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Best electric cars to buy 2020

There are more electric cars than ever to choose from so we've picked the top 10 best electric cars you can buy in the UK now

Pressure is growing on UK motorists to ditch their petrol and diesel-powered vehicles and switch to pure-electric cars, but which are the best electric cars available to buy now on the UK car market? Here we reveal our top 10 picks of the current EV options and give you some top tips that will help you decide whether an electric car is right for you.

The number of electric car sales in the UK remains relatively small compared to the fossil-fueled alternatives, but things are changing. The selection of new electric cars facing consumers is growing fast and will continue to do so as more and more manufacturers get on board with the technology, delivering models with longer ranges, faster charging times and lower prices.

At the same time, the electric car-charging infrastructure in the UK is improving, making electric cars more viable for more people. The wider availability of fast and rapid chargers at homes and workplaces, as well as in public spaces, means the number of people who could swap into a BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) and enjoy its lower running costs with relatively little inconvenience, is growing along with the range of models. Even if you can’t manage with a pure EV, today’s plug-in hybrids offer a good halfway house.

Although an electric car still isn't for everyone, there is a greater selection than ever before. There are small, supermini-sized EVs like the Peugeot e-208, Honda e and Renault Zoe. Crossovers in the form of the Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric as well as SUVs like the Audi E-Tron and Mercedes EQC

There are other benefits to pure-electric motoring besides the environmental credentials - you’ll be exempt from London’s congestion charge zone and from paying road tax. Electric cars still remain more expensive than their combustion engined counterparts to buy, even with the government’s plug-in car grant, but running costs have been shown to be as much as 60% less for electric cars.

Below we deliver our definitive verdict on the top 10 best electric cars on the market based on our exhaustive testing of every electric car on sale. Click the links to read more about each model...

Best electric cars to buy 2020

  1. Tesla Model 3
  2. Kia e-Niro
  3. Jaguar I-Pace
  4. Kia Soul EV
  5. Hyundai Kona Electric
  6. Renault Zoe
  7. Polestar 2
  8. Tesla Model S
  9. Peugeot e-208
  10. Mercedes EQC

Scroll down the page for our analysis of the electric car market and our top tips on finding the electric car that’s best for you…

How to choose an electric car: top tips

1. Decide whether an electric car will suit your lifestyle 

Electric cars are not for everybody. Although the public charging infrastructure in the UK is improving quickly, regular long trips in an electric car can still prove problematic. The perfect usage pattern for an EV involves charging at home overnight when electricity tariffs are lower and not needing to top up the battery again during the day.

Ideally, you’ll need somewhere to charge at home, but you could get around this if there are EV charging points at work or plenty of public charging points nearby. If you do less than 200 or so miles a week, you could get away without having a home or work charger at all; just visit a public one every few days to top up.

If your average daily mileage exceeds the range of your electric car, we’d advise you to think twice, but the occasional longer trip should be perfectly manageable. As the technology improves and the average range of electric cars grows, more and more people will find that they could live quite happily with an electric car.

2. Don’t be put off by high electric car prices, running costs are the key

The list prices of electric cars can look expensive compared to equivalent petrol or diesel models, even when the Government’s plug-in car grant has been applied, but looks are very likely to be deceiving. List prices are just one part of the cost of vehicle ownership and the overall cost becomes much more palatable when you factor-in the relatively low running costs of EVs - often around 60% of those of a similar petrol model depending on usage patterns.

As a general rule, charging an electric car is far cheaper than fueling a petrol or diesel one - even if you use more expensive public charging points.

The free VED (road tax), the company car tax advantages and the lower maintenance costs that result from an EV’s fewer moving parts, and the lower cost of running an electric car will also help offset the higher upfront price.

3. Don’t worry about electric car practicality

There was a time when the majority of electric cars were conventional models with the internal combustion engine powertrain swapped out for an electric motor and batteries. This led to all sorts of compromises in terms of interior and boot space. But today, electric cars tend to built on purpose-designed platforms that are created either purely for electric vehicles or to accommodate various kinds of propulsion system. The end result is that electric cars deliver boot and passenger space equivalent to petrol and diesel rivals.

