Cheapest electric cars

Cut-price recharging, free road tax - and the cars start at under £8,000: these are the cheapest electric cars

John Evans
Mar 13, 2018

Think of an electric car and the chances are a gleaming Tesla will come to mind. And if you (or your company) is willing to spend £500 or more each month, then this could be the right electric car brand for you.

But if you’re looking for low-cost motoring, then you’ll need to turn away from Tesla and look at the considerably cheaper options available.

It costs less than £140 a month - or £7,500 - to go electric, with all of the benefits of cheap recharging costs, low company car tax and zero road tax. You’ll also have the nippy acceleration and quietness that are typical of electric cars. Some will now drive for 150 miles between charges.

 

New electric cars typically start from under £300 a month and benefit from a government grant, as well as additional savings. Note that you may also need to budget more for the car’s battery: the cheapest versions of the Renault Zoe and some older Nissan Leafs (badged Flex) don’t include this, so you’ll need to lease it, starting at £49 a month.

The cheapest used electric cars are below, followed by the cheapest new electric cars.

Cheapest used electric cars

Renault Zoe

Our pick Renault Zoe Dynamique Nav (2015, 5,000 miles)
Typical price £7,140  Representative finance £136 per month
 
If you like the idea of electric motoring but don't want to shout about it, the Renault Zoe could be for you. It looks just like any petrol or diesel-powered supermini, the only giveaway being the large blue bonnet badge concealing its charging point.   
It’s a roomy car that can easily seat five people, although rear passengers do sit higher than normal because the batteries are tucked away under the back seat.

The boot is 338 litres, which is larger than the Renault Clio’s 300 litres, so it’s quite practical.

The Zoe is good to drive, with brisk acceleration from a standing start. It leans little in corners and will thump harshly over some potholes but on the whole, it’s perfectly comfortable.

There are two battery options. The 22kWh battery has a real-world range of around about 100 miles, and the bigger 41kWh battery, 180 miles. You’ll probably have to lease the battery separately. Versions badged ‘i’ include the battery but are more expensive.

 

Nissan Leaf

Our pick Nissan Leaf Acenta (2014, 12,000 miles)
Typical price £9,499  Representative finance £162 per month
 
The car that started the electric revolution has a loyal following. People like its roomy, practical interior, comfortable driving experience and decent 100-mile range between charges that you can realistically expect.

At 370 litres the boot is around the same size as a VW Golf’s and will comfortably swallow a week’s family shopping. If you need more load space, it’s possible to fold down the rear seats.

The only real downside to Leaf ownership is the model’s ungainly looks. It can’t be a coincidence that the all-new version launched in early 2017 looks less unconventional.

  

BMW i3

Our pick BMW i3 (2014, 15,000 miles)

Typical price £16,400 Representative finance £269 per month
 
Even though the car first went on sale four years ago, the BMW i3 still looks futuristic, thanks to its oddly-shaped windows, rear-opening back doors and squat bonnet that doesn’t need to accommodate an engine.

The interior is up to he quality standards of any other BMW and it drives fairly nimbly too, with that fast electric acceleration and good grip in corners, which allow you to drive confidently.

The range is around 100 miles but if that concerns you, there’s always the more expensive range-extender version (prices start at around £20,000). This has a small supplementary petrol engine that powers the electric motor should the batteries run out of charge.

  

Hyundai Ioniq

Our pick Hyundai Ioniq (2016, 8,000 miles)

Typical price £20,490  Representative finance £377 per month
 
The Ioniq is full-size family car and a recent arrival in the growing electric car market. There are three versions. The cheapest is a hybrid combining a petrol with an electric motor; then there’s the plug-in hybrid which can be charged remotely to provide pure electric motoring for around 30 miles. Finally, there’s the full-electric Ioniq, the most expensive version.

This has a real-world range of around 130 miles on a full charge. It’s quiet around town and on the open road, and accelerates quickly, too.

Although it costs more than an equivalent Leaf, the Ioniq feels more expensive, with a high level of standard equipment and more conventional interior, which helps to justify the cost. Being a Hyundai, it comes with a five-year warranty from new which means a 2017-registered model still has four years’ cover remaining.

