What to Look for
Both the new and used market for electric cars in the UK is becoming far more dynamic, with 2020 seeing 6.6% of new cars sold being electric.
If you are still deciding whether to go electric or not you can read more about the benefits of electric cars here.
Whilst they typically cost more upfront they should prove cheaper over their lifecycle, whether purchased outright or leased.
There are now models in almost all classes but in these recommendations, we focus on small to large family (4 to 5 seats) cars where there is real choice.
As usual we look at both the product and manufacturer in an attempt to promote the greenest buy. The key areas considered for the product are range, price and design (including materials used).
The Brand: A California based company, Tesla Inc. can be largely credited with the growth of this market sector. Founded in 2003 the company started by developing a small roadster which attracted a small but loyal following, with the launch of the more widely appealing model S in 2012 and the model X a few years later Tesla saw sales increase sharply.
In addition, Tesla has moved into battery storage and solar panels/roofs, which offers a complete renewables generation, storage and use solution. Whilst Tesla do now publish sustainability reports, it is only recent (2018 on), and they were pushed by their investors to do so.
We would like to see these reports, which are ambitious in words, move towards more transparent reporting of numbers with ambitious targets.
The Product: The model 3 was Tesla’s first move into the mass market car segment and whilst still costly the result is an excellent car. Available in 3 models standard, long distance and performance (the latter two including a bigger battery and a motor for each axel).
The standard model delivers around 250 miles per full charge, acceleration of around 5 seconds to 60 MPH and a top speed of 140 MPH. Surely more than enough for most people, but you can get some 350 mile range from the long distance and performance models with practically supercar performance.
The interior feels roomy as does the boot space, with a very minimalist design approach, however, do not be fooled it is full of gadgets including a swipe card entry (also via your phone).
Drivers have reported it taking a little time to become accustomed to controlling most of what the car does through the impressive central screen. After a short time, however, most seem to love it.
As always with Tesla it sports a panoramic front screen and characteristic raked nose giving the typical sporty saloon look we are used to from Tesla. The model also has a deeply hinged boot and electronic opening giving easy access.
Tesla also have a substantial superfast charge network around the UK that really should mean you can banish “range anxiety”.
The standard model retails at around £40,000.
The Brand: VW claim to be the first automotive company to have committed to the 2050 climate goals established at the Paris climate conference. As a multi-brand company producing many different vehicle classes, their impact on greening transport can be considerable.
They are transparent in their goals and achievements and have committed to including their full emissions scope (1-3) in their sustainability reports.
After having introduced electric models under the VW, Audi and Porsche brands they have also built a new organisation around the VW brand producing a new electric mass market range (VW ID) with the first production model touted as having a carbon neutral footprint.
In addition, VW have started a car sharing offering called WeShare, which has launched in Berlin, using electric cars powered only by renewables. The offer is planned to be expanded to several other European cities.
The Product: The ID.3 is similar in size to the golf although slightly taller, wider and shorter. Visually it could be taken as the next release of VW’s class defining hatchback, sporting a more rounded, presumably more aerodynamic, profile. There are also a few electric car design cues such as, lack of front grill, distinctive wheel design and rear roof spoiler that mark it out.
The real change comes when you climb inside. The ID.3 has an instrument panel fixed to an adjustable steering wheel with an integrated gear control for primary driving functions, most of the secondary functions are moved to the 10-inch touch screen. A few buttons remain in the centre of the front console but there is a feeling of an updated, futuristic cabin with satisfying gadgets.
The car is currently offered with two different battery packs promising 240 and 340 miles with a smaller battery promised for 2021 release (presumably decreasing the entry price). So, with the option of AC fast charging at home and in town, and DC super-fast charging in most motorway service areas and in many in town locations, the car goes a long way to removing range anxiety. Acceleration of around 7 seconds to 60 MPH and a top speed of 99 MPH makes it an exciting and practical family hatchback.
The basic model will cost around £30,000.
The Brand: After the recently announced merger Stellantis is now the 4th largest auto manufacturer globally. We therefore welcome their vision of being the leader in sustainable mobility and look forward to their release of sustainability plans in the future.
For now, however, we can only look back at the record of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Sustainability reporting has been transparent from group and shows good progress against emissions targets and specific carbon neutral production site projects (LATAM) are ongoing and producing results.
Beyond this, we would like to see Stellantis introduce more aggressive group wide targets across all scope reporting (1-3) to prove sincerity regarding their stated vision.
The Product: The new 500e, essentially the all-electric version of the 500 re-introduced in 2007, comes in 4 trim levels. All but the basic trim have quoted ranges of 199 miles and are available as a cabriolet.
The basic trim with a smaller battery quotes a range of 119 miles. It takes 9 seconds to get to 60 MPH, although the capability to “get away at lights” is good and this is primarily a town car.
Again, with superfast charging available the cars range should not prove a problem for most journeys with a little planning.
Whilst the car only has two doors and is the most compact, the rear seats will accommodate an adult, albeit quite tight, and the car has a generally roomier feel than its petrol/diesel predecessor as buttons on the dashboard take over from the gearing between the seats.
Otherwise the dash is fairly conventional, fitting with the retro styling of the car, although along with all the dash buttons you do also get a versatile 7 or 10.5 inch screen infotainment system mounted centrally on all but the entry model. The car feels well equipped for a small car. The boot is small but useful and the size is not affected by choosing the cabriolet.
The lower range version costs just under £20,000 but it is probably worth considering the extra £3,000 for the longer-range version.
We try our best to research and find the best environmentally-friendly companies to recommend here. However, if you have any suggestions that we might not know of, or disagree with any of our recommendations, please get in contact: firstname.lastname@example.org .We always want to learn more about the companies with the potential to save our future.