Five used pure-EVs for less than $30k (that aren’t a Nissan Leaf)
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It’s still early days for pure-electric vehicles – or Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) as we often call them. Capital cost remains relatively high for new models, but numbers are growing. Used EVs are actually the fastest growing motoring segment in NZ for 2020.
And BEVs have been around long enough now - Nissan Leaf launched in 2010 for example - that there’s a steady supply of used examples at affordable prices. Like, family car money: let's say $30k.
We know what you’re thinking: used BEV automatically equals Nissan Leaf. And yes, the Leaf is by far the most popular BEV out there and makes up the majority of New Zealand’s BEV fleet. It’s the predictable choice.
And what if you don’t want to be predictable? We’re here to help. Read on for the best sub-$30k BEVs… that aren’t a Nissan Leaf.
But before you start browsing, keep in mind the biggest factor when used EV shopping is battery life. No-one wants to spend $15k on a used EV, to then discover it needs a new battery, which exceeds the price of the car. So the all-important number to look at when used EV shopping is the SOH (State of Health) or SOC (State of Charge), given in a percentage. Obviously a brand new EV will be 100%, and, like anything with a battery, its performance will deplete over its life.
From our arbitrary search of the 500 EVs currently for sale at DRIVEN.co.nz, 400 of those are Nissan Leafs (hence the headline); and 60-70% seems to be a normal, cost-effective battery health measurement minimum, depending on the original model's battery and how it's treated (for eg, the battery spends the majority of its charge life between 20-80% charged). So, in effect, that SOC number can be calculated against its original range claim: for eg, a factory claim of 250km, with a 60% SOH, will result in a used EV range of 150km.
The look is polarising but there’s no argument that the i3 is a groundbreaking BEV, with great battery technology (carried over into the latest Mini Electric) and high-tech Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) construction.
The i3 was launched back in 2014, so there are plenty around. Even an older one is still pretty current (get it?) because BMW hasn’t made major changes to the body shape or basic package.
Many at this price point are the Range EXtender (REX) version, which has the same plug-in battery pack as the BEV but adds a two-cylinder petrol generator to see you between charges.
Nissan Note e-power
Nissan’s e-power technology is another variation on the range extender theme. It also combines a lithium battery pack with a petrol generator. The petrol engine only ever charges the battery – it doesn’t drive the wheels, although it can provide power directly to the electric motor when required.
We’re going to be seeing more of e-power: similar technology is being used on next year’s all-new Nissan Qashqai.
But is an e-power car a real EV? We're saying yes, because it’s only ever electric power that drives the wheels. But it’s not technically an EV, because it doesn’t have a plug. The e-Note’s eco-contribution comes from exceptionally efficient use of that petrol engine, which isn’t under huge load and runs at a constant speed to charge the battery.
Probably the rarest of our cars here, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV was a groundbreaking BEV a decade ago. If you think it looks familiar, you’re right: it’s based on the i-Car, but out goes the tiny rear-mounted petrol engine and in comes a fully electric plug-in powertrain.
It’s a tiny car with a tiny range. It was originally rated for 160km on a full charge in Japan, but real-world driving is more like 100-120km.
You might also see used-import versions of this car badged as the Peugeot iOn or Citroen C-Zero.
Nissan’s NV-series van has been produced since 2009 for a remarkably diverse range of uses – everything from conventional commercial load-carrier to official New York City Taxi.
The BEV version, the e-NV200, was launched in 2014 and is remarkably popular as used import in NZ, possibly because it runs on well-proven technology: the powertrain is straight from the Nissan Leaf.
Oh, okay then: you actually can’t ignore the Nissan Leaf if you’re buying a $30k BEV. Or least you owe it to yourself to take a look, because there are just so many to choose from (400 under $30k on DRIVEN.co.nz at the time of writing).
This price point puts you right in the thick of good-quality examples. If nothing else, Leaf provides a good benchmark to judge other BEVs by.