Most economical electric cars

Topping up an electric car is cheaper than a tank of fuel but these ones are particularly cheap to charge, costing less per mile than rivals

James Wilson
Dec 9, 2019

Electric car economy is often overlooked, yet it's incredibly important; choose a car that is wasteful with electricity and not only will you have to top up more regularly, but it'll cost you more to run, too. A strong economy figure shows that an electric car doesn’t just offer the prospect of travelling further per charge, but is also using energy more efficiently, which goes further towards saving the planet, as fewer resources are needed to generate the electricity to charge the car.

By and large, electric cars follow a similar pattern to diesel and petrol-powered cars in that it's the smallest and lightest cars that offer the strongest economy figures, as the least weight needs to be moved around. Meanwhile, larger more luxurious models fair worse. The reason being is partly down to the higher performance electronics but also the sheer weight.

Big battery packs, multiple powerful motors, leather-clad electric seats and all the other high-tech equipment crammed into some electric cars mean that models like the Mercedes EQC are rather heavy and this drains more energy from the battery pack.

Consequently, the most economical electric cars range from diminutive city cars such as the Volkswagen e-Up to compact SUVs such as the Hyundai Kona Electric. Each model is provided with an economy figure in watt hours per kilometre (Wh/km - showing how far it can travel on a set unit of electricity - an estimated cost to fully charge from empty (based on those using an Economy 7 tariff - which provides cheaper electricity at night, which you can exploit to charge your car) and claimed range.

To get to grips with the ins and outs of electric car economy - including what the heck Wh/km means - read our guide to electric car economy. Meanwhile, read on to find out the most economical electric cars on sale in the UK and if you're on the hunt for a more affordable used electric car, click on the link below for a roundup of the best value models available right now on BuyaCar.

 

Most economical electric cars

1. Volkswagen e-Up

Economy 117Wh/km
Cost of charge £2.81
Claimed range 162 miles
Cost per 100 miles £1.73

As cheap-to-run electric cars go, the e-Up is fantastic. It is small, stylish and well-made, i.e. very similar to the petrol Up, and it's also the most economical electric car on this list with figures of 117Wh/km. Where it stumbles, however, is price and range.

Prices for new models start around £20,000 (after the UK Government chipped in £3,500 with its plug-in car grant) which is pretty steep, especially considering the petrol-powered Up starts from around half that and used petrol models that have covered barely 20,000 miles could be yours for less than £6,000 - in fact, you can pick up a used Volkswagen Up on BuyaCar for less than £100 per month.

As for range, well, the official figure used to sit at 99 miles, which meant the e-Up was best for those driving around town with regular access to a charging point. However, VW is in the process of launching an updated e-Up which is set to come with around 162 miles of range.

Volkswagen Up buyers' guide

2. BMW i3

Latest BMW i3 deals from £16,500
Monthly finance from £260
Economy 131Wh/km
Cost of charge £3.67
Claimed range 193 miles
Cost per 100 miles £1.90

It's taken until the start of the 2020s for a handful of mainstream electric cars to become available, but the BMW i3 has been around since way back in 2013, making it one of the first cars to offer attractive and desirable everyday electric transport with decent range. And credit where credit is due, the i3 still looks fresh as a daisy some six years on.

BMW has had plenty of time to play with the formula and develop the i3 package, so whether you want to choose your colour, specify optional extras to suit your taste and wait for delivery or have a very affordable second-hand model delivered straight to your door, there's plenty of choice. The key thing with the i3 is to understand which model you're looking at.

The i3 has received two rounds of updates from BMW – first in 2016 and more recently in 2018. Both brought increased battery capacity with the latest models boasting a 42.2kWh unit good for a claimed range of 193 miles under the latest economy test - so keep an eye on when the car was registered if you're after the longest range option.

There are some drawbacks to the i3, of course; it is only a four-seater and it isn’t particularly cheap (as per the current electric car market). However, it's still one of the most fun-to-drive and desirable electric cars money can buy, with low charging bills to boot.

BMW i3 buyers' guide

3. Smart EQ Fortwo and ForFour

Latest Smart EQ ForFour deals from £13,980
Monthly finance from £222
Economy 161-180Wh/km
Cost of charge £1.53
Claimed range 67 miles
Cost per 100 miles £2.28

Smart makes wacky small cars and if you want one of the tiniest electric cars on sale, the Fortwo or Forfour EQ is for you. Sadly, in both cases, electric range is equally tiny. Blame the EQ models' mediocre economy figures; they use far more energy per mile than a number of bigger and heavier electric cars. But, if you need an electric car well suited for town driving and you have regular access to charge points, then a Smart could be worth considering.

Both the ForTwo and ForFour EQs share the same electric motors, so you'll have 82hp on tap which isn't much, a means getting from 0-62mph takes 11.5 or 12.7 seconds respectively, and the top speed is 81mph. While these stats are not mind-blowing, the performance is well suited to town driving – with a tiny turning circle that also makes them particularly easy to drive around city centres.

Smart ForFour buyers' guide

4. Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Latest Hyundai Ioniq Electric deals from £21,799
Monthly finance from £331
Economy
138Wh/km
Cost of charge £3.33
Claimed range 194 miles
Cost per 100 miles £1.72

The Hyundai Ioniq Electric is not only efficient with its use of electrons, but it's also a genuinely great everyday car for families and company car drivers alike. Hyundai recently updated the Ioniq, boosting its battery capacity from 28.0kWh to 38.3kWh which handily increased the range to 194 miles. It's also one of the most economical electric cars on this list.

