Demand for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) grew by 185.9 percent in 2020, with registrations totalling 108,205 units. That represents 6.6 percent of the UK new car market.
The trend looks set to continue as the clock ticks down to the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. Consumers can look forward to lower prices, increased range estimates and more choice, as manufacturers switch to electric power.
In a shock development, Jaguar recently announced that it will become a pure electric brand from 2025.
We’ve pulled together a list of the best electric cars you can buy in 2021, with our choices presented in alphabetical order.
The industry needs cars like the Honda e. It’s a small but perfectly formed city car that somehow manages to blend retro charm with futuristic vibes. If the world in 2030 and beyond looks this good, we’re in for a treat. Love the exterior styling? Wait until you see the inside.
It’s not perfect. A range of 137 miles isn’t great, so adventures beyond the urban sprawl will turn into a game of chance. And post-grant prices of £27,000 to £30,000 will do little to alter the mindset that electric cars are overpriced and out of reach for mainstream motorists.
We said: ‘The Honda e is a class act. Probably more premium and luxurious than a BMW i3, it is a futuristic car that doesn’t short-change you on comfort or sophistication. It drives nicely, with a sporty feel that should delight enthusiasts, yet is also compliant and quiet enough for those who want to be wowed by the electric cars of the future.’
Hyundai Kona Electric
The Hyundai Kona Electric costs roughly the same as the Honda e and offers up to 300 miles of range. Does this mean the Honda is overpriced or does the Hyundai represent exceptional value for money? It’s a bit of both, but the Kona remains an electric car you can buy with your head and your heart.
It looks funky, with the kind of styling we’d expect from a pioneering electric SUV. The interior is a little more sombre – the Honda’s digital aquarium is conspicuous by its absence – but there’s a quality feel throughout. It’s also highly specced, although it’s worth noting you’ll pay £40,000 for the 64kWh battery. The entry-level Kona Electric comes with a 39kWh battery and offers 189 miles of range.
Using a 50kW DC charging station, it takes about 57 minutes to charge to 80 percent for the 39kWh battery and 75 minutes for the 64kWh battery. There are three trim levels, although the flagship Premium SE is not available with the 39kWh battery.
News that Jaguar is pinning its future on electric cars shines a light on the I-Pace. Right now, this is the only all-electric Jaguar you can buy, although CEO Thierry Bollore told Motoring Research there are “plenty of ideas to make it even better”. The new Jaguar electric cars will be built in Solihull, although a planned all-electric Jaguar XJ will not form part of the range.
The I-Pace offers all of the benefits of a family SUV with the added bonus of up to 292 miles of electric range. There’s enough room inside for five adults, the boot and ‘frunk’ offer a combined 683 litres of luggage capacity, and it’ll even sprint to 60mph in just 4.5 seconds. Prices start from £65,000.
We said: ‘The Jaguar I-Pace is a landmark car. It’s a fully-formed all-electric vehicle that’s thoroughly convincing to drive, pretty to look at, pleasing to sit in, and sure to be exciting to own. It will turn heads; it will be a talking point and give you kudos in a similar way Teslas do. Perhaps even more so.’
There’s nothing exciting about the Kia e-Niro. It’s an electric car for people who aren’t fussed about telling the world they’ve gone electric. A practical, dependable and spacious family SUV that’s backed by a seven-year warranty. That’s nearly long enough to take you through to the 2030 ban.
Choose your e-Niro wisely. The £30,000 e-Niro ‘2’ comes with a 39kWh battery and a claimed 180 miles of electric range. For 282 miles of range, you need to upgrade to the £34,000 e-Niro ‘3’ and its 64kWh battery. The flagship e-Niro ‘4’ costs £36,500 and comes with an 11kW charger.
We said: ‘The Kia e-Niro is another seriously impressive electric car. It has an enormous range, will be able to use 100kW fast chargers for top-ups in less than an hour, and is also very roomy and practical. It is, even by electric car standards, extremely refined, too. It’s the best ‘everyman’ electric car we’ve yet seen.’
The Polestar 2 is here to sprinkle some Scandinavian magic dust over the electric car segment. A sophisticated, technologically advanced and minimalist rival to Tesla. The Scandi-noir drama to the Hollywood blockbuster.
The headlines are impressive: 78kWh battery, two 150kW electric motors, 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds and up to 292 miles of electric range. Quantitatively, the Tesla Model 3 Performance aces the Polestar 2 in most departments, but the Swede returns with a volley of qualitative responses. Look beyond the performance figures and you’ll find a car that’s more rewarding to drive.
