Traipse around one of the recent European motor shows and you’d be forgiven for thinking that most of the world’s most famous manufacturers don’t produce or sell an internal combustion engine any more.
The major players have spoken and the future of personal transportation looks distinctly battery powered, with Deloitte predicting worldwide sales of Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) will rocket from 4 million in 2020 to 21 million by 2030, whereas sales of traditional internal combustion engines will fall off a cliff.
There are political and ethical arguments around for instance, lithium mining for EV batteries but this isn’t quite the right place to get into it.
Zero emissions vehicles boast a number of benefits that can be enjoyed today. There are fewer moving parts, meaning lower maintenance costs, the tax breaks and Congestion Charge benefits are extremely generous, while those with regular short journeys could save bucket-loads of cash by turning their backs on the humble petrol station. And don’t be misled by those bemoaning the public charging network, because a quick scan of Zap Map reveals an abundance of locations to charge a vehicle – a number that is growing by the day.
On top of this, those who have already made the switch to electric often attest to the fact that installing a charging point at home often negates the need to use the public charging network. After all, when was the last time you drove more than 200-miles several times in a week?
What is the best electric car in 2019?
Brilliantly bolted together and bristling with the latest technology, the Jaguar I-Pace (from £64,495) is not just one of then-design chief Ian Callum’s funkiest designs, this SUV/Coupe crossover is also inherently practical, boasting a realistic range of 292-miles on a single charge, ample boot space and potent all-wheel drive performance that shines both on the road and off the beaten path. With its sleek interior, myriad ‘floating’ touchscreen displays and 50kW rapid charging capabilities, it is no wonder it’s our current pick for the best electric car.
For those looking to achieve I-Pace-esque range but are hamstrung by tighter budgets, the Hyundai Kona Electric makes a very solid case. Priced at just £35,100, our best affordable electric car offers an impressive 239-mile range and a fuss-free ownership experience. It may lack the premium bells and whistles of the Tesla, Jag and Audi, but it drives brilliantly and proves as practical as any of its internal combustion engine family car counterparts.
Alternatively, the Tesla Model 3 (from £47,000) is as exciting as Elon Musk would have his hordes of dedicated followers think. Supercar performance, gadgets galore and the most tempting price tag of any Tesla, it’s the everyman’s Model S and then some and the best EV for speed freaks.
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WIRED Recommends: The Jaguar I-Pace blends premium styling, punchy performance and everyday practicality
Battery: 90kWh lithium-ion pouch cells | Range: 292-miles | Power: 400hp and 696Nm of torque | 0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Tesla has long ruled the electric vehicle game but Jaguar really brought the fight to the Californian tech giant when it unleashed the I-Pace (from £64,495).
Jaguar didn’t hold back during the launch event of its first all-electric vehicle either. Rather than easing us in gently with the usual bimble around a selection of winding European roads, it pointed participants towards the demanding Portimao race circuit and encouraged friendly competition with a prize for the fastest lap. The British marque then dispatched its I-Pace fleet to an off-road rendezvous that involved a spot of fording, several steep inclines and some speedy gravel surfaces that brought out the inner Kris Meeke in even the most tentative drivers. All the while, its impressive 292-mile range remained intact.
But perhaps more importantly (is anyone really going to take their I-Pace off-road?), the sleek EV excelled on the open, flowing motorways of Portugal, where it breezed along in near silence and offered a ride that was smooth and unfazed by those rare bumps and imperfections in the bafflingly perfect road surfaces.
Inside, the cabin feels modern and minimalist, with a heavy reliance on eco-conscious materials, cool metallic surfaces and smooth, sweeping lines to ensure it can stand toe-to-toe with premium offerings from Audi, Volvo, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
An innovative Touch Pro Duo infotainment system is borrowed from sister company Land Rover and sees a floating central console control heating, ventilation and other comfort features – its ‘Magic Dials’ displaying differing information depending on the feature that is being adjusted.
