In short- a used one that suits most of your needs. It will always be more economical to hire a car for the long trips; or make an adventure of it and take a short range EV across the country, its up to you. You pay a lot for extra range that you may not need most of the time! To put it into perspective, in 2019 an 80-mile range car, sufficient for most commutes and day-to-day driving, can be had for £10,000 or £7000 (with a monthly battery lease to pay). A car with twice that range is more like £20,000, and if you insist on 300 miles you’ll pay £30,000+.
The EV market isn’t like the Fossil car market. A severe shortage of supply means that cars bought a year or two ago may well have risen in value, or barely dropped. Buying an EV is likely to be a good investment, relative to a fast-depreciating diesel. This can help justify the £10k+ that a used Nissan Leaf will command. High reliability, low servicing costs, almost free “fuel” and no car tax all help the economics. If you do a high mileage in a big car you might even find that your fuel savings, alone, will pay for an EV lease! Focus on your total annual costs and you could find that you save a lot, and also have a more convenient, greener car with fewer reliability worries.
Here’s my completely biased, short summary of what amazing EVs are on sale in late 2019. Because almost any EV is so much better than almost any petrol or diesel.
I haven’t driven all of these cars, but I do pick up a lot from EV forums and social media. You can fully expect this list to be completely out of date come mid-2020 when manufacturers unlock the floodgates on new low-emission models, to comply with new EU fleet emission laws.
Renault Zoe – the most popular EV in Europe; from cheap 80 mile runabout (22kWh), to dearer 200+ mile versions (52kWh). Battery hire costs £39 to £100+ a month extra, for almost all versions (except new ones), which explains the apparently quite low used prices.
For: Price, availability. Clever AC charging, that can use 22kW points.
Against: Only the very latest model can rapid-charge using CCS, for longer cross-country trips. Some others can take 43kW AC. That clever AC charging can be choosy, particularly about earthing!
Nissan Leaf 24 and 30kWh– the most popular EV in the UK. Pre-2013 versions probably best avoided now.
For: Price, availability, all have DC rapid charging, very practical day-to-day, great fun to drive. No battery rental (almost all models)
Against: Inefficient at speed which gives limited motorway range, “interesting” appearance, odd dashboard with a rapidly aging feel. Most are 3.6kW charging versions- which is pretty slow. No battery cooling or heating. No satnav updates. Can eat front tyres in as little at 10,000 miles. Note batteries are labelled with “gross” capacity (e.g. a used 24kWh car may have less than 18kWh available to you…)
Nissan Leaf 40 and 62kWh– facelifted Leafs with more conservative styling, more bells and whistles but stymied by overheating batteries on rapid charging (#RapidGate)
For: Availability. Range as long as you don’t rely on rapid charging, ironically it’s Chademo style rapid socket has always been the most reliable plug type especially on the Electric Highway chargers on motorways
Against: Rapidgate and same as earlier versions, see above
Nissan eNV200/Evalia van, 7-seat people carrier, third party wheelchair accessible vehicle and even small camper conversions. All based on the Leaf 24 or 40kWh so the same comments apply.
Hyundai Kona/Kia eNiro– long range (300 miles) at a good price. Kia eNiro is usefully larger and has a longer guarantee. Two battery sizes but only the larger one has sold in any numbers.
For: Range, efficiency, price for the range (but hardly cheap), very low depreciation. Battery capacity for Hyundai-Kia is net, available, capacity. Which is the way it should be.
Against: Low availability, potential battery recalls
Hyundai Ioniq 28kWh (2016-19) and 38kWh (2020-22)- efficient family car (uniquely, also in hybrid and plug-in versions)
For: high efficiency, very fast rapid charging (on 28kWh), battery cooling, low depreciation, free satnav and firmware updates. Seem to have low battery degradation- but 3 years isn’t long enough to spot trends yet. All 28kWh are useable (making an interesting comparison with the 24 or 30kWh Leafs which are labelled as gross).
Against: A shallow boot, service intervals at only 10,000 miles- but at least servicing is very affordable
Kia Soul EV– 30kWh boxy car with character
For: Efficient H-K electronics, holds value quite well
Against: Boxy shape gives poor aerodynamics and limits the range
BMW i3 – Rear wheel drive, pricey carbon fibre bodied EV, maybe a third more expensive than a Leaf. Faster than most cars in its class. Some with a motorbike engine rusting away under the boot to EXtend Range (no, really). Confusingly badged with battery capacities of 60Ah to 120Ah, which correspond to 19 to 38kWh useable.
For: efficient, fast, low depreciation
Against: Small back seat and rear doors, iffy reliability of the REX engine.
Tesla Model S– wasn’t this supposed to be a budget list? The high performance, long-range flagship EV
For: Used models from £28k: for a supercar. Free charging on Tesla’s own supercharger network (so far), if you buy privately or from independent dealers. So may be considered good value. Looks, performance, over the air updates, Rear and 4WD available. 7-seat versions also exist. Third part support e.g. from Cleevely EV.
Against: Reliability niggles such as door handles, suspension parts, and memory chip failures. Width, if you drive on narrow lanes.
If you can wait till 2020:
Ex-demo and used examples of the Mini electric, MG, Peugeot e208/Vauxhall Corsa-e, will appear, doubtless used Tesla Model 3’s too…