Ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs) are the greenest cars on the market. Whether it’s a 100% pure electric, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen fuel cell, these cars have lower running costs, emit little or no emissions, benefit from zero or low road tax and are exempt from the London Congestion Charge.
To qualify as a ULEV, cars must emit less than 75g of CO2/km from the tailpipe and be capable of operating in zero tailpipe emission mode for a range of at least 10 miles.
We’ve chosen 22 of the best electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell cars. All prices quoted include the Government Plug-in Car Grant of £2,500-£4,500 where cars are eligible. Sadly vehicles costing more than £60,000 do not qualify for the scheme….
Best planet-friendly cars
Volkswagen e-Golf - from £28,230
Almost as practical and as good to drive as a regular Golf, the electric version can manage up to 186 miles on a single charge. With a 0-62mph time of 9.6 seconds, it’s nippy too.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - from £34,255
This plug-in hybrid was a game-changer when it was launched in 2014 and it’s now better than ever and still selling very well. Powered by a four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine and two electric motors, it’s a big 4×4 that can return up to 157mpg and boasts CO2 emissions of just 42g/km. In early 2018 it reached 100,000 sales in Europe, more than a third of which have been in the UK where it outsold all other pure electric and hybrid plug-in vehicles in 2017, accounting for 7,407 of the 47,263 plug-in passenger vehicles that were registered.
Smart EQ fortwo coupé - from £16,420
The 100% electric version of Smart’s dinky little ForTwo has a 99-mile range, can hit 0-62mph in 12.7 seconds and is also available with a soft-top. If you fancy four seats, then opt for the equally distinctive Smart EQ forfour.
Nissan Leaf - from £25,190
The pioneering Nissan Leaf is the world’s most popular electric vehicle with more than 300,000 sales worldwide since it first went on sale in 2010. Built in Britain, the latest version finally looks good, is practical, easy to drive and has a range of up to 235 miles. Full charging takes around 7.5 hours using a 7kWh home charger, but as little as 40 minutes using a 50kWh fast charger.
BMW i3 - from £29,575
Still one of the funkiest ULEVs on the market, the i3 is available as a pure EV or as a petrol-electric hybrid range-extender. Fun to drive with premium badge appeal, the i3 has a real-world range of around 125 miles, or you can go for the range extender version (there’s a tiny petrol engine too) which will take you a further 93 miles.
Hyundai Ioniq - from £21,540
Available in electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants, the Hyundai Ioniq is a practical family hatchback that drives well and boasts futuristic looks. If you’re ready to make the leap to fully electric motoring, then the EV version has a range of up to 174 miles, while the halfway house (the plug-in hybrid) can travel in pure electric mode for 39 miles.
Volkswagen e-up! - from £21,140
Cute, compact, all-electric and perfect for city runaround or short commutes, the e-up! has a range of up to 99 miles on a single charge and can achieve 0-62mph in just 12.4 seconds. VW’s so confident that the battery will go the distance, it offers an eight-year/99,360 mile guarantee as standard.
Jaguar I-Pace - from £58,995
You’ve got to hand it to Jaguar. The I-Pace has taken a little over four years to develop and it has become the first mainstream manufacturer to challenge Tesla in the premium sector. Not only does the I-Pace look great, it’s spacious, great to drive, has a 0-60mph time of just 4.5 seconds and an impressive range of up to 292 miles.
Renault Zoe - priced from £18,420
The cute Renault Zoe hatchback is the best-selling 100% electric car in Europe and it’s been on sale in the UK since 2013. Similar in size to a Renault Clio, the Zoe has received upgrades for 2018 including a more powerful R110 (80kWh) electric motor, Android Auto compatibility and new optional ‘Aconite’ purple metallic paint. The Zoe has a 186-mile real world range and every purchase includes a free 7kW fast-charging wall-box with free home installation, plus a three-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Toyota Mirai - from £66,000
Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell car may well be the future. With a range of up to 312 miles (about the same as a conventionally powered vehicle), it’s just like driving an electric car, except you have to fill the tank up with liquid hydrogen. Sadly the refuelling infrastructure for the Mirai is in its infancy in the UK, so it will be a few years before it’s a serious option.