With 4G Wi-Fi compatibility as standard and numerous Jaguar smartphone apps, it is simple and intuitive to keep in touch with the vehicle. For example, it is possible to remotely heat or cool the cabin, check the doors are locked or receive alerts when your I-Pace is meddled with by airport parking staff while sipping Pina Coladas on holiday.
Sitting at the top end of most people’s budgets, the I-Pace probably won’t be the vehicle that brings all-electric motoring to the masses, but it is proof that ditching fossil fuel doesn’t necessarily require compromise, especially when it comes to offering a fast, comfortable, quiet and superbly refined drive.
Pros: It looks great; solid electric range; stylish tech
Cons: High price tag; long charging times from domestic outlets
Price: From £64,495 | Jaguar
Hyundai Kona Electric
The most affordable and practical EV out there… if you can get hold of one
Battery: 64kWh lithium-ion | Range: 279-miles | Power: 204hp and 395Nm of torque | 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
Range anxiety has been a major road block for many customers thinking of making the switch to an electric vehicle, with the more affordable machines traditionally scrimping on battery performance and making the thought of longer journeys – with multiple stops to recharge – unbearable for many.
Then along came the Hyundai Kona Electric, a slick little SUV with a range to rival the likes of Jaguar and Tesla but with a price tag that isn’t much higher a run-of-the-mill family wagon. Admittedly, it isn’t anywhere near as, ahem, electrifying in the performance department as those aforementioned rivals, but up to 279-miles of emissions-free motoring for £35,000 is nothing to be sniffed at.
A spacious, five-seat cabin offers plenty of room for the entire family, while a wireless smartphone charging unit, premium KRELL sound system, ventilated leather seats and a large touchscreen infotainment system add value to an already enticing package.
That said, it is difficult to escape some of the cheaper interior plastics and the ride can feel quite choppy in places. Also, the all-out performance punch is replaced with a more sensible approach to power, enabling Hyundai to achieve that impressive range figure. Sensible, but not exactly riotous to drive.
Charging from a typical 7.2kW outlet (easily installed in most homes) takes around nine hours, while 50kW rapid charging compatibility, which is becoming more readily available on the public network, takes just 75-minutes.
With the Kona Electric, Hyundai has the enviable title of ‘most bang for your buck’ when it comes to electric range. An absolute coup for the burgeoning Korean marque, but slightly irksome for those UK customers joining the very long waiting list that has subsequently formed.
Pros: Good value on range; small but practical; easy to live with
Cons: Long waiting list; not as refined as more expensive rivals
Price: From £35,100 | Hyundai
Tesla Model 3
All the Tesla razzmatazz, without the mammoth price tag
Battery: from 50, 62 or 75kWh lithium-ion | Range: up to 348-miles Power: 238hp to 473hp and up to 639Nm of torque | 0-62mph: 3.4 seconds
Arguably the company that kick-started the current electric vehicle trend, Tesla has rocketed from a disruptive Silicon Valley startup to a global automotive force to be reckoned with. The Model S, which is getting on for eight years old now, debuted long range batteries, rapid charging and supercar-baiting performance.
But despite its lofty list price, the game-changing saloon went on to become the second most popular electric car in the world, only pipped by Nissan and its far more accessible Leaf. Not one to rest on his laurels, Elon Musk announced that his company would unveil a more affordable, mass market Model 3 to the world in an attempt to regain that top spot.
Alas, production woes meant that the world had to wait (and wait) to experience this claimed $35,000 masterpiece, but a handful of UK customers are now finally receiving their cars and early driving impressions are largely excellent.
The straight-line acceleration can only be described as “rocket-like”, with the most expensive Performance model able to dispatch of the 0-62mph sprint in around 3.4-seconds – to put that into perspective, it’s only marginally slower than a Ferrari 488.
Although not quite as wafting and silent as the larger Model S, the Model 3 is still a very peaceful place to while away the motorway miles and Tesla’s excellent charging network means customers are never too far from a place to top up.
