The best electric cars: Top battery-powered vehicles available on UK roads

Electric cars have been around for a few years now, although if we’re being technical, they’ve being around since the 19th century. But the first electric car of the modern era, and the first highway legal production all-electric battery-powered vehicle was the Tesla Roadster, first developed in 2004.

When Tesla’s contract with Lotus ran out – the Roadster was based on the Lotus Elise – the company produced the first Model S in 2012. Since then, electric car sales have sky-rocketed. Note that we’re talking about all-electric cars here, not hybrid or plug-in hybrids that combine an electric motor with a fuel-powered engine.

How do I charge my electric car?

Most people will charge their electric car at home overnight, with public charging only needed on long journeys. The network of public car chargers in the UK is increasing all the time. Zap-Map, which keeps a live database of the number of chargers in the UK, says there are nearly 6,000 charging locations nationally, with over 17,000 connectors (at the time of writing). These are in common locations – shopping centre car parks or motorway service stations for example.

All-electric cars UK 2018 All the battery powered vehicles available on the road today image 8
There are really three different types of charing for electric vehicles at the moment (although things aren’t standardised, so there’s lots of variation):

  • Slow (AC, 3kW) – most cars will come with a 3-pin plug cable to charge from a standard domestic wall socket
  • Fast (AC, 7kW-22kW) – from a domestic wallbox or public charging station, you should get a cable with the car
  • Rapid (AC, 43kW; DC, 50kW; Tesla, 150kW) – the fast chargers you’ll find on the motorway, the cable is attached to the charger. Can charge a car to 80 per cent in around 30 minutes.

For home charging, a wallbox is the best solution – not only can you get a government grant for installation, but it charges your car faster than a 3-pin socket, talking to your car to manage the flow of current. If you’re buying a car, the manufacturer might have offers for wallbox installation – some are offering it free.

Public charging gets a little more complicated, as you’ll need to ensure it’s the right type of connector for your car – although adapters are available. There isn’t a defined standard yet – but generally speaking, the type 2 connector is supported on most vehicles for slow/AC charging. For rapid DC charging, you have CCS (likely to be the European standard) and CHAdeMO (likely to be the Japanese standard) as well as the Tesla Supercharger.

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