  

VW e-Golf

Our pick VW e-Golf (2018, 2,000 miles)
Typical price £29,500  Representative finance £478 per month
 
For the ultimate in understated electric motoring, you’ll want the VW e-Golf. You’d be hard pushed to tell it apart from its petrol and diesel equivalents, which is  a large part of its appeal.

It feels like a traditional Golf to drive, too: solid, composed and steady in corners. Being an electric car, it zooms away from a standstill and can cruise at 70mph on the motorway without difficulty.

Saying that, high speeds will reduce the battery’s range. In average motoring, the e-Golf’s range is around 125 miles, compared with VW’s official claim of 186 miles.

   

Cheapest new electric cars

Renault Zoe

Our pick Renault Zoe 110hp Expression Nav (£18,995 estimated before discounts & grant)
Battery Buy for approx. £5,600 or lease from £49 to £110 per month

Updated for 2018, the latest Renault Zoe is now available in purple and also gets a more powerful 110hp motor, bringing faster acceleration particularly at motorway speeds.

As before, there are two batteries to choose from, one giving around 100 miles in real-world driving, the other, an impressive 180 miles. The new model also gains Android Auto compatibility.

The Zoe is Europe’s most popular electric car, and has been for the past three years. It’s one reason why you’ll have to wait for a brand new model: the first deliveries aren’t expected until this summer, but nearly new versions of the pre-updated car are available for delivery now.

The Zoe is the only car that gives you the choice of buying or leasing the battery. Which is best for you depends on how you use the car. If you’re buying the Zoe, intend on keeping it for at least five years and cover more than 10,000 miles a year, it’s best to buy the battery, as it’s the same price as leasing - and you get to keep it, so the car should be worth more.

   

Citroen C-Zero

Our pick Citroen C-Zero (£15,995 incl. grant, before discounts)
Battery Included in car’s price

The Citroen C-Zero was an electric car pioneer: on sale eight years ago at the same time as the Nissan Leaf, it was one of the first mainstream battery-powered cars that you could buy.

Unfortunately, it’s still on sale now when the Nissan Leaf has been replaced by an all-new model, and many more modern rivals have been launched.

It means the C-Zero's gawky design looks old, and it feels it too. The small interior makes life uncomfortable for passengers and its real-world range of around 60 miles between recharging is woeful compared with competitors.

Those disadvantages do mean that there are large discounts available, and at a low price, the C-Zero makes more sense as a little city runaround. Peugeot makes a version of the same car, called the iOn and it’s available for the same price.

 

Smart EQ Fourtwo

Our pick Smart EQ prime (£16,420 incl. grant, before discounts)
Battery Included in car’s price

The Smart Fourtwo is a city car that is actually better in electric form than in petrol. The battery-powered version is much nippier, so you lose less time daedling in traffic, and it’s more enjoyable to drive.

The Fourtwo has a very tight 6.95m turning circle, which is perfect for U-turns and wrong turns. Its official 100-mile range is acceptable, but does limit the car’s use for long journeys, where you’ll need to recharge after around 80 miles.

  

VW e-up!

Our pick VW e-up! (£21,140, incl. grant, before discounts)
Battery Included in car’s price

Adding electric components to the little VW up! has doubled the car’s price to more than £21,000 - even after the government’s £4,500 plug-in grant has been deducted.

The e-up! has an official range of 99 miles, which is fine if you’re using it in the city. The fact that the batteries are spread around the car under the floor means that it doesn’t feel much heavier than the petrol-powered versions, and also retains the car’s spacious interior and boot (compared with city car rivals).

   

Nissan Leaf

Our pick Nissan Leaf Visia (£21,990 incl. grant)
Battery Included in car’s price

The latest version of the Nissan Leaf may cost around £7,000 more than the Renault Zoe when brand new but your money buys more space, more technology, more power and more range.

One of the Leaf’s most interesting features is the ePedal, a single pedal that doubles as an accelerator and a brake. You accelerate by pressing the pedal and release it for mild braking, which charges the battery at the same time. If you need to stop in a hurry, then you’ll need to use the conventional brake pedal, which the car still has.

The Leaf has a real-world range of around 150 miles. It takes 7.5 hours to charge from empty using a 7.5kW home charger or 40 minutes from 0-80% using a 50kW fast charger.

Combined with the car’s design, which is more conventional than the first Nissan Leaf, the car is likely to convert more people to buying an electric car.

  

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