In 2022 sales jumped by 40% compared with the previous year and EVs overtook diesel models to become the second best-selling powertrain after petrol for the first time.
Despite concerns around public charging costs, the prospect of low running costs and cleaner motoring is attracting drivers. At the same time, a growing number of low-emissions zones threaten financial penalties for those sticking with older and more polluting vehicles mean the market has exploded.
Many of the cars on our list lack the big batteries and impressive range of the newest models but they are all still a great way to make the switch to all-electric motoring, whatever type of car you need.
1. BMW i3 - From £13,500
Recently discontinued, the i3 was a trailblazer when it was launched in 2013 and even now its sharp design, carbon fibre construction and premium eco-friendly interior feel modern. Most i3s come with a 168bhp motor, although the i3 S ups that to 181bhp for even more sprightly performance. Early models came with a relatively small 22kWh battery, good for 120 miles when it was new. Later versions got a 33kWh unit that increased range to 160 and a 42kWh option was added in 2018, taking the theoretical maximum up to 193 miles. For those worried about the relatively short range, there’s also a range-extender version that uses a tiny petrol engine as a generator for the battery and adds around 80 miles of range.
2. Nissan Leaf - From £4,700)
The Leaf is the granddaddy of mainstream electric cars, offering a regular family hatchback with electric power. With the earliest examples now 11 years old, you can pick one up for less than £5,000. These older cars, however, had small batteries to begin with (around 80 miles of real-world range) and are likely to have lost a fair bit of that by now, so are better suited as a second car or local runaround. Later first-gen cars got a 30kWh battery for improved range but if you can afford it, the second-generation model was a big improvement inside and out and brought bigger battery options for between 168 and 239 miles.
3. Renault Zoe - From £7,000
The Zoe is another long-termer in the EV market, where battery size, range and equipment have improved with age. At heart it’s a nippy little supermini with decent performance and, in later guise, a good range. A developing range of battery and motor combinations in the first-gen car offered between 93 and 150 miles. Second-generation models got new motor and battery options that offered between 238 and 245 miles on a charge. Just be aware that many first-gen and some early second-gen cars were sold with a battery lease deal, which keeps purchase costs down but leaves drivers paying a monthly fee to Renault.
4. Hyundai Ioniq - From £18,000
Not to be confused with the more recent Ioniq 5, the original Ioniq was unusual in that you could buy it as a full hybrid, plug-in hybrid or pure EV. A sensible and well equipped family hatchback with a decent range, it’s now a fairly affordable and practical choice for those looking to make the EV switch. Early cars with the smaller 28kWh battery had a claimed range of 174 miles, while a 2019 facelift added more equipment and a 38kWh battery good for a claimed 193 miles.