With everything from superminis and small SUVs to executive saloons and luxury SUVs to choose from, there should be an electric car to meet the needs of most buyers.

4. Enjoy the electric car driving experience

Electric cars tend to be heavier than petrol and diesel models, which means they can feel less nimble on twisty roads, but there are a whole host of benefits to the way they drive that many people will find preferable.

For a start you get near-silent cruising with next-to-no sound from the electric motors. In traffic, the car slows itself when you lift off the throttle, so it’s possible to drive around town using just one pedal, hardly ever touching the brake. It all makes for a very relaxed experience, yet the instant torque provided by the electric motor means that even everyday EVs have the potential to leave a hot hatch standing when pulling away from the traffic lights and in some cases, supercars too.

In some ways, owning an EV means you have to change the way you think about driving. You automatically adopt a gentler, more relaxed style that maximises your range and often means you reach your destination feeling more refreshed than you would do otherwise.

Buying an electric car: frequently asked questions

Are electric cars environmentally friendly?

Electric cars have zero exhaust emissions so they don’t cause the localised NOx and particulate emissions that have a damaging effect on air quality in urban areas. However, the overall environmental credentials of an electric car depend greatly on the source of the electricity used to charge it. As the energy mix of the National Grid moves towards renewable sources like solar, wind and tidal power and away from fossil fuels, electric cars get greener. 

Which electric cars have the longest range?

With ever-improving battery technology, electric cars are increasing their ranges. The Kia e-Niro is one of the more affordable EVs and it has an official range of 282 miles, which should be enough for most drivers. The Tesla Model S is the current long range champion however with a 379-mile range. 

Are electric cars reliable?

Electric cars are still selling in relatively small numbers and we haven’t seen enough of them doing significant mileages to make a firm judgment on reliability. What we do know is that EVs have fewer moving parts than conventional cars and there’s little evidence from hybrid or electric cars that battery performance degrades substantially with use, although you are likely to see a gradual reduction in capacity.

How much do electric cars cost to tax? 

Pure-electric cars are free to tax. This still means you need to go through the process of taxing your electric vehicle although you won’t be required to pay anything. All other cars, including plug-in hybrids, pay at least £140 in road tax.

The UK electric car market: history and future

Electric cars have been around for well over a century but it’s only recently that they’ve started to gain a market foothold. In the early noughties, the Reva G-Wiz led the electric car craze, although that model was hardly a car at all, as it was classed as a quadricycle. It used basic lead-acid batteries, similar to the electric milk floats that once frequented British streets in the early hours, and was slow, cramped and not very safe. It wasn't until the original Nissan Leaf came along that the process of electric car development went into overdrive.

As a five-door, five-seat hatchback, the Leaf offered the practicality of a conventional family car, and became the best-selling EV, albeit with sales figures significantly lower than its petrol and diesel counterparts. Initially the Leaf's range was 80 miles at best, but constant development and improvement have seen that range increase, while the arrival of the Leaf Mk2 in 2018 saw the car gain a range closer to a conventional petrol car.

Seeing the success of the Leaf, rival car makers got in on the act and introduced their own EVs. Hyundai, Kia, Peugeot, Citroen, Renault, Ford and Volkswagen have all joined the electric revolution, while BMW has created its own 'i' EV sub-brand. US firm Tesla has its own huge following with its range of all-electric cars, while prestige makers Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar are producing their own luxury EVs, and various companies are building low volume all-electric hypercars. 

Looking into the future, you can only see the electric car market expanding, and fast. With comprehensive manufacturer buy-in fueled by tightening emissions regulations from governments, electric car technology is improving fast - along with the infrastructure that makes running one easier. You might not be considering an electric car now but it’s a safe bet that you will be in the future.

A good stepping stone to full-EV ownership is a plug-in hybrid - check out the best plug-in hybrid cars here...

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