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Electric cars: Your comparison and buying guide 2021

electric cars

As Britons become increasingly aware of their needs to change daily habits to help tackle climate change, more people are increasingly opting for electric cars and other sustainable means of transport. Are you thinking of investing in an electric car, but you don't know which one to choose? Check our selection of the best and / or cheapest electric cars in 2021 and find the model that suits you best.


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Electric Car: The advantages and disadvantages

Electric cars are growing in popularity every day. Just like conventional cars, there are certain advantages and disadvantages of using an electric car. Here are some of the pros and cons of buying an electric car:

Advantages and disadvantages of the electric car
Advantages Disadvantages
  • Fuel savings;
  • Lower maintenance costs;
  • Reduction of polluting gas emissions.
  • Limited range;
  • Potentially long recharging time;
  • Higher prices;
  • Lack of charging points.

What are the best and cheapest electric cars in 2021?

Unlike gas-powered vehicles, electric vehicles (EVs) do not require internal combustion engines to operate. They instead are fitted with an electric motor and rechargeable battery pack, and therefore move along our roadways without burning up gasoline, or producing harmful exhaust emissions, while generating less noise pollution.

EVs receive energy from a charging station and store the energy in the battery. The battery gives power to the motor which moves the wheels. Many electrical parts work together in the background to make this motion happen.

The offer of electric vehicles in the UK is increasingly varied. Thanks to the comparisons that we present below, you can find the electric car model that best suits your needs.

Cheapest electric cars 2021
Model Price Efficiency Range
Smart EQ forfour From £19,200 275 Wh/mi 55 miles
Kia e-Niro From £24,000 39,2 kWh 180 miles
Fiat 500e Hatchback From £20,495 235 Wh/m 100 miles
Volkswagen e-Up! From £21,055 255 Wh/mi 125 miles
MG MG5 EV From £25,095 270 Wh/mi 180 miles
Nissan Leaf From £25,995 260 Wh/mi 140 miles
The best electric cars for price/quality in 2021
Model Price Efficiency Range
MG MG5 EV Long Range From £26,495 270 Wh/mi 210 miles
Volkswagen ID.3 Pro From £28,435 265 Wh/mi 215 miles
Hyundai Kona From £32,550 260 Wh/mi 245 miles
Kia E-nero From £32,445 275 Wh/mi 230 miles
Renault Zoe From £26,795 365 Wh/mi 195 miles
Cupra Born From £30,500 265 Wh/mi 215 miles

You can read here about the difference in carbon emissions of an electric car compared to a hybrid car and petrol car.

Buying an electric car

Buying an electric car is a major investment, so it is important to know how to choose a model that suits your profile and expectations (range, price, engine).

Electric car prices in the UK: How much will I pay?

Many people believe the cost of an electric car is far superior than a petrol-powered equivalent. Indeed a survey carried out by car insurance provider Direct Line showed that a third (32%) of Brits who do not currently own an electric car would be put off from buying one because of the cost. Other factors in the survey of 2,000 people included a lack of charging points across the country, the cost of charging at home, and the cost of running them post-purchase.

There are many factors that determine the cost of buying an electric car. One of the most significant is the battery. Costs to buy a new battery can be as little as £4,500 although for top of the range cars they can be much more expensive than that.

electric car prices

However, if you’re thinking of buying an electric car, over the course of their life cycle they are generally considered cheaper to run than petrol cars. For example, the cost of maintenance or servicing is much cheaper because an EV has fewer moving parts, and there is no need to change the oil or cambelts. The average electric car service will check the electric motor, battery pack, cabling, suspension, steering, brakes, wheel, tyres and lights. You’ll also get a battery health check, which is done by plugging into the car’s computers and analysing the data.

You will also make big savings in road tax should you opt for an electric car. Changes made in April 2020 mean petrol and diesel car drivers faced an increase in tax, while hybrid cars are slightly cheaper. If you buy a fully electric car, you will pay no tax. It is part of the government’s plan to incentivise buying environmentally-friendly vehicles.

Government help for electric carsAs a way to help motorists with the cost of buying an electric car, a government grant of up to £2,500 is applied to the price of a brand new low-emissions vehicle. In addition, grants are also available for homeowners and businesses towards the cost of installing car-charing points.

What range does an electric car battery have?

The distance an electric car can travel on a single charge is called its range. Many electric cars now have a range in the region of 250 miles. For example, an Audi E-tron GT, has a maximum range of 298 miles, while a Mercedes EQC comes with a maximum range of 259 miles. The range is dependent on a number of factors, however, including how much the battery was charged before you started driving, the driving style, using in-car features, and even the weather.

Electric cars often include energy-saving features to help prolong a battery’s charge. These can include “idling” - where the car turns off when stopped to prevent wasted energy - and “regenerative braking” - where the battery charges when you brake.

Electric car battery life: When do you need to change the battery? Most electric car batteries will last around 10 years, some can even last double that. Taking good care of the car, having it serviced on a regular basis, and charging the battery properly will ensure longer battery life.

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Charging an electric car

Charging is possible from a simple household socket or a freely accessible charging point. In the UK, there are now more than 42,000 charge point connectors in over 15,500 locations. To find out where the nearest charge point is, there are applications such as Zap Map that can help identify the nearest one to you.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?The time it takes to charge an electric vehicle depends on several factors: the electric car model, the capacity of the battery, the power of the charging station, the charging cable and the state of charge of the battery. This can range from 15 minutes to several hours.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?The cost of recharging an electric car also varies depending on several factors: the car model, the power of the socket or terminal to which it is connected and the price per kilowatt-hour. If the vehicle is connected from a home, the cost of installation must be taken into account. In a public pay station, the price will depend on the rates applied by the owner of the network.

Second-hand electric cars vs new electric cars

While the cost of buying an electric car is coming down as they become more mainstream the cheapest new electric car in the UK still costs around £17,000. Investing in a second-hand electric car is, therefore, a good way to reduce the purchase price of the electric vehicle.

Similar to a new electric car, a used electric car is very cheap to run. It also qualifies for most low-emission exemptions and grants. And with fewer moving parts, you’ll avoid some of the big bills associated with ageing petrol cars.

However, it is recommended to take special care with the state of the battery of the used electric vehicle, as well as with the number of kilometers traveled.

What is the environmental impact of an electric vehicle?

low emissions car

Unlike petrol or diesel cars, the electric car does not emit exhaust gases when in use, thanks to the absence of a fossil fuel combustion engine.

However, the carbon footprint of an electric car is not zero. There are a number of factors that need to be taken into account, such as:

  1. The emissions linked to the previous production of the car's fuel;
  2. Emissions linked to fuel combustion when it is necessary;
  3. Emissions related to the materials used in the manufacture of the vehicle.

So, although the use of an electric car is not very polluting, its manufacture, and in particular the extraction and transformation of the mineral resources necessary for the manufacture of its battery, are important sources of pollution.

To fight against global warming and things such as deforestation, it is necessary to change our daily habits. For example, replacing the car with a bicycle or an electric bicycle over medium distances would significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

Discover our comparison guides to help you reduce your carbon footprint and save energy.

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