Until recent years, electric cars have been something of a niche sector, reserved for those who equally had a strong environmental conscience, and deep pockets to afford the extra cost of an electric car over a petrol or diesel car. It's fair to say that things have changed somewhat, as governments have signalled the need to move away from the internal combustion engine (ICE), and towards cleaner means of motoring.
Car manufacturers have definitely put their money where their mouth is in response to this challenge, making significant investment towards development of new electric cars. This means that there is now a fantastic array of viable electric family cars on the market, with enough range and practicality to be genuinely useful for busy families. Electric car technology is improving all the time, and there is still work to do around building a charging network to charge them all up in public places or on the street, but we're now in the exciting position where an electric family car is within easy reach and can drive enough daily miles that owners don't constantly have range anxiety. Let's have a look at some of the best electric cars on the market today.
Nissan was one of the early adopters of electric technology when it launched the Leaf a number of years ago. The Nissan Leaf is now on its second generation and remains an excellent choice for those looking for practicality and dependability.
Starting at £25,995, all models are eligible for the government's plug-in car grant of £2,500, meaning the Leaf represents a good value family hatchback. The Leaf is available with either a 40kWh or 62kWh battery, which offer a range between 160 and 200 miles. This is shorter than many newer rivals, but still reasonable, and the Leaf will also accept rapid charging at a rate up to 50kW, keeping you on the road without much hassle.
It has plenty of space inside for the driver and passengers. There are three trim levels to choose from, Acenta, N-Connecta and Tekna depending on how high a specification you would like, but even the entry level Acenta is well-equipped with a range of tech and safety systems including Nissan's e-Pedal, which allows for one-pedal driving.
The Volvo XC40 Recharge is a great looking compact SUV, backed up by Volvo's seemingly indestructible reputation for safety. It is big, chunky, attractive, and has plenty of space inside the cabin and boot for the family and all their associated luggage. The tall driving position gives a commanding view of the road, and the cabin is sumptuously comfortable.
Volvo's reputation for Scandinavian simplicity means that the XC40 is well packaged, with the batteries hidden underneath the floor to minimise any intrusion into the cabin. The simplicity continues with the minimalist interior centred around a large portrait touchscreen which manages a range of functions, and also comes with a Google assistant for voice activated commands on the infotainment system.
You get a pure electric driving range of well over 200 miles from the XC40, which comes with either a 69kWh battery mated to a 228bhp motor, or a 78kWh battery connected to twin motors, giving it four wheel drive and returning a total of 402bhp. The latter will achieve 0-62mph in just 4.9 seconds, which is performance car territory.
The Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech manufacturer's first purpose-built electric car, and may we say that it has done a fantastic job. It uses the Volkswagen Group's flexible MEB platform, which is cleverly designed and allows for plenty of cabin and boot space and room for enough batteries to give it a very good electric range.
It comes in two battery versions to meet the needs of most owners; the 60 comes with a 179bhp electric motor with a 58kWh battery capable of a range of 250 miles, and the 80 is connected to a 204bhp motor and offers up to 333 miles of range, which is perfect for longer journeys.
The Enyaq is built around the interior experience, with each trim level offering a different ambience inside. It starts with the Loft, moving through to Lodge, Lounge, Suite and Eco Suite. The 60 Loft is available for less than £35,000, bringing it within the band to qualify for the plug-in car grant.
The Volkswagen ID.4 is an SUV crossover version of the ID.3, and each share the same MEB platform, as does the Skoda Enyaq iV above. This means that all the batteries are tucked away within the chassis and the cabin is roomy with ample space for passengers and luggage. As with other SUVs you get a tall and lofty driving position, and an imposing road presence.
The interior is based around a touchscreen and touch sensitive buttons, with very few actual buttons to press. This does take some getting used to, but does make for an uncluttered dashboard. Fit and finish is good, as you'd expect of a Volkswagen.
You can order your ID.4 with either 146bhp, 168bhp, 201bhp or 295bhp. The first two come mated to a 52kWh battery and have an official range of just over 200 miles, and the latter two with a larger 77kWh unit offering a range of up to 324 miles. This makes the ID.4 a very flexible car, allowing you to find the perfect balance between power and range, taking your budget into account of course.
A number of trim levels are available including Life, Style, Family, Max, GTX and GTX Max, offering a good choice between value, luxury and sporting style.
The Volkswagen ID.3 is a hatchback, and sits lower than its ID.4 sibling. It has different, space-age styling and looks very modern. It was built from scratch as an electric-only car, so everything is thoughtfully designed with this in mind. As a result it feels rather Tardis-like, with a hugely spacious interior that belies its compact exterior. The ID.3 makes most sense when described as an electric, futuristic-styled Golf, placing it firmly among the best electric family cars.