Mercedes-Benz C 350 e - from £36,980
The C350e was the second car in a 10-vehicle plug-in hybrid range Mercedes-Benz is planning to launch. By mating a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine to a 60kW electric motor, economy is a claimed 135mpg with 48g/km of CO2 emissions. Electric-only range is 19 miles. As Mercedes-Benz says, Intelligence = Efficiency. Classy choice…
Renault Twizy - from £6,995
This unique all-electric two-seater (you sit tandem-style) has a range of up to 56 miles, a top speed of 50mph and a 3.5-hour charging time. It’s a quirky choice for the city as long as it doesn’t rain because it is a bit on the basic side. Sir Stirling Moss runs one in central London, so it must be good.
Tesla Model S - from £60,600
When it was launched in 2012, the all-electric Tesla Model S sent shockwaves through the car industry – and it’s still leading the charge. Depending on which version you opt for, it’s capable of up to 335 miles and performance is a blistering 2.5 seconds to 60mph. If you want SUV looks and falcon-wing rear doors, then go for the Model X.
Kia Niro - from £28,345
Arguably the first compact crossover plug-in hybrid, the Kia Niro boasts CO2 emissions as low as 29g/km with as potential fuel economy of more than 200mpg from its four-cylinder 1.6-litre petrol combined with 44.5kW electric motor. With an electric-only range of up to 36 miles, it’s practical, comes with Kia’s generous seven-year warranty and is easy to drive.
Audi Q7 e-tron - from £67,550
Audi’s classy big SUV became the second plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in the range. Using a 254bhp 3.0-litre TDI V6 diesel engine mated to a 94kW electric motor, it’s capable of 157mpg in the right conditions, it has an all-electric range of 35 miles and CO2 emissions are just 48g/km. Smooth and luxurious.
Toyota Prius Plug-in - from £29,195
The original petrol-electric hybrid is now in its fourth generation and it’s now a much better looking car. Using a 1.8-litre petrol engine and 75.5 kW electric motor it takes 11.1 seconds to reach 62mph, CO2 emissions are 28g/km, its electric-only range is 39 miles and it’s capable of up to 235mpg.
Range Rover PHEV - from £87,600
The plug-in version of the mighty Range Rover combines a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an 85kW electric motor to deliver 0-60mph in 6.4 seconds and a maximum speed of 137mph, while CO2 emissions are as low as 72g/km. Add luxury and Land Rover’s legendary all-terrain capability and you have a seriously good package.
Kia Optima Sportswagon PHEV - from £35,145
Also available as a PHEV saloon, the Sportswagon is one of the best-looking estate cars on the market. The plug-in hybrid version has potential fuel economy of more than 200mpg, CO2 emissions as low as 33g/km and an EV driving range of 38 miles. The combination of 50kW electric motor and 2.0-litre petrol engine produce a decent 202bhp. Needless to say, it’s also very practical.
BMW i8 - from £112,735
Hard to resist BMW’s stunning eco supercar, if you’ve got the cash. Available as a coupe or roadster, it combines a 96kW electric motor with a 228bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine, enabling it to take just 4.4 seconds to reach 62mph (4.6 for the roadster), going on to a 155mph top speed. CO2 emissions are 42g/km (46 for the roadster) and it has a pure-electric driving range of 34 miles (roadster, 33).
Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine - from £61,705
Power for the plug-in hybrid version of Volvo’s acclaimed big SUV comes via a 320bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged (and supercharged) petrol engine, combined with a 65kW electric motor, delivering a claimed total output of 401bhp and a 0-62mph time of just 5.3 seconds. Economy is up to 134.5mpg, CO2 a low 59g/km and the pure electric driving range is around 25 miles. If you want something a little smaller, go for the PHEV version of the XC60 or the S90 saloon/V90 estate.
MINI Countryman S E ALL4 - from £31,895
If you’re looking for a relatively compact plug-in hybrid estate with four-wheel drive look no further than this MINI. Its 1.5-litre petrol engine and rear-mounted 65KW electric motor produce 221bhp together making it capable of 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds. It’s quirky like all MINIs, but a fun drive and has an all-electric range of up to 25 miles.
Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo Turbo S E-Hybrid - from £139,287
Arguably the most intriguing plug-in hybrid in the list, the stunning new estate version the Panamera uses a 4.0-litre petrol V8 with 542bhp and a 134bhp electric motor to deliver a combined 671bhp and 627lb/ft of torque. With a 0-62mph time of just 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 192mph, it’s blisteringly fast, yet a claimed economy of 94.2mpg and an EV range of around 30 miles.
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