Most economical electric cars

Charging an electric car is normally cheaper than a tank of fuel but these ones are particularly efficient costing less per mile than rivals

Craig Hale
May 31, 2022

While car manufacturers have been using miles per gallon (mpg) to compare the efficiency of petrol, diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars for many years, it can be less clear how to compare electric car efficiency. Yet it's important to understand the differences in economy between different electric cars; choose a car that is wasteful with electricity and not only will you have to charge up more regularly, but it'll cost you more to run, too.

A strong economy figure shows that an electric car doesn’t just offer the prospect of travelling further per charge, but is also using energy more efficiently, which goes further towards saving the planet as fewer resources are needed to generate electricity to power the car.

By and large, electric cars follow a similar pattern to diesel and petrol-powered cars in that it's the smallest and lightest cars that offer the strongest economy figures, as the least weight needs to be moved around. Meanwhile, larger more luxurious models are worse.

This is partly down to motors geared more towards performance than efficiency in larger models, but also the sheer weight. You would expect, then, to find this list full of tiny city cars and hatchbacks, but you may be pleasantly surprised to find some small SUVs and crossovers in the mix, too.

Each model is provided with an economy figure in miles per kWh (showing how far it can travel using a set amount of electricity), the claimed range per charge, and an estimated cost figure to fully charge from empty.

To get to grips with the ins and outs of electric car economy - including what mi/kWh means - read our guide to electric car economy. Meanwhile, read on to find out the most economical electric cars on sale in the UK.

*The cost to charge each vehicle is calculated using a cheap overnight charging rate of 7.5p per kWh, although the average daily rate in the UK is much higher at around 20p per kWh. Expect to pay around 40p per kWh for most public charging stations, with rapid charging stations typically costing much more per unit than slower chargers. 

Most economical electric cars

1. Fiat 500 Action

Used deals Limited stock

Economy 4.8mi/kWhCost of charge* £1.79
Claimed range 118 milesBattery size (gross) 23.8kWh

 

While the new Fiat 500, introduced in 2020, retains the cute and retro styling of its predecessor, there's one key difference, and that's that it is now powered by an electric motor. Like every other electric car, it has an automatic gearbox which takes the stress out of driving, but as with the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3, lifting off the accelerator in some driving modes can bring the car to a complete stop using just the resistance from the motor, reducing wear on the brakes and boosting efficiency.

The most efficient model is the entry-level 500 Action, which comes with a smartphone cradle in place of the touchscreen media system you may expect. It's also the least powerful - it uses a 93hp electric motor. Mid-specification models come with a 118hp electric motor and a larger battery, which promises 199 miles of range per charge, but these are also less efficient, rated at 4.4 miles per kWh of electricity (4.4mi/kWh). 

As ever, there is a soft-top version of this popular city car, but this model only manages 4.2mi/kWh due to the extra weight of the folding roof mechanism, so stick with the standard hatchback for maximum efficiency.

FIAT 500 ELECTRIC BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Hyundai Ioniq Electric front three quarters view

Used deals from £20,900
Monthly finance from £377*

Economy 4.5mi/kWhCost of charge* £3.03
Claimed range 193 milesBattery size (gross) 40.4kWh

 

The Hyundai Ioniq Electric is not only a very efficient electric car, but it's also a genuinely great everyday car for families and company car drivers alike. Hyundai recently updated the Ioniq, bringing with it a larger battery pack capable of just shy of 200 miles per charge. 

Electrics aside, the Ioniq Electric is relatively affordable - especially if you take advantage of used car deals - packed with technology and practical, too. As part of the updates to the Ioniq, Hyundai refreshed the interior, making the car much more appealing. The Ioniq then, is not only very efficient but a very usable everyday prospect, too.

HYUNDAI IONIQ ELECTRIC BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor

Used deals from £39,500
Monthly finance from £600*

Economy 4.4mi/kWhCost of charge* £5.63
Claimed range 360 milesBattery size (gross) 75kWh

 

The Model 3 is a very popular car and has sold in surprisingly high numbers. This is not only good news for Tesla but for those after a used model, as higher new car sales means more second-hand models to choose from and typically lower used car prices, too.

Inside, the Model 3 is quintessential Tesla, meaning there is minimal fuss and maximum focus on the large central media system for the vast majority of the car's controls. There aren't trims, as such, but a trio of motor configurations.

Dual motor 'Long Range' and 'Performance' models are heavier (due to their larger battery and four-wheel-drive setup), but these are the most efficient. The cheapest 'Standard Range Plus' model has just one electric motor and a 50kWh battery, but is 0.4mi/kWh less efficient.

4. Volkswagen ID.3 Pure Performance

Volkswagen ID.3 front three quarters view

Used deals from £33,850
Monthly finance from £556*

Economy 4.2mi/kWhCost of charge* £4.13
Claimed range 217 milesBattery size (gross) 55kWh

 

Another hugely popular affordable electric car is the VW ID.3 - a Golf-sized electric model that was launched in mid-2020 and has already proven popular among company car drivers and families.

All models have heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, LED headlights and adaptive cruise control, so there's little need to seek one of the more expensive trims. The 'Pure Performance' may feel a bit underpowered, though, compared with the other versions if that's something that bothers you.

Our pick is the 'Pro Performance' motor with improved performance and a longer range - this and the less powerful 'Pro' promise 4.0mi/kWh and a 260-mile range, so they're not the most efficient ID.3s, but offer a greater range per charge than the Pure Performance versions. 'Pro S' models - capable of more than 330 miles from a single charge - are the least efficient at 3.8mi/kWh.

