Sales of electric cars are rising rapidly, and many new models are coming to market during 2020. Due to factors such as the Benefit in Kind tax rate for pure EVs reducing to zero percent in April 2020, many company car drivers are now moving on to their second or even third electric vehicle. This means that there is an increasing supply of used electric cars that are two, three, four or five years old. These EVs can be bought at substantial discounts compared to a new EV, and they will have much lower running costs and servicing bills than second-hand petrol and diesel cars – as well as having zero tailpipe emissions. But which are the best used EVs? And what driving ranges do they have? Check out our Guide to Buying a Used Electric Car.
The Nissan LEAF was the first mainstream all-electric family hatchback. Introduced in 2010, it initially had an official electric driving range of 100 miles. Over the years this first-generation Nissan LEAF gained larger batteries with longer driving ranges (a 30kWh version with a range of 155 miles was available by 2016). The new Nissan LEAF was launched in 2018, with a 40kWh battery and 235 mile range. It featured new exterior styling, but the car’s platform didn’t have major advances compared to the first-generation model. By 2019 the LEAF had gained a 239 mile range (based on the new WLTP test cycle). Today you can pick up an older used Nissan LEAF for around £6,000 or less.
The all-electric Renault ZOE was launched in 2012 with a 130 mile electric driving range. The ZOE is a smaller (and cheaper) car than the LEAF, although it’s surprisingly spacious inside (helped by the electric powertrain architecture). Because Renault and Nissan are partners in an alliance you might imagine that there are many common electric drivetrain components shared between the ZOE and the LEAF, but this isn’t the case. However, like the LEAF, the ZOE enjoyed various advancements in battery size and driving range throughout its life (a 149 mile range by 2015 and a 250 mile range by 2015). A refreshed ZOE has recently arrived in showrooms in 2020. You can pick up a used Renault ZOE for around £5,000 or less.
BMW was one of the first manufacturers to invest heavily in the production of an all-electric car in the form of the BMW i3, which was launched in 2013, as a pure electric car and as a range-extender, which featured a small petrol engine from a motorcycle which was used as a generator for the battery when it ran out of charge. The i3 was designed from the ground up as an electric car, and the aim was for it to be as lightweight as possible. The result of this, combined with its rear-wheel drive platform, is that the i3 is one of the best EVs to drive. Note that the range-extender model was dropped during the switch from the old NEDC to the new WLTP economy and emissions test.
The PR team at Kia will tell you that the petrol-powered Kia Soul is the favourite car choice for teenagers heading off to college in America. It didn’t quite gain such cult status in the UK, but it did gain an electric powertrain before many other cars. No-one seems quite sure what the Kia Soul is (a hatchback or an SUV or a small estate…?), but one thing is for sure, it’s a fairly unique boxy-looking thing. In EV-form, it also came in interesting colour schemes, such as with a blue body, white roof and white wheels. It featured a 132 mile range and despite what you might think about its styling, it was reasonably practical. The new Kia Soul EV has just been launched in March 2020.
Ah, the Tesla Model S… after a few early electric cars that weren’t really very good (mentioning no names), Tesla came from nowhere and gave us the amazing Model S. No longer were electric cars saddled with small bodies, low range and awful performance, the Model S was a revelation. Aside from the Roadster, our first Tesla test drive was in 2014, with a left-hand drive Model S Performance from Europe. Even this had a 300 mile range, which was nothing short of incredible at the time – and then there was the acceleration… however even back then it cost £70,000, showing that you get what you pay for. We then tested the equally insane Tesla Model S P85D in 2015 (another left-hand drive example). By 2019 the Tesla Model S 100D had an outstanding 393 mile range.
If you’re buying a used car you can get car manuals here.