So you've decided to buy or lease an electric car — the next question is how to choose your electric car so that it gives you everything you need.

With the top electric car models offering more and more miles on a single charge, choosing an electric car is no longer just about range . The modern market has much more to offer, with efficiency, charging speed, and all sorts of on-board creature comforts to help you decide.

In this guide, we'll take a look at the different types of electric and plug-in vehicles on the market, how to choose between new electric car models, and a look at the total size of the EV market in the UK as we move closer to a fully electric passenger car culture.

Main types of electric cars

There's a surprisingly long list of different types of electric and plug-in vehicles on the market, and it often comes down to a question of how the battery is recharged from an onboard or external fuel source. Some of the main types of plug-in vehicles to hit the market over the past few decades include:

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)

BEVs are the standard type  of electric vehicle — powered by a battery and recharged primarily from an external charge point or mains electricity socket. They may also recover some energy under braking to extend the maximum range of a single charge.

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

These are becoming less common as the trend towards fully electric vehicles continues. They were among the first mass-market EVs, using a conventional petrol or diesel engine to complement the battery for extra range and performance.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)

Similar to PHEVs, HEVs have an on-board petrol or diesel engine. However, they cannot be plugged in to charge the battery — recharging is entirely from the engine and recovered under braking, so the full-electric range is usually very limited.

Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV)

These have an even smaller electric battery, which essentially acts as a small boost to the internal combustion engine (ICE). They offer slightly improved fuel efficiency and lower emissions, but are conventional ICE vehicles in most respects.

Range-Extended Electric Vehicle (REEV)

REEVs again had an ICE engine, but only a very small one. This could be used to recharge the battery, but not to directly power the vehicle's driving. This was never a widespread technology in the UK and has largely disappeared from the nation's roads.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV)

FCEVs use hydrogen to generate the power needed to recharge the battery. They can be refuelled as quickly as a conventional ICE fuel tank, and exhaust emissions consist solely of water vapour. However, refuelling infrastructure is very limited, and the upfront purchase price of this type of EV is still relatively high.

What electric cars are available?

The choice and diversity of EVs on the mainstream market in the UK is growing all the time, and there's an EV for almost all tastes and driving styles.

You may have seen many of the top electric car models on the roads in your town, city or in the countryside, without even knowing — some of the most popular EV models look no different from conventional ICE cars made by the same manufacturer.

Some of the top brands of electric cars include:

  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Ford
  • Jaguar
  • Kia
  • Land Rover
  • Mercedes
  • Mini
  • Nissan
  • Polestar
  • Porsche
  • Tesla
  • Toyota
  • Vauxhall
  • Volkswagen
  • Volvo

As you can see, this includes most of the major manufacturers in the automobile industry, as well as some pure-electric brands like Tesla who have helped to establish EVs as a mainstream option for casual motorists, as well as making commercial leased fleet EVs a reality too.

If you're new to driving EVs, personal and business leasing is a good way to start exploring the best new electric cars, putting you behind the wheel of a brand-new model without the upfront costs of buying and owning the car yourself.

See our Top 20 Electric Car Leasing Deals for our best prices on electric cars to lease for business and personal use.

How many electric cars in the UK?

The Department for Transport compiles statistics on the engine/fuel type of vehicles registered in the UK, including a breakdown of petrol, diesel, HEV, PHEV, BEV, REEV, FCEV and gas, as well as totals for all 'alternative fuel' vehicles (defined as anything other than petrol or diesel) and zero-emission vehicles.

This dates back to 1994, when data was counted for Great Britain only. At that time, ICEs accounted for 100% of the market for cars.

Number of electric cars in the UK

The percentage of alternative fuel cars in the UK has been climbing steadily since the turn of the millennium — it first reached a measurable percentage of 0.1% in 1999.

By 2014 there were more than a quarter of a million alternatively fuelled cars on UK roads and, in 2015, the percentage hit 1.0% for the first time. In 2020 the total number passed over a million (and actually reached 1.1 million), equivalent to 3.4% of passenger cars.

Within this number, there were:

  • 667,500 HEVs
  • 205,000 PHEVs
  • 194,000 BEVs
  • 9,800 REEVs
  • 200 FCEVs
  • 23,600 gas

It’s worth noting that while gas-powered cars are not electric, this is still classed as an alternative fuel, so they count towards that total.

In terms of zero-carbon vehicles, in 2020, there were 194,000 zero-emission BEVs on the roads, 0.6% of the nation's passenger cars.

Choosing an electric car

Taking all of the above into account, and with petrol and diesel prices spiralling in recent years , it's no surprise that more and more motorists are opting to buy and lease electric cars for business use  and personal use alike.

New electric car models are as comfortable as their conventional ICE counterparts, and can even offer a smoother, quieter ride; ideal if you spend long periods on the road.

With the market moving away from hybrids and closer to pure, zero-emission BEVs, you can also qualify for incentives and exemptions on road tax and some parts of the MOT test — making zero-carbon BEVs a stronger prospect with every passing day.