Currently reading: Sign up to the electric car revolution - used car buying guide
Forget filling stations; you won’t find anywhere to stick a fuel pump nozzle in this septet of battery-powered cars

Sales of alternativelty-fuelled vehicles continue to rise in the UK as more manufacturers cash in on the emerging electric car market.

There's the opportunity to save pounds both at the showroom and at the pumps with these zero-emissions bargains.

1 - Nissan Leaf (2011 - current)

The Leaf is the generic modern electric car, launched early in 2011 when putting an EV in your showroom was a much riskier move than it is now. An update a couple of years ago increased the range (a bit) and revised the controls (a bit).

Early model or late, the Leaf is a smooth-driving choice with proper family accommodation and good build quality. Battery life is still a bit of a gamble, though.

The issue is whether the car you buy has a bought battery or a leased one, but either way don’t expect bargain prices. Early models start at around £8k (battery bought), but a later-spec 2013 car can be £12k-plus. Mileage isn’t a problem, though. Most have done under 20,000 miles.

2 - Renault Zoe (2013 - current)

The Clio-based Zoe is simple, compact, attractive and cheap. Renault has lately announced a deal to sell the Zoe’s battery with the car from new, but any you find on the used market (from £8k) are likely to include takeover of a battery lease at about £45 per month.

The Zoe is exceptionally easy to operate and can at last be had with a lead that’ll charge it (albeit slowly) from a three-pin home plug. Expect a real-world range of 80 to 90 miles.

3 - Mitsubishi i-MiEV (2009 - current)

The i-MiEV, also badged Citroën C-Zero and Peugeot Ion, did good business for Mitsubishi about five years ago and still makes an okay city car. But it doesn’t have either the up-to-minute safety design or 100-mile ranges of newer electric cars.

It’s very narrow, though, and well screwed together in the Mitsubishi manner, which is why even early cars command £5k to £7k. You can pay £9k for a low-mile 2012 example, although a Zoe is probably a better idea.

4 - Tesla Model S (2013 - current)

A truly amazing car, the Model S is the Rolls-Royce of electric cars. Billionaire Elon Musk’s US company launched it almost from a standing start — having made only the Lotus-derived Roadster previously — yet many (us included) compare its looks, prestige, comfort and build standards with a BMW 5 Series.

Ultra-quiet and smooth on the road, this is a new kind of executive travel. Reasonable supply of very low-mile used examples are appearing at £60k-plus — enough of them to allow buyers to avoid undesirable left-hand-drive US imports, which often lack the latest software and most recent dynamic tweaks.

Back to top

5 - G-WIZ (2001 - 2012)

The UK’s most popular electric car for a decade, the G-Wiz’s fortunes have fallen as ‘proper’ EVs have appeared, complete with crashworthy bodies, modern ergonomics and decent dynamics.

The G-Wiz, which was classed as a quadricycle and for a while beloved of City types who took advantage of favourable parking regulations, is very small yet can take a couple of kids in the back, though not in great safety.

It’s crude to drive, too, and out of its depth out of town. Early examples are now under £2000.

6 - BMW i3 (2014 - current)

Munich’s quirky five-door has done more for battery cars than any other, simply because BMW worked hard to simplify ownership and enhance driving dynamics. A long and seductive options list means you can pay £40k-plus for a new i3, but there’s a plentiful supply of one-year-olds (both all-electric versions and range extenders) available at £22k-£26k.

Any i3 steers and rides as enthusiasts of the brand expect, while compact dimensions and the elevated driving position also appeal. Rear suicide doors are inconvenient at times.

7 - Renault Twizy (2012 - current)

France’s beguiling all-electric two-seat quadricycle — complete with 17bhp engine and governed 50mph top speed — created an amazing amount of interest when it hit the market three years ago, although it probably hasn’t found quite as many UK customers as the maker would have liked.

Two reasons: it can be cold to ride/drive, and despite appearances it can’t scythe through traffic like a scooter. But it’s fun and safe, with a safety cell, rollover protection and a steering wheel airbag. Low-milers abound from around £3500, but don’t forget you’ll need to take over the battery lease at £40 per month.

Back to top

Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:

Join the debate

Add a comment…
chandrew 11 May 2015

Tesla continues to lead the market here in Switzerland

In the first 4 months of this year Tesla has sold 315 model S in Switzerland, putting it at the same sort of level as the Range Rover Sport, Cayenne or Civic. As comparison the i3 sold 158, the Leaf 90 and the Zoe 151. We do not have any purchase incentive though in some Cantons you have no road tax, which is probably equivalent to GBP 30 a month.
Cars are starting to enter the second hand market and seem to show low depreciation.
In both Switzerland and Germany Tesla sales have now exceeded 1000 cars.
LP in Brighton 11 May 2015

Would be interesting to see some actual sales figures

It would be interesting to see some actual sales figures for some of these electric cars, even if they include a fair few pre-registrations. Here in Brighton, I only ever see Nissan Leafs and BMW i3s in roughly equal numbers, plus a few Mitsubishis and Renault Zoes. I like the idea of owning one (partly to exploit some surplus electricity in summer from solar roof panels), but it's the cost, depreciation and unknown life of the batteries that's putting me off. For short range local transport, a one-litre supermini remains a very much cheaper option irrespective of fuel costs. Maybe if (when?) fuel prices double or treble, the economics will favour electric cars.
Norma Smellons 11 May 2015

Still waiting for the "great

Still waiting for the "great leap" which turns EVs into serious vehicles. Perhaps there will be one, eventually. But then eventually we're all dead.