What's the best electric vehicle for efficiency? | Top Gear
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
The Latest US News & Reviews
USA News
Monday 4th December
Top Gear Advice

What's the best electric vehicle for efficiency?

The most efficient EV on the market might surprise you, if there wasn’t a big picture of it right here

Published: 30 Mar 2023

It seems strange that the focus for creators of electric vehicles so far has really focused on making them larger and heavier. If we were conspiracy minded – which we aren’t, of course, what is this, the internet? – we could believe that somehow Big Pothole was in on the action, egging on carmakers to produce grotesque tarmac mashers so that they could sweep in with plum contracts to repair all the big potholes that have appeared around the place. Given that many UK roads now seem to resemble topographical maps of the Alps than the glassy smooth plains of, say, the Utah salt flats, perhaps it isn’t such a stretch of the imagination.

Mercedes got in there last year, firing off the first salvo in what we can only hope will be an efficiency war with its EQXX concept. Usually these things are pie in the sky nonsense, insanely impractical dream mobiles powered by pies or sky, but the EQXX was a practical concept, travelling from Mercedes HQ to the French riviera on a tank of electricity. That’s over 620 miles from its 100kWh battery, and we don’t have to get our calculators out to realise that the journey was achieved with a consumption of over 6.2 miles per kWh. Merc wasn’t bragging, but it made sure to point out that it wasn’t trying that hard, keeping up with traffic and getting up as high as 85mph in the spicier German bits of autobahn.

Advertisement - Page continues below

Of course, it helped that Mercedes spent a tonne of money on the EQXX, keeping its weight down with expensive materials and bespoke parts. Its 0.17Cd aero performance showed that it was slipperier through the air than a greased up slippery thing, and its fancy solar roof added range on a sunny day. It’s not even like the EQXX was that light, as it goes, weighing in at 1.8 tonnes. It wasn’t long ago when that would have been considered porky for a family car. No wonder our roads are so sad.

But the ideas behind the EQXX are still such a long way off, what’s the most efficient car on the road right now? Not to go all popular meme-based news and gossip website on you, but We Looked Up The Most Efficient EV And The Results Will Blow Your Mind. Texan scale-up car firm Tesla builds the most efficient electric vehicle on the market, and it’s not even one of the fancy ones. Go for the £43k entry level rear-wheel-drive Model 3 and you’ll get 305 miles of WLTP range from the car’s 58kWh battery. That’s decent stuff, working out the car’s mileage at a respectable 4.1mpkWh.

Tesla’s blend of minimalist design (a charitable way of describing cars designed by people who seemingly only ever cycle to work) and tech trickery has created a car that gets impressive range out of a comparatively small battery. Mercedes stuck a 100kWh unit into its efficiency concept, someone must be producing golf carts somewhere with 58kWh batteries about now.

This measured approach will have to be the future – although it’s unfortunate that Tesla’s recent approach has been to focus on making its vehicles larger and heavier (and we don’t mean the Semi truck). Maybe it has become absorbed into the automotive establishment faster than Elon feared. We need lighter cars with smaller batteries – without a government interested in providing incentives to potential electric car buyers, making cars that are genuinely significantly cheaper to run than the IC-engined alternatives is the best way to persuade them. You can get two 50kWh saloons on the road for every 100kWh SUV megabeast, it just seems like a better application of finite resources. They’re quicker to charge, too, and they’re kinder to our streets. Even if those fellows who fill in the potholes are going to end up out of business. 

Advertisement - Page continues below

Best EV for efficiency – Tesla Model 3
Range: 305 miles
Engine: 241bhp e-motor
Battery: 58kWh
Top speed: 140mph
0–62mph: 6.1secs
Boot space: 425 litres 

Top Gear

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

More from Top Gear

See more on Tesla

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

Get your first 5 issues for £5