Inside, there’s the giant iPad-esque infotainment system that Tesla is now famed for, while owners can use a smartphone to unlock the vehicle. On top of this, there’s the option to have whoopee cushion noises play when a passenger sits down and a multitude of other silly settings.
The Model 3 certainly isn’t perfect though, with too many important ancillaries committed to a fiddly touchscreen together with a general build quality and attention to detail that falls behind premium rivals. But perhaps most importantly, it’s not quite the cheap, mass appeal car that Musk had in mind, as prices for a well specced Model 3 can easily top £60,000 here in the UK.
Pros: Superb range and performance; comfortable; lots of kit
Cons: Questionable build quality; you’ll have to wait
Price: From £47,000 | Tesla
The best electric car for families is a reliable choice
Battery: from 40 or 62kWh lithium-ion | Range: up to 239-miles | Power: 150hp to 217hp and up to 340Nm of torque | 0-62mph: 7.1 – 7.9 seconds
Nissan surpassed the 400,000 units sold mark earlier this year, officially making it the most popular electric car in the world. It comes as no surprise really, seeing as the Japanese marque was among the first of the major manufacturers to back electric propulsion and it looks like the gamble has paid off.
A relatively poor range arguably prevented even more folk from making the EV switch but Nissan has remedied this, now offering its little hatch with two battery options and a maximum real-world range of 239 miles – more than enough for most ‘normal’ car users, considering the average daily distance covered is around 30 miles.
Styling in this latest generation is also the best yet, with those awkward bubbles and curves of the first generation making way for much sharper lines, dazzling LED headlights and imposing wheels. Specify it in black, with black wheels and black trim, and it actually looks pretty good.
The Leaf is also extremely practical, with room enough inside for five and ample boot space for bags, prams and other family accoutrements. The interior can feel a tad cheap in places, with an over-reliance on scratchy plastics, but there’s no denying the technology on offer is impressive for a car at this price.
A ProPILOT Advanced Driver Assistance System ushers in high levels of autonomous driving, while a clever Around-View Monitor (a snazzy name for a 360-degree parking camera) comes as standard on everything but the most basic model.
Prices start to creep above £35,000 when the larger battery, leather trim and premium Bose sound system are introduced, which might sound like a lot for a car that doesn’t handle or drive with the poise of a similarly-priced combustion engined BMW or Mercedes-Benz, but the 239 mile range is solid and it’s a damn sight cheaper than Tesla’s ‘everyman’ offering.
Pros: Compact, practical and great value for money
Cons: Average ride quality; limited range in cheaper options
Price: From £27,995 | Nissan
One for stylish city-dwellers who don’t need massive range
Battery: from 38Wh lithium-ion | Range: up to 193-miles | Power: 102hp to 116hp and 250Nm to 270Nm of torque | 0-62mph: 6.9 – 7.3 seconds
The BMW i3 was somewhat of an anomaly when it was first launched back in 2013. A small, quirky city car with rear-hinged rear doors, a lightweight carbon fibre reinforced body structure and an interior largely made up of fabrics fashioned from plant life and recycled plastic bottles.
Along with the much meaner, more performance orientated i8, the dinky i3 spearheaded BMW’s move towards an electric future and proved popular with those early adopters willing to overlook the lofty price tag and slightly underwhelming electric range.
A more recent update has ushered in welcome improvements to the battery technology, with up to 193 miles now possible from the electric propulsion system, while the German marque continues to lead the field when it comes to incorporating sustainable materials into its i models. The i3, for example, is up to 85 per cent recyclable and the company’s plans to refurbish and restore ageing battery cells has only been thwarted by the fact that customers haven’t complained of such an issue and continue to happily use first generation models to this day.
That’s testament to the build quality, which is excellent here, and the i3’s cool, minimalistic cockpit remains a very chic place to sit. And although not the most powerful EV in the pack, the i3’s impressively low mass means it remains very nippy around town.