VOLKSWAGEN ID.3 BUYERS' GUIDE

5. BMW i3

Used deals Limited stock

Economy 4.1mi/kWhCost of charge* £3.18
Claimed range 190 milesBattery size (gross) 42.4kWh

 

It's taken until the start of the 2020s for a handful of mainstream electric cars to become available, but the BMW i3 has been around since way back in 2013, making it one of the first cars to offer attractive and desirable everyday electric transport with decent range. And credit where credit is due, the i3 still looks very modern many years later.

BMW has had plenty of time to play with the formula and develop the i3 package. The i3 has received two rounds of updates from BMW - first in 2016 and more recently in 2018. Both brought increased battery capacity with the latest models featuring a 42.4kWh unit good for a claimed range of around 190 miles under the latest economy test with a decent efficiency figure of 4.1mi/kWh - so keep an eye on when the car was registered if you're after the longest range option.

There are some drawbacks to the i3, of course; it is only a four-seater and it isn’t particularly cheap. However, it's still one of the most fun-to-drive and desirable electric cars money can buy, with low charging bills to boot. A more powerful i3S is available, but it's slightly less efficient - expect around 3.8mi/kWh.

BMW I3 BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Kia e-Niro

Used deals from £30,757
Monthly finance from £532*

Economy 4.1mi/kWhCost of charge* £3.15
Claimed range 180 milesBattery size (gross) 42kWh

 

On top of having a mildly amusing Robert De Niro-based advertising campaign, the e-Niro is also rather efficient at turning electricity into miles - especially as it's not the smallest of electric cars. It's the standard e-Niro that's most efficient - the Long Range version manages 3.9mi/kWh.

Away from the batteries, the e-Niro is a car that is compelling in itself. This includes a fairly large 451-litre boot, three rear seats which are big enough for fully-grown adults and all the latest desirable kit such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to help those miles roll on by.

KIA NIRO BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Mini Electric

Used deals from £26,499
Monthly finance from £549*

Economy 4.1mi/kWhCost of charge* £2.44
Claimed range 145 milesBattery size (gross) 32.6kWh

 

If you're not looking for a large family car, your choices for fun-to-drive, small electric runarounds have been fairly restricted in the past. But the Mini Electric could be an enticing option, especially given its high efficiency. It's a three door-only model, though, so bear that in mind.

All models come with sat-nav, air-conditioning and Apple CarPlay, but if you want things like a reversing camera, a larger media display or a panoramic roof, expect to fork out a lot more.

While it doesn't boast the most impressive range, it does charge at up to 11kW, meaning a full charge in around four hours if you can find one of these chargers. 50kW rapid charging is also standard, which means long journeys shouldn't be a problem, as long as you can find one of these high-speed charging points. The economy figure is also good, though no better than a number of larger and more practical models.

READ MORE ABOUT THE MINI ELECTRIC

8. Skoda Enyaq iV 60

Used deals from £39,900
Monthly finance from £617*

Economy 4.0mi/kWhCost of charge* £4.65
Claimed range 256 milesBattery size (gross) 62kWh

 

This is the Skoda equivalent of the Volkswagen ID.4 - both are priced very similarly, so which is the better choice for you comes down to personal preference. Like the ID.3, ID.4, and a handful of other electric cars, the electric motor powers the rear wheels which makes the car feel more sporty on twisting back roads. Most petrol or diesel cars use front-wheel-drive where the steering can tug in your hands if you accelerate too hard.

There is a four-wheel-drive iV 80X version, too, but this is less efficient at 3.5mi/kWh. Similarly, if you want more than 256 miles from a full charge, the iV 80 models can provide around 330 miles per charge, at the cost of efficiency: 3.7mi/kWh.

LED headlights, rear parking sensors, a 13-inch touchscreen media system, dual-zone climate control and keyless start are all standard, so there's little need to upgrade unless you're desperate for a longer range. Stick with the iV 60, though, and you'll benefit from strong economy for this size of car at 4.0mi/kWh.

READ MORE ABOUT THE SKODA ENYAQ

9. Citroen e-C4

Citroen e-C4 front three quarters view

Used deals Limited stock

Economy 4.0mi/kWhCost of charge* £3.75
Claimed range 219 milesBattery size (gross) 50kWh

 

The Citroen e-C4 shares its electrics with the Vauxhall Mokka-e, Peugeot e-2008 and DS 3 Crossback E-Tense, but this is the most efficient of them all. However, the Vauxhall's not too far behind, at 3.9mi/kWh. This is likely due to the Citroen's more aerodynamic shape, courtesy of the raking roofline, similar to what you might find in the larger BMW X4.

Many electric cars feel somewhat sporty, either when it comes to performance or in their designs, but the e-C4 is geared towards comfort. It does come with plenty of standard equipment, though - even entry-level models come with keyless entry, sat-nav and a lane departure warning system. You'll have to spend a bit more if all-round parking sensors and a reversing camera are important to you, though.

CITROEN E-C4 BUYERS' GUIDE

10. Peugeot e-208

Used deals Limited stock

Economy 3.9mi/kWhCost of charge* £3.75
Claimed range 217 milesBattery size (gross) 50kWh

 

The Peugeot e-208 shares its 136hp electric motor and 50kWh battery setup with the Citroen e-C4 above, plus the Vauxhall Corsa-e and a number of larger Vauxhall, Peugeot and DS models, too. Surprisingly, this city car is less efficient than the larger e-C4, but with typical driving most motorists are likely to see similar figures.

While the Corsa-e offers basic, no-nonsense electric motoring, the e-208 looks more flashy. It's also more expensive, but this should be less prominent when buying used. PCP payments should also go some way to masking the price difference with similar monthly payments between the two cars.

READ MORE ABOUT THE PEUGEOT E-208

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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