We said: ‘So, Silicon Valley trumps Sweden for performance, range and ease of use, but Polestar comes top for design, dynamics and overall desirability. There’s no clear winner here. The good news is both are very credible cars that bode well for our (mostly) electric future. Now the charging network just needs to catch up.’
The Porsche Taycan is the company’s second best-seller in the UK after the Macan. For a car that’s been on sale for little more than a year, that’s quite remarkable. Even more so when you consider that prices range from £71,000 to £139,000. Right now, the Taycan represents the zenith of electric car development.
Few will be in a position to spend a six-figure sum on an electric performance car, which is why Porsche has launched the rear-wheel-drive Taycan. It shaves around £13,000 of the price of an all-wheel-drive variant, while delivering a range of up to 301 miles. It’s not quite an electric supercar for the masses, but it’s the most affordable electric Porsche you can buy.
We said: “This is Porsche at its best, giving us a beautifully considered driver’s car that’s also high-end in everyday use and a spectacle for others to look at. That it has the best range of any Taycan, and the lowest list price, seals it for me.”
Tesla Model 3
The Tesla Model 3 capitalised on a new car market hit by the pandemic by becoming a regular fixture in the 2020 top 10 sales charts. It was the number one best-seller as recently as December. Venture out for an essential journey and the chances are you’ll spot a Model 3 on your travels.
Prices start from £40,500 for the standard rear-wheel-drive Model 3. This delivers a range of 278 miles, a top speed of 140mph and a 0-60mph time of 5.3 seconds. The Long Range model adds £6,500 to the price and 82 miles to the range. Alternatively, the Performance version offers manic pace and 352 miles of electric range.
We said: ‘The Model 3 isn’t perfect, but I suspect it will fit into many lives very well. This really could be a game-changer for Tesla: the car that propels it into the mainstream. Let’s hope so – that mission to Mars won’t come cheap.’
The Vauxhall Corsa-e is the anti-Honda e. More conventional and less flamboyant than the Japanese upstart. A potato salad rather than a spoonful of wasabi, thank you. Frankly, this doesn’t make the Corsa-e any less desirable.
It costs around £26,500 after the Plug-in Car Grant, and while this isn’t cheap, it puts it within the reach of many people buying on finance. The electric range is a realistic 209 miles, and because SE Nav Premium is the entry-level trim, you get a long list of toys for your money.
We said: “The Vauxhall Corsa-e intentionally isn’t an experience as exciting as a Honda e. Its target customers told the firm they crave normality. They want an electric car, but not the fuss and standout fanfare that comes with it. For the vast majority of everyday car buyers who don’t want people to look at them, the Corsa-e is the trend-setting electric car they’ll secretly crave.”
Will the Volkswagen ID.3 be as successful as the Beetle and Golf? It’s the first VW built from the ground up as an electric car, with Volkswagen drawing on its experience with the e-Up and e-Golf. The latter is no more, so the ID.3 is the EV for you if you fancy a Golf-sized electric car with a Volkswagen badge.
The range is bookended by the £28,500 ID.3 Life and the £39,000 ID.3 Tour. A 45kWh battery will follow, but for now the 58kWh is the entry-level option, while a 77kWh is fitted to the ID.3 Tour. You can expect to achieve between 263 miles and 336 miles of range, depending on the ID.3 you choose.
At a stroke, the ID.3 manages to make the new Volkswagen Golf 8 seem outdated and outmoded. The interior is a particular highlight, with Volkswagen blending digital technology and a minimalist design to great effect. Cabin quality could be better, but the ID.3 is great to drive, spacious and totally in tune with current thinking. A bit like the original Golf, then.
Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8
Adding an electric powertrain serves only to make our favourite premium compact SUV even more appealing. It also increases the price of the Volvo XC40 to £60,000, but the Recharge Pure Electric P8 (catchy name) comes with 150kW DC charging as standard.
It also offers 258 miles of electric range and a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds, making it the quickest XC40 you can buy. This is all the more remarkable when you consider the car’s weight. At 2,113kg, the electric variant is up to 610kg heavier than the lightest XC40.
For now, the electric XC40 is available only in lavish First Edition spec. It’s based on the R-Design trim and adds a range of packs, leather upholstery and premium metallic paint to the mix. More affordable versions will follow, including a sub-£50,000 variant.