nissan Leaf and the BMW i3 and, by 2025, the BMW Group expects electrified vehicles to account for between 15-25% of its sales. An electric Mini will be the tenth electric BMW in its EV range.
7. BMW i3s (starts at £32,480 after government grant)
When BMW updated its standard BMW i3, it also took the opportunity to unveil a sportier model, called BMW i3s. As you’d expect, it’s more powerful than the original and updated version, thanks to a new motor, and it handles more like a sports car due to the lowered suspension. Elsewhere, it also comes with wider track and tyres, has a 180bhp and can go from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds. The latter gets a power boost in the form of a new motor and lower suspension.
As with the Leaf’s e-Pedal, the BMW i3s can be driven using a single pedal which accelerates when pressed and slows the car down when pressure is lessened. This removes the need to press the brake as often and recoups energy back to the battery making the car more efficient, while adding to the range.
Given the increased price, starting at £32,480 including the government grant, effectively adding £2,905 to the price of the updated i3, we’d expect more improvements. The 0-62mph is only four tenths faster than its cheaper sibling and it comes with a 174-mile range, which is 12 miles lower than the newer i3.
When it comes to charging, a standard three-pin socket will get the battery to 80% in about nine hours. This drops significantly, to four hours, when BMW’s own charger is used and of course a fast charger gives you a boost much quicker, cutting the 80% charge time to just 40 minutes, putting it on par with the Nissan Leaf.
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Electric car buying guide
Two reasons to get an EV right now
Now, an electric car still isn’t for everyone – but if you live in the city, have a short commute or take occasional short trips, an electric car could be ideal. In fact, thanks to ongoing leaps in battery technology, range is much less of an issue than it used to be, so even if you have to make the occasional long journey it could be worth looking at an electric car.
What’s more, there’s an increasing number of electric car chargers in the UK. Shell recently announced plans to introduce electric chargers in UK petrol stations and there are electric car charging station maps to help you avoid so-called range anxiety. When you throw in government subsidies, 2018 is a great time to get an electric car.
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Government grants for electric cars in the UK
To encourage more people to drive electric cars, and manufacturers to make more, the UK government is offering grants to reduce the price you pay for brand new electric and hybrid vehicles. The amount of money you can get depends on the CO2 emissions of the car you want to buy, and only those that have been approved by the government are eligible.
Category 1 cars
Cars that have CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and can travel at least 112km (70 miles) without any CO2 emissions at all fall into the first category. These include:
- BMW i3
- BYD e6
- Citroen CZero
- Ford Focus Electric
- Hyundai IONIQ Electric
- Jaguar I-Pace
- Kia Soul EV
- Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive
- Nissan e-NV200 (5-seater and 7-seater)
- Nissan LEAF
- Peugeot iON
- Renault Fluence
- Renault ZOE
- Smart fortwo electric drive
- Smart forfour electric drive
- Tesla Model S
- Tesla Model X
- Toyota Mirai
- Volkswagen e-up!
- Volkswagen e-Golf
The government grant covers 35% of the purchase price for these vehicles, up to a maximum of £4,500.
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