The ID3 caters for a range of budgets, with the entry-level versions presenting strong competition to the likes of the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe, and the more luxury or sporting versions within sight of offerings from BMW, Audi, and notably the Tesla Model 3.
The range starts with a 42kWh battery and an electric motor offering 148bhp, and returning around 200 miles of range. Beyond this is a 58kWh unit with either 143bhp or 201bhp, or if you need even greater electric range then there is a 77kWh version which promises over 300 miles of range.
This big cat doesn't emit so much as a purr. Big, luxurious and powerful, the Jaguar I-Pace was the traditional British marque's first electric car designed from scratch, without the need to fill a space left by a petrol or diesel engine. At its hefty price of around £65,000, it is a stretch to list the I-Pace among the best electric family cars, but for those with deep enough pockets, this unusual and spacious SUV has to be the ultimate electric car.
The I-Pace comes in just one version, known as the EV400. It delivers 395bhp from its twin-motor set up, propelling it from 0-60mph in just 4.5 seconds, placing it firmly in the realms of a performance car. This is all handled effectively by its ample 90kWh battery, which is good for a real world range of around 260 miles.
The trim levels are easy to understand and similar to the rest of the Jaguar range. Entry to the I-Pace range starts with the S, followed by the SE and the HSE. You can also get Black editions, with more aggressive sporty styling. The sky is the limit when it comes to luxury touches on the I-Pace; you really can make it bespoke to your tastes and make it feel very special.
The Renault Zoe is the benchmark for value when it comes to the best electric family cars. It is one of the best value electric cars on the market, coming in at around £27,000 on the road and boasting a long range of almost 250 miles in return, thanks to the impressive 52kWh battery that Renault has managed to hide somewhere under the skin. It is one of the top 10 best sellers when it comes to all-electric vehicles, and in fact is currently Europe's biggest selling EV.
The Zoe is small and compact, but still comes with five doors and is reasonably practical for families. Its diminutive size makes it perfect for darting around town and finding small parking spaces. The small EV market is becoming more competitive with cars such as the Fiat 500 and Peugeot e 208 trying to get in on the action, but Zoe owners are generally very happy with their choice.
There is a Zoe to suit your budget, starting with the Play, followed by the Iconic, the GT Edition, and currently headed up by the luxurious Riviera Limited Edition. The great news is that all of them qualify for the plug-in car grant, reducing the price by a significant £2,500. Make the most of it while you can!
It is fair to say that the BMW i3 was ahead of its time at its launch in 2013, and even now it still looks futuristic. BMW invested heavily into their first purpose-built EV, and the result is this quirky compact hatchback made of carbon fibre and featuring a largely recycled interior. There is much to love about the i3, including its sporty styling, its suicide doors that give great access to both the front and rear seats, and its insanely small turning circle that makes it a breeze to drive around town.
The i3 is now available in two versions; firstly as the 170bhp standard model, or you can upgrade to the i3S which has 184bhp, and is altogether sportier with a wider track, lower suspension and bigger alloy wheels. Both versions share the same 38kWh battery, which offers up to 190 miles of range in the standard version and a little less in the S when its extra power is taken into account.
The battery pack is hidden in the chassis meaning that the interior is cavernous, and the windscreen stretches away ahead of you. The boot space is a little limited due to the motor under the floor, but otherwise the i3 is a practical and classy companion. Don't overlook it as one of the best electric family cars out there today.
The Volkswagen e-Golf has now been replaced by the ID.3, but still deserves a mention in this list of the best electric family cars because it's a Golf, and everyone loves the Golf as a family car. It loses nothing of the Golf's magic as a practical family hatchback, with excellent ergonomics and a comfortable, spacious interior.
The e-Golf is well suited to city driving with the 144-mile range offered by its 24kWh battery, which is small compared to many other rivals now, but should be more than enough to deal with the average commute or family day out. You can see that it has been carefully designed with its EV status in mind, so it has a number of touches for aerodynamic and lightness purposes, which also set it apart in style as an electric vehicle. Otherwise it is designed to look just like a normal Golf, and takes a second look to identify it as an electric car.
The e-Golf is front wheel drive and has 134bhp, so it should behave just like the average family hatchback out on the open road, albeit with more energetic, instant acceleration than you would see in an equivalent petrol or diesel car. Other rivals do have more power, but that's not what the e-Golf is about. It's built to be efficient, and it does this very well.
This is just a sample of some of the best electric family cars on the market today, but there are many more which are worth a mention. South Korea is fast coming to the forefront of EV technology with cars such as the concept-like Hyundai Ioniq 5 wowing the market. The Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona electric also deserve special mention as good value and popular electric cars. Vauxhall and Peugeot have a very good working relationship which has led to the Vauxhall Corsa and Mokka, and the Peugeot e 2008 and e 208. If you're looking for the trademark low running costs of a battery electric car, you and your family are frankly spoilt for choice in today's market.