Should a high-mileage driver buy an electric car?
A reader wants to buy a BMW i3 but is worried his annual commute of 25,000 miles will kill its batteries before a four-year PCP deal ends...
I've decided to go electric, because I started a job a year ago with a 90-mile daily commute and my petrol costs have, of course, gone through the roof. I’m probably going to be doing this for the next four or five years, so I want to cut my fuel costs, and I’m also keen to reduce my presently huge carbon footprint.
The Renault Zoe isn't for me and I found the Nissan Leaf very uncomfortable on a test drive. However, I love the BMW i3. I know that there are now other models with much longer ranges than the i3, but I don't like the look of either the Kia e-Niro or Hyundai Kona and I can't afford the Jaguar I-Pace or a Tesla.
I'm not worried about the i3’s range – the 120Ah model has plenty for me – and my local BMW dealer is offering me what I think is a decent four-year PCP deal. However, you just don't hear about people driving an electric car 25,000 miles per year and taking the battery near to the 100,000-mile warranty limit. Would I be taking too much of a risk?Philip Gray
What Car? says
We've heard of some people doing high annual mileages in electric cars that have been out for quite a few years, such as the original Leaf, and not suffering any bad consequences.
In fact, in our latest Reliability Survey, electric and hybrid cars came out as the most dependable, with the i3 gaining a creditable 95.2% rating.
We'd therefore say it's not a massive risk to do 25,000 miles a year in an i3. Even so, you can take measures to protect the battery life, such as setting the charge limit at 80% rather than 100% and trying not to use the fastest chargers all the time, because they put more strain on the batteries.
You might also be able to consider the new Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus, because it costs only around £6000 more to buy than the i3. In recent What Car? group tests, the Model 3 beat other electric models and conventionally powered alternatives, because it accelerates well, it's good to drive, it's well equipped and it retains its value far better than other electric cars.
Like the i3, the Model 3 comes with an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty for its battery. This not only covers the electrical bits against faults but also guarantees a minimum 70% retention of original battery capacity throughout its duration.
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Best electric cars - and the ones to avoid
Electric cars are now entering the mainstream, and their rise is only going to accelerate as rules are introduced to limit the kind of vehicles allowed into major cities.
The main thing that has traditionally held them back is range anxiety – the fear that you won’t have enough juice to get to where you’re going. However, with plenty of models now capable of covering more than 200 miles between charges, this is becoming less of an issue.
So, which electric cars should you consider? Here, we count down our favourites and tell you the ones to avoid. And, remember, if any of them take your fancy, check out our new car deals to see how much we could save you.
10. Tesla Model X
On paper, Tesla's all-electric family SUV seems to be the dream all-rounder, combining the luxury of a Range Rover Sport with the green credentials of an electric car. In practice, its low running costs and practical interior are hard to fault, and even entry-level versions aren't short on pace, but parts of its interior do feel a little cheap given the price.
The Zoe’s main strength is that it feels like a conventional, stylish, nippy small car, and just happens to cost pennies to run. The electric motor has enough shove for the Zoe to lead the charge away from traffic lights, and the interior has room for four to sit in reasonable comfort. Even the boot is larger than you’ll find in many regular small cars; it's easily big enough for a family's weekly shopping. The Q90 version managed 132 miles in our Real Range test.
8. Nissan Leaf
This second-generation Leaf is a much better all-rounder than the original model. It’s faster, more sophisticated to drive, bigger inside and, perhaps most importantly of all, capable of longer distances between charges. Just make sure you resist the temptation to go for the e+ version; it may have the biggest range of any Leaf yet, but it's also expensive and hard-riding.