Electric cars available in the UK this year

So you’re a UK driver (we’ll look at other countries in forthcoming posts) intrigued by the idea of electric cars and thinking about making that leap into EV ownership.

By Will Dron on March 14, 2011 5:09 PM

You’ve read that electric car ‘fuel’ cost is approximately 3p per mile versus 14p per mile for an equivalent petrol or diesel. You also know that the ‘well-to-wheel’ carbon emissions of an EV are approximately 80g CO2/km versus 147.6g CO2/km of a medium-sized petrol or diesel. And you love the thought of not pumping out other emissions like nitrous oxide and particulate matter.

But most importantly, you’ve realised some new electric cars are actually pretty slick and sexy, and offer the same comfort levels of your current car.

So given all that, what’s out there for you right now, and is there anything coming out in the next 12 months that you should be waiting for?

N.B. all prices are after the Government’s £5,000 Plug-in Car grant.


MREV G-Wiz i and G-Wiz L-ion
Price: £11,229 and £15,795
Our rating: 1/5 and 2/5

The G-Wiz will be very familiar to people living in London and has been around since 2004. The G-WIz is not technically a car – it’s a quadricycle – and so does not have to conform to the same rigourous quality and safety standards as other cars. Thus it has a top speed of just 51mph, is not a great drive and falls well short of the safety on offer with the new generation of EVs, such as the Nissan Leaf and Renault Fluence Z.E.

If you really have to buy one, we strongly recommend the newer L-ion version, which utilises the lithium ion battery technology – reduced weight, zero maintenance, fast charging, more power, minimal loss of battery life and range is extended from 48 to 70 miles.

The G-Wiz is what they call a 2+2 seater, meaning you can fit two adults in the front and two smaller beings in the back. A full charge will take 8 hours but a 2.5-hour charge will take you to 80% capacity.

Tesla Roadster
Price £87,945 with £10,000 deposit
Our rating: 5/5

The Tesla Roadster is a proper pure electric supercar based on the Lotus Elise, and the performance doesn’t disappoint: 0-60mph in 3.7secs and a top speed limited to 125mph. Tesla claims a 245 mile range, meaning they’re way ahead of the competition on battery tech. Chelsea midfielder Forent Malouda has one and says he only needs to charge it once a week, despite using it nearly every day to get to training.

The company has sold more than 1,700 Roadsters in 31 countries but is now winding down production. It will still be available to buy in the UK into 2013.

REVIEW: For our full review of the Tesla Roadster click here.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV
Price: £23,990
Our rating: 4/5

This car is on sale now at £23,990. Quick charge to 80 percent in half an hour, full charge in six hours (240V), 93 mile range claimed but journalists have achieved more like 60 in real world conditions. Top speed is 81mph. The biggest practical downside here is its diminutive size, although it’s roomier than both the G-Wiz and MINI E (which sacrifices its back seats).

Mitsubishi has collaborated with PSA Peugeot Citroen to produce their versions of the i-MiEV, the iOn and C-Zero (see below).

REVIEW: For our full review of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV click here.

Peugeot iOn
Price: Four year, 40,000 mile lease at £415/month
Our rating: 4/5

Based on the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (above) and shares very similar performance. It’s available under Peugeot’s ‘Mu’ mobility short-term rental service. The £415 per month price tag includes battery, servicing and warranty.

Citroen C-Zero
Price: Four year, 40,000 mile lease at £415/month
Our rating: 4/5

This is Citroen’s version of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and is available to lease now under pretty much the same deal as the Peugeot iOn – a four-year, 40,000 mile contract will set you back £415 a month, which excludes VAT but includes battery, warranty (for vehicle and battery), servicing and maintenance.

Recharging the C-Zero, iOn or i-MiEV will cost you just £1.50 and a full charge takes you 93 miles. That equates to 2p per mile versus 11p per mile for an equivalent petrol car.

Nissan LEAF
Price: £25,990
Our rating: 5/5

This car is in the vanguard of Nissan’s efforts to become to electric cars what Toyota is to hybrids and in January it became the first EV to be crowned European Car of the Year and went on to pick up the title of World Car of the Year (yes, it beat the petrols, diesels and hybrids) - an incredible achievement.

Spacious and offering performance equivalent to a 2.5-litre V6, the LEAF is the result of a multi-billion dollar investment and is currently the most credible daily-use fully electric family car. Range claimed to be 100 miles, top speed not much less than 100mph.

On sale now for £25,990 after the £5,000 Plug-in Car grant.

REVIEW: Want to know what we thought of the Nissan LEAF Click here

Test drive the 100% electric Nissan LEAF

Download the Nissan LEAF brochure

Tata Indica Vista EV
Price: TBA
Our rating: 3/5

Indian car maker Tata is building the Indica Vista EV in the UK, with a limited number of vehicles already on the road. The official launch date is early summer 2011 and will initially be available to fleet customers in limited numbers to develop a robust customer base and after-sales programme, in readiness for a more comprehensive launch in 2012.

