You may have noticed that good-old-fashioned petrol and diesel cars haven’t had the best publicity lately. With the rise of hybrid and electric cars, we can expect to see the internal combustion engine phased out over the next few decades, and eventually, electric cars will take over.
But, there’s no need to wait for the future, as you can buy electric cars right now. They’re still relatively niche, aimed largely at those that live in a city or suburbs and don’t need to do long car journeys. They can also be expensive and will likely have a smaller range than petrol or diesel cars. However, they do have the advantage of emitting no pollutants, and they also cost far less to charge than you’d pay to fill up a fuel tank. There's also the bonus of no tailpipe emissions.
With more and more electric cars available to the public, we’ve rounded up our favourites, and we also look ahead to electric cars that’ll be coming to market in the near future.
- Renault Zoe – the (relatively) cheap one
- Tesla Model S – the long-range one
- BMW i3 – the aspirational one
- Volkswagen e-Golf – the understated one
- Smart ForTwo Cabrio Electric Drive – the open-top one
Renault Zoe – the (relatively) cheap one
Electric cars cost very little to run, but the trouble is that many of them are expensive to buy. Not so the Zoe
, which is yours for little more than the price of a decently-specced Clio. Despite this, the Zoe is still a very smart-looking little thing. The blue accents on the outside are complemented by a hi-tech interior, and as the car was designed from the ground up as an electric car, the batteries don’t limit the car’s practicality too much. It’s good to drive, and has a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, too.
Tesla Model S – the long-range one
The Model S
is becoming a common sight on British roads, thanks largely to the fact it has a much more usable range than other electric cars. A single charge can get you almost 400 miles, which makes it far more realistic for those that do more than pootle around town. It also boasts serious performance and some clever interior technology thanks to a huge 17-inch touch-screen up front. Downsides? Well, the interior quality isn’t amazing, and it’s very pricey, but that’s not been enough to put people off so far.
BMW i3 – the aspirational one
No offence to any of the early electric car pioneers in the modern age, but it took the arrival of the i3
to make electric cars genuinely aspirational. But its list of attributes goes way beyond the BMW badge. There’s also the way it drives. The sporty BMW gene is alive and well in the i3, and it’s a genuinely quick little car, as well as being amazingly manoeuvrable. Admittedly, all this doesn’t come cheap, but with the i3, there’s no denying the feeling that you get a premium product for your money.
Volkswagen e-Golf – the understated one
Lots of electric cars shout their credentials by looking like nothing else on the road, but Volkswagen’s electric Golf
looks like, well, a Golf. Only the blue headlights and different front grille mark it out as special, which for lots of people is exactly what they’re after. It boasts all the attributes of the regular Golf – a refined a comfortable drive and a classy cabin – but without any of those pesky exhaust pollutants.
Nissan Leaf – the British-built one
was the first vehicle to convince people in large numbers than an electric car was something to consider, and now there's a new one. Built in Sunderland, with a new battery, more power, a bigger range and a cheaper price, it also features plenty of state-of-the-art self-driving technologies. Check out our review of the 2018 Nissan Leaf
2018 and beyond
But wait! Before you rush out and spend your money on one of the cars above, here are a few more electric cars we’re expecting in 2018 and beyond. You may want to hold on until they arrive.
Audi e-tron quattro – the premium German one
Audi has a deserved reputation for quality, so we're very keen to see how its e-tron Quattro concept car looks when it's unveiled in production form. From what we know so far, it'll be an electric SUV with a range of around 300 miles, and probably quite a bit of performance too. The 2015 concept car could hit 62mph in just 4.5 seconds, which is proper sports car territory. Expect to hear more this year.
Tesla Model 3 – the smaller American one
Any new Tesla is big news, especially when it’s one that’s likely to be considerably more affordable than the existing models. The Model 3
is a smaller hatchback with a promised range of up to 310 miles, depending on which battery option you choose. It has front and back doors, and will seat five. Sales in the US have started already, but the downside is that UK buyers will have to wait until 2019 for right-hand drive versions.
Jaguar I-Pace – the premium British one
Not to be confused with the E-Pace, which is just a regular compact SUV, the I-Pace
is Jaguar’s first electric car. It's a sporty little number, which offers huge performance, an impressive real-world driving range and huge desirability. It has an electric motor on each axle to give four-wheel drive, and a promised range of 310 miles. It's practical, too, with a large boot. Although it's firmly in Tesla territory with its performance, it's also in Tesla territory with its price.
Mini E – the iconic one
The humble Mini is a mainstay on British roads, and we’re quite surprised BMW hasn’t introduced an electric one already. Although an electric Mini was trialled almost a decade ago, it was never sold to the public. But the Mini’s inherently peppy character should go really well with the electric motor from BMW’s i3, and the all-new Mini E – based heavily on this 2017 concept version
– will (hopefully) prove that when it arrives in 2019. It should have a range of around 190 miles.
Volvo XC40 Electric – the… Swedish one?
The XC40 is Volvo’s smallest SUV and it’s a very good one
, which means we’re keen to see what an electric version will be like. It’s due in 2019 and will be Volvo’s first electric car, although the company does have plenty of experience in building hybrids across its range. We expect it to have a range of at least 200 miles and a very premium, luxury feel.