In addition to this, it features BMW’s excellent attention to detail, most particularly in the refinement and premium feel of its ride and handling. Despite its diminutive proportions, this feels like a grown-up car on the open road and will comfortably sit on the motorway without too much road noise leaking into the cabin.
However, customers will have to make do with a fairly tight cabin in the rear and a boot capacity of just 260-litres. This falls a long way behind the Kia e-Niro, for example, which touts 451-litres of usable space.
Pros: Individual looks; slick interior; fun to drive
Cons: Limited range; not very spacious
Price: From £35,350 | BMW
Style, space and the large luxury SUV formula
Battery: from 95Wh lithium-ion | Range: up to 241-miles | Power: 402hp and 664Nm of torque | 0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Those in the market for an electric vehicle are slightly hampered by a limited choice of body styles. Predictably, those traditional automakers taking the plunge have cut their developmental cost losses and opted for the most popular segments to introduce zero emissions – namely small hatchbacks and diminutive SUVs.
Audi, a brand that isn’t afraid to make a technological statement, went large with its debut all-electric model, finally giving a section of the buying public the space, lofty ride height and imposing figure that only a massive, premium SUV can bring to the table.
It cost the company a staggering £2billion to develop but the e-tron is more of an evolution than a revolution, keeping in line with the overall styling and paired-back premium interiors of the rest of the Q range, rather than blowing customer’s minds with whacky space-age features.
That said, it’s reassuringly Audi, offering a relaxed, quick and refined ride on a variety of road surfaces, while boasting more practical and useable storage space than its Jaguar I-Pace rival. The Tesla Model X is more spacious inside, but there’s no denying the XL Audi feels like the more accomplished product.
A 241-mile range is likely to be a bone of contention for those more used to Tesla’s 300-odd-mile claims but the e-tron is a light car and it’s very easy to get very close to the official figures without driving like a complete ninny.
Alas, the German marque couldn’t resist adding one high-tech flourish in the form of its virtual wing mirrors, which use high-definition cameras and a small screen placed inside the door. These are an optional extra and one that we just couldn’t get to grips with. Retraining the brain to look towards the A-pillar, as opposed to a standard wing mirror is difficult, and the natural sense of spatial awareness is distorted by these small screens. That’s not exactly brilliant when trying to reverse a large SUV around a tight corner.
Pros: Large; fast; spacious; great to drive
Cons: Expensive; styling not special; virtual wing mirror gimmick
Price: From £71,560 | Audi
For high-mileage drivers who don’t want to break the bank
Battery: from 64Wh lithium-ion | Range: up to 282-miles | Power: 201hp and 395Nm of torque | 0-62mph: 7.5 seconds
The Kia e-Niro shares the same platform as its sister company’s excellent Kona Electric, which means the foundations upon which this eminently practical family car are based are about as solid as they come. While rival car makers have been concentrating on ludicrous electric motor performance and daft operating system Easter Eggs, Kia has been quietly developing an electric car for the motoring masses.
From the outside, it looks just like a regular car, and things are no different as soon as you step inside the familiar interior. The only difference here is that there is no noise upon startup and no nasty emissions from a tailpipe.
Although still relatively nippy around town, this isn’t a car that alters minds with its acceleration or top speed, instead finely balancing very adequate and usable performance with an excellent real-world electric range.
The ride is quiet and comfortable, there’s plenty of room inside for a family of five and the boot is of a comparable size to almost every other family hatchback on the market. Very little compromise equates to a very enticing car for those customers wanting to make the switch but into a machine that feels familiar.
However, just like its sister company Hyundai, Kia totally underestimated the demand for its EV and subsequently sold out of its initial UK allocation in record time. As a result, interested parties will have to wait until next year to experience the e-Niro, but the wait is most definitely worth it.
Pros: Practical; long range; longer 7-year/100,000-mile warranty
Cons: Not at all flashy; relatively slow; basic interior
Price: From £32,995 | Kia