The pure electric four-seater family car claims a 110 mile range and a top speed of 71 mph, but while the natural competition for the car is the Nissan LEAF and Renault Fluence Z.E., the Tata brand is not as recognised in the UK.


Renault Kangoo Z.E.
Availability: late 2011
Price: £16,990 plus £59/month battery lease
Our rating: 3/5

This is more of a commercial vehicle than a car. But it’s worth mentioning, as it’s the first of four electric vehicles being offered by Renault over the next two years (see the other three below). Renault calls it the first affordable factory-built electric van in the UK and at £17,990 before VAT it costs slightly less than some of the passenger cars, but you’ll need to add a monthly charge of £59 to lease the battery from Renault. Battery leasing is a sensible option given the useful lifespan of the battery is roughly 8-10 years and an exhausted battery will hit the car’s resale value significantly.

The van can run 105 miles between charges and has a top speed of 81mph. A larger Maxi version is due for launch at the end of 2011.

Smart ForTwo ED
Availability: 2012
Price: Approx £21,000
Our rating: 3/5

Even though the ForTwo ED (Electric Drive) looks like a finished product ready for the road, it won’t go on general sale until 2012. The lithium ion-powered Smart has been in limited production since November 2009 and is being tested in 15 countries in a trial involving 1,500 vehicles. Claimed range is 85 miles with a full recharge in 8 hours, 80 percent in three hours.

REVIEW: For our full review of the Smart Fortwo ED click here.

Vauxhall Ampera
Availability: Early 2012
Price: £28,995
Our rating: 5/5

The Ampera is based on Chevrolet’s Volt (see below) and is what’s called an ‘extended range’ electric vehicle. The wheels are driven by the electric motor at all times and you can plug it in as with other EVs. Unlike a pure EV, however, there is also an onboard petrol engine that kicks in after 50 miles and generates enough electricity to keep the battery at a minimum level for a total range of 360 miles. After that, you can fill up the tank and keep on running, but it’s way more cost effective to use charge from your mains supply.

A full charge for Ampera’s battery can be achieved in less than four hours via a domestic 240v electricity socket at an average cost of around £1, depending on tariff. It’s limited to 100mph and will reach 60mph in nine seconds.

UK price will be £28,995 including the £5,000 plug-in car grant and it goes on sale in 2012

REVIEW: For our full review of the Vauxhall Ampera click here.

Chevrolet Volt
Availability: March 2012
Price: £28,545
Our rating: 5/5

Chevrolet's Volt is the world's first 'extended range' electric vehicle (E-REV), powered by an electric motor and battery but with back-up from a 1.4-litre petrol engine that cuts in to generate electricity – and extend the range – after 30-50 miles.

The Volt launched in the United States in 2011 with UK launch scheduled for March 2012 - the same time as its sister car, the Vauxhall Ampera (above). Customers will be able to look at both vehicles and decide which badge to go for - essentially it's a question of taste, as the cars are identical under the skin.

Like the Ampera, then, the Volt is limited to just under 100mph and will reach 60mph in nine seconds. A full battery, charged from a standard UK domestic socket from flat, will take less than four hours. On the road, once the battery reaches a minimum charge level, the engine fires up to give another 310 miles worth of petrol-fuelled range. UK price will be £28,545 including the £5,000 plug-in car grant.

Renault Twizy
Availability: Early 2012
Price: £6,000-£7,000

This cute urban runabout will be launched early in 2012. It’s not really a car – Renault says it offers scooter like performance but with added safety. It seats two passengers in tandem and features gullwing doors. Additional lower panels can be fitted for extra weather protection.

Renault will be making two versions, a standard model and a more powerful one and the UK will only get the latter, which will be priced close to £7,000. Top speed is 47mph, a full charge takes three hours and range is a claimed 60 miles.

Renault Fluence Z.E.
Availability: spring 2012
Price: Approx £17,850 (inc. £5,000 grant) plus £75/month battery lease
Our rating: 4.5/5 (pre-production model)

The Fluence Z.E. is likely to be a major player in the next couple of years. Laguna-sized and with similar comfort levels, the Fluence Z.E. has a 115-mile range and top speed of 84mph. Recharge from depleted to full takes eight hours at home or 30 minutes on at a rapid charging point. Price for the initial ‘Prime Time’ model has been set at £17,850 after the £5,000 plug-in car grant and, as with the Zoe and Kangoo Z.E., batteries are leased at an extra charge, set at £75 per month based on 6,000 miles/3 years (see Kangoo Z.E. for why leasing is sensible).

Worth noting is Renault’s ‘Quickdrop’ technology, which allows drained batteries to be replaced with charged ones in just three minutes at special switching stations. That infrastructure at present is still very limited but the concept is a glimpse at a possible future for EVs.

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