Electronics aside, the Ioniq Electric is relatively affordable - especially if you take advantage of used deals - packed with technology and practical too. As part of the updates to the Ioniq, Hyundai has refreshed the interior, making the car much more appealing. The Ioniq then, is not only very efficient but a very usable everyday prospect, too.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric buyers' guide

5. Kia e-Niro

Economy 149Wh/km
Cost of charge £5.57
Claimed range 282 miles
Cost per 100 miles £1.98

On top of having a mildly amusing Robert De Niro-based advertising campaign, the e-Niro is also rather efficient in its turning of electricity into miles. Thanks to its strong efficiency the e-Niro is claimed to get 282 miles on a full charge.

Away from the batteries, the e-Niro offers is a car which is compelling in itself. This includes a 451-litre boot, three rear seats which are big enough for fully-grown adults and all the latest desirable kit such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to help those miles roll on by.

There is one downside, like a few others on this list, and that is supply isn’t yet meeting demand in that you may have to join a pretty long waiting list if you want to get your hands on a brand new one. Opt for a used one however and you'll have no such problems.

Kia Niro buyers' guide

6. Tesla Model 3

Economy 150Wh/km (estimated)
Cost of charge £4.79
Claimed range 348 miles
Cost per 100 miles £1.38

If you haven’t heard already, the Model 3 is a bit of a big deal, and not just for Tesla, but for the automotive world in general. It is relatively affordable, provides enough range to compete with fossil-fuel-powered cars and is stuffed with an incredible array of cutting edge tech - especially when you consider the price. All this from a car brand founded this side of the millennium.

Once more, Tesla has made sure the Model 3 is efficient, which will help keep bills down. Saying that, the waiting list for a Model 3 is quite long so bills are a way off in the future. Inside the Model 3 is quintessential Tesla, meaning there is minimal fuss and maximum focus on the large central screen.

7. Hyundai Kona Electric

Latest Hyundai Kona Electric deals from £36,995
Monthly finance from £568
Economy 154Wh/km
Cost of charge £5.57
Claimed range 279 miles
Cost per 100 miles £2.00

The petrol powered Hyundai Kona is a little underwhelming, but as an electric car the opposite is true. Thanks partly due to its strong electrical economy, appealing price and impressive range, the Kona Electric is one of the best electric cars on sale.

Its biggest rival is arguably the Kia e-Niro above, which is based on the same platform and uses many of the same electronics underneath the body. Those who do not need the extra space of the e-Niro (it is slightly longer than the Kona) will find that the Kona Electric makes modern-day motoring a doddle thanks to a comfy ride and technology such as adaptive cruise control and a heated steering wheel.

Hyundai Kona Electric buyers' guide

8. Volkswagen e-Golf

Latest Volkswagen e-Golf deals from £18,500
Monthly finance from £270
Economy 154 Wh/km
Cost of charge £3.11
Claimed range 144 miles
Cost per 100 miles £2.16

Another VW on the list, although this time it is significantly bigger and promises significantly more range (144 miles under the more stringent new economy test conditions). The e-Golf was updated in 2017, when it received a number of subtle tweaks and a performance hike – chiefly the increase in range and more output from the electric motor. Prior to VW’s improvements, the expected range was much closer to 100 miles.

Elsewhere the e-Golf is very much Golf. It doesn’t go flaunting its electric car credentials in people’s faces- many won’t realise it's electric even if they are stood two feet away. Inside you get a well-built cabin and similar technology to all well-equipped Golfs – such as VW’s 12.3-inch digital dashboard. But with little different between the updated version and older models, you can save yourself a bundle - and no one will notice - if you pick up a second-hand model instead.

Volkswagen e-Golf buyers' guide

9. Renault Zoe

Latest Renault Zoe deals from £7,800
Monthly finance from £152
Economy 178Wh/km
Cost of charge £3.57
Claimed range 186 miles
Cost per 100 miles £1.92

If you're after an affordable and economical electric car which comes with enough performance and range to cover the vast majority of motoring needs, then look no further than the Renault Zoe. While the rest of the electric supermini market is still getting going, the Zoe has been selling like battery-powered hot cakes for years. This means there are tonnes of great value used options available already, for those who want the most for their money.

Furthermore, Renault offers buyers the chance to lease the battery or buy it. This means the entry-level prices can be reduced and motorists don’t have to worry about batteries packing in - if your leased battery fails to hold a minimum level of charge, Renault will replace it for you.

On top of an economy figure of 178Wh/km and a claimed range of 186 miles (under the latest, most stringent economy test conditions) the Zoe comes with a spacious interior and relaxed driving experience. A final note, a new Zoe with increased range (245 miles) is expected in 2020, so if you want maximum range over maximum value, you may want to wait for this.

Renault Zoe buyers' guide

10. Nissan Leaf e+

Latest Nissan Leaf deals from £19,795
Monthly finance from £283
Economy 180Wh/km
Cost of charge £5.39
Claimed range 239 miles
Cost per 100 miles £2.26

Nissan was one of the earliest big car manufacturers to sell a full-electric car and because of this gained a wealth of experience in the making of electric cars. As a result, the latest generation Leaf is a very compelling purchase, bringing impressive range, tonnes of equipment and practicality to match that of fossil-fuel-powered family hatchbacks.

What will stand out to many is just how easy the Leaf is to live with. For example, Nissan developed something it calls the e-pedal – which effectively means motorists can drive using just one foot for the majority of the time, as you can set the car so that when you lift of the throttle the car slows quickly, meaning you rarely need to press the brake pedal to slow the car.

Beyond this, the Leaf comes with either 168 or 239 miles of range, depending on whether you go for the Leaf or Leaf e+, which are accompanied by economy figures of 206Wh/km and 180Wh/km respectively.

Nissan Leaf buyers' guide

 

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