1: Porsche Taycan
The Porsche Taycan is Top Gear’s favorite electric car, winning the overall Top Gear Car of the Year award in 2019. But it is very expensive. There are three different models available – in ascending order of price and outright performance, the Taycan 4S, Turbo, and Turbo S. The 4S starts at £83,580 or £88,193 with the “Performance Battery Plus” option, with which this car is equipped, that gives you more range. It replaces the standard 79.2kWh battery with a 93.4kWh battery so officially you’re looking at 287 miles of driving between charges.
Whatever EV you own, how far you can actually travel on a single charge depends on several factors. EVs don’t much like cold weather, for starters, and are at their most efficient around town, but this Taycan should still be able to travel 250 miles between charges without issue. If you have an average commute, you’ll probably only need to charge it once a week. Speaking of charging, you’ll want to get a wallbox installed at your house so you can keep your car plugged-in overnight. These chargers usually deliver 7kW of power, so should charge this Taycan to 100 percent from empty in 13 hours 30 mins.
2: Tesla Model 3
Another Top Gear Award winner, the Tesla Model 3 is a similar size to the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, or Audi A4. Tesla is an American company that only makes EVs, and Model 3 is its cheapest car yet, with prices starting at around £40,000 for what it calls the “Standard Range Plus”. This car is the “Long Range” model, with a claimed 348 miles of range and dual electric motors for all-wheel drive. Lightly used Model 3s like this cost almost the same as brand-new ones, but at least you won’t have to wait a couple of months for delivery.
The Tesla Model 3 is like no other car inside. Pretty much every function is controlled through a massive touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard and there is no conventional instrument cluster, which takes some getting used to. Teslas regularly receive “over the air” software updates (meaning the car installs updates itself, no dealer visit required) improving or adding new functionality. The best thing about owning a Tesla, though, is having access to the company’s network of “Superchargers” – extremely fast, usually convenient public chargers reserved exclusively for Tesla owners. It’s worth noting too that Tesla does not have a normal network of dealers. If your car goes wrong and cannot be fixed by one of the company’s “Mobile Service” technicians, you’ll have to take it to one of its dedicated “Service Centres”.
3: Honda e
Honda’s cute little EV is best suited to urban environments, with its relatively small 35.5kWh battery and a maximum claimed range of just 137 miles. In reality, you shouldn’t expect to travel more than 100 miles before you need to plug-in. Not one for family holidays, then, but it ought to be fine for someone with an average commute. And if you are caught short, find a 50kW public charger and it’ll get from ten to 80 percent full in around 40 minutes. As with all EVs, you ought to get a wall box installed at home so you can charge overnight. A Government grant of up to £350 (as of December 2020) can help towards the cost.
The Honda e is a feel-good car. Another Top Gear Award winner, it might not have the most range or a very big boot, and it’s expensive given its size and technical specifications, but it’s a hugely desirable, high-quality item. As if the exterior wasn’t cool enough, the interior is dominated by several touchscreens spanning the width of the dashboard. They’re easy to use and not as distracting as you might think. You’ll have noticed the e doesn’t have conventional door mirrors. It uses cameras instead, for better aerodynamics and reduced width. You’ll get used to them surprisingly quickly.
4: Hyundai Kona Electric
If you want a longer-range EV but can’t stretch to a Tesla, the impressively efficient Hyundai Kona Electric is an excellent option. There are 39 and 64kWh versions – the former claims 189 miles of range, and the latter (which is the one you want) around 300 miles. There are normal petrol and hybrid versions of the Kona– the Electric version looks a bit different thanks to its more aerodynamic front-end but remains reassuringly conventional to operate. Buy as new as you can to benefit from the balance of Hyundai’s excellent five-year unlimited mileage warranty. The Kona’s battery is warrantied for eight years/100,000 miles.
Hyundai has revealed an updated version of the Kona Electric. The new car looks more modern and has some new tech, but the basics remain the same. And with the new car arriving in showrooms, there will almost certainly be some good deals to be had on the old one. Something all first-time EV owners will have to get used to is regenerative braking, which is when an EV tops up its batteries with energy that would otherwise be wasted when you take your foot off the accelerator. This means they tend to slow much more quickly than a normal car when you lift off. The Kona has several different “regen” settings, from Level 4 (a lot of retardation when you take your foot off the gas) to Level 0 (none whatsoever).
5: BMW i3
The i3 was BMW’s first mass-produced EV. And though it’s been on sale for some time, it still looks and feels cutting-edge. Until recently BMW sold a version of the i3 with a “range-extender”, a tiny 650cc motor to keep the battery charged. But now the only version available is 100 per cent electric. BMW has updated the i3 several times since its launch in 2013 with bigger batteries, so you’ll want to buy the newest one you can afford. The most recent 42.2kWh version, of which this is one, claims up to 188 miles of range. That’s not far off the old “Range Extender” model.
The i3 is a very high-quality item and has proven quite popular, with over 200,000 built as of October 2020. It’s also among the more entertaining EVs to drive. Two versions are available – both with the same battery and similar range. There’s the normal i3 and the i3S, which looks sportier and is ever so slightly faster. It’s not immediately obvious from the pictures, but the i3 actually has two little rear doors. They open backward, and can only be opened and closed while the corresponding front door is open. It’s more practical than it looks.