Best electric cars for 2021
Electric cars have come of age and the best offer all the functionality and practicality of traditional petrol or diesel cars, while creating zero exhaust emissions and the potential for very low day-to-day running costs.
As demand increases, more manufacturers are offering fully electric (rather than hybrid) models, spanning car classes large and small, both mainstream and premium.
But not all electric cars are created equal. We know from our extensive owner surveys that some electric cars require extensive trips to your local mechanic - so make sure you read our before you buy.
The best new electric cars
This table contains the highest scoring, zero-emission electric cars from our tests that you can buy brand new.
To make it as one of our top picks, a car has to impress across the board in our independent tests and surveys, including driving performance, safety, practicality and reliability. If a car doesn't excel in our rigorous assessments, it won't feature in our recommendations.
The best used electric cars
Save money without the risk of buying a car that will let you down, with our used electric car recommendations. Recommendations are based on the highest scoring cars you can no longer buy new.
The electric cars to avoid
Save yourself from range anxiety and the potential for big bills by steering clear of these models.
How to buy the best electric car
There are many things to consider before purchasing a car that runs on electricity. Below are our top tips on buying and owning an electric car, including information you need on vehicle tax exemption, getting a plug-in car grant and an at-home charging point grant too.
Read on to find out what electric cars are like to drive and how far they can go before you have to charge the battery.
What is an electric car like to drive?
The lack of pistons and noisy combustion means electric cars can ghost along very quietly at city speeds, and they tend to be very nippy. The surprising turn of speed from a standstill can take the uninitiated by surprise, so make sure you take it slowly the first few times you drive one.
The lack of noise can seem peculiar at first, as can be the total absence of engine vibration, but these are two big advantages of driving an electric car.
The basics of driving an electric car are the same as any other car. There's still an accelerator and a brake pedal. But in other ways an electric car can seem strange to a seasoned driver.
Some models, including the , can be driven using just one pedal. So when you lift off the accelerator, the car uses heavy regenerative braking to slow down the car significantly (enough to illuminate the brake lights) and feed energy back into the battery. It can take a little getting used to and there's still a separate brake if you'd prefer to drive conventionally.
Can you get a grant for an electric car?
Government-backed grants are available through OZEV (Office for Zero Emission Vehicles - formerly OLEV/Office for Low Emission Vehicles) towards the cost of selected new electric vehicles.
As of 18 March 2021, for cars that cost less than £35,000 you can get a grant will reduce the price of buying the car by up to 35%, up to a maximum of £2,500. Prior to this date, the grant reduced costs by £3,000 for cars costing £50,000 or less.
The criteria for eligibility for a plug-in car grant has been tightened in recent years. The car must have official CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and be able to travel at least 70 miles on electric power alone fall under the scheme, effectively making this a grant just for electric cars and not plug-in hybrids.
Similar grant schemes also operates for low-emission vans, motorcycles, mopeds, taxis and trucks.
Are you exempt from paying road tax on electric cars?
For the time being, electric cars are completely exempt from car tax, in both the first and subsequent years, as they emit zero CO2.
Electric cars costing more than £40,000 are also now exempt from the 'expensive car supplement', since an announcement in the 2020 Budget, which sees most cars priced above £40,000 (including options) liable for an additional £335 per year of car tax for years two to six.
How should you charge an electric car?
Don't even think about using a domestic three-pin socket to charge your car. This is slow. Very slow. We're talking in excess of 35 hours' worth of slow, depending on the car.
For regular charging at home, if your property allows it, you'll be best off investing in a dedicated fast charger. This normally takes the form of a wallbox mounted on the outside of your house. The type of charger, connector and wattage you need will depend on your car, budget and what electricity connection you have.
When you're away from home, you can use a number of different websites or apps to find out where your nearest public charging point is. These include on-street charging points in city centres, for example, as well as the growing number of high-voltage fast chargers and rapid chargers at strategic service stations on the motorway network.
Currently, charging points are run by a variety of separate networks, so you’ll need work out which ones are compatible with your car, and register with them accordingly. And bear in mind that some public charging points can be very costly when compared with rates for home charging, with some providers billing based on the duration of the charge, rather than the amount of electricity consumed.
Get an electric car charging point grant
Grants are also available towards the cost of having a charging point installed at your home. OZEV is currently offering £350 (down from £500 after the 2020 Budget) towards equipment fitted by one of its approved suppliers, provided it's a smart charger.
If you live in Scotland, the Energy Saving Trust may reimburse you an extra £300, or up to £400 for those in the most remote areas of the nation.
Which electric cars have the longest range?
If you're planning to buy an electric car, check the maximum range of the electric cars in your shortlist, especially if you regularly drive long distances. And don't forget to factor in your charging time, too, if you need to top up at any time other than overnight.
The maximum driving range available can vary greatly between models. Luxury models with larger batteries offer greater claimed driving ranges, but even entry-level models should offer a driving range of around 150 miles.
However, don't just look at the official figures. At Which? we do our own realistic range tests because, just like fuel tests, the figure manufacturers quote are often quite ambitious.
Do you get a lot of boot space in your electric car?
Electric cars may be cheap to run but they can suffer on boot space. The huge batteries that keep the cars going need to go somewhere, and often that's in the boot. The same goes for plug-in hybrids.
Plug-in hybrid models can also have smaller fuel tanks to make more space for batteries, so you may need to fill up more often on longer journeys, particularly if you don't regularly charge it up.
Car manufacturers vary in the way they measure boot space. We measure the boot of every car we test to work out the usable amount of space, so you can use our figures to compare boot sizes and make sure you buy the car that's right for your needs.
We test cars more thoroughly than anyone else
Our tests go further than those carried out by other organisations, and because Which? is independent, you can trust our reviews to give you the full, honest and impartial truth about every car we test.
Every car we review is subjected to more than 100 individual tests in a lab, on a test track, and on real roads – and we really clock up the miles, driving around 500 miles in every car we test.
Testing in controlled lab conditions means the results we collect are directly comparable between different cars, helping us determine exactly which models are better and why, and helping you find the perfect car for your needs.
And so you know which cars are likely to prove reliable for years to come, we also gather feedback from thousands of UK car owners through the Which? Car Survey, using it to generate detailed reliability ratings for the cars we test.