Best used electric cars to buy in 2020

Best used electric cars to buy in 2020
Renault ZOE, BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-up (photo by AMS, Hans-Dieter Seufert)

Choosing an electric car is always an exercise that requires compromises. You either prioritize range or prioritize affordability, unfortunately you can’t have both.

People that want a good balance between price and range often buy used electric cars to save money and get the best value for the money.

However, now in 2020 new electric cars with decent real-world range (above 200 km) that aren’t extremely expensive start to become available. The VW electric triplets UpMiiGo with a WLTP range of 260 km and a price below 20.000 euros (after subsidies) have a good price-range ratio and in the long run we can actually save money with them.

The question is: can we still get a better deal with an used electric car?

To answer this the most important thing to know is how good is the battery.

We can use tools like an OBD2 scanner with a computer or smartphone to know the current SoH (State-of-Health) of a battery, but this software calculated parameter isn’t 100 % reliable. It’s also important to know how good are the cells and the battery pack that contains them to predict its aging process.

 

Life cycle and cycle life are different things

While most of the times when analyzing a battery cell I write about its cycle life, where we can see how much charge/discharge cycles affect battery capacity retention, this is just one factor that affects the life cycle (aging) of a battery.

The life cycle of batteries is affected not only by charge/discharge cycles, but also by other factors such as time and temperature. Batteries are like people, they work best with moderate exercise (cycles) at moderate pace (C-rates) and moderate temperatures (around 25ยบ C), nonetheless even with great care in the end time still kills people and batteries.

If treated right you can expect 15 years of service for a modern Li-ion battery, some high quality batteries like Samsung SDI can even last 30 years. Samsung SDI is slow/cautious to adopt new battery technologies, but in my book since the launch of the NCM 94 Ah battery cells this Korean battery cell maker developed the best cells we can find in a mass-produced electric car. When Samsung SDI adopts a new battery technology, we know it’s mature. By the way, Samsung SDI will start producing NCM 811 battery cells next year…

Anyway, most EV batteries have a decent 8-year or 160.000 km (100.000 miles) warranty. This is true for all electric cars in this list.

 

Moving on…

First let’s see what we get with the VW electric triplets, to then compare it with some used electric cars.

 

New Volkswagen e-up, SEAT Mii Electric and Skoda CITIGOe iV

SEAT Mii electric

 

  • Year: 2020
  • Starting price: around 17.000 euros (after subsidies which vary from country to country)
  • Seats: 4
  • Motor: 61 kW
  • On-board charger: 7,2 kW
  • DC fast charging: 80 % in 60 minutes
  • WLTP range: 260 km
  • Total battery capacity: 36,8 kWh
  • Usable battery capacity: 32,3 kWh
  • Battery weight: 248 kg
  • Battery energy density: 148 Wh/kg
  • Battery cells: 168 (84s2p)
  • Battery chemistry: NCM 622
  • Battery manufacturer: LG Chem
  • Battery TMS: passive air cooling
  • Battery warranty: 8-year or 160.000 km (100.000 miles)
  • Battery life cycle: โ˜…โ˜…โ˜… 3/5

 

Pros:

  • Extremely efficient to use in the city at low/medium speeds.
  • Simple and reliable.

Cons:

  • Poor DC fast charging rates prevent it from being practical for longer journeys.
  • No active TMS (Thermal Management System) to prevent excessive battery aging from high temperatures.
  • Only 4 seats.

 

The good news is that with the smartphone App you can limit the charging SOC (State-of-Charge) to less than 100 % to maximize battery life. I strongly recommend it.

 

 

Now let’s see the used alternatives…

 

Used BMW i3 (94 Ah battery)

BMW i3 charging

 

  • Year: 2016-2018
  • Starting price: 18.900 euros
  • Seats: 4
  • Motor: 125 kW
  • On-board charger: 7,4 kW
  • DC fast charging: 80 % in 30 minutes
  • WLTP range: 245 km
  • Total battery capacity: 33,77 kWh
  • Usable battery capacity: 27,2 kWh
  • Battery weight: 256 kg
  • Battery energy density: 132 Wh/kg
  • Battery cells: 96 (96s1p)
  • Battery chemistry: NCM 333 (also known as NCM 111)
  • Battery manufacturer: Samsung SDI
  • Battery TMS: active liquid cooling
  • Battery warranty: 8-year or 160.000 km (100.000 miles)
  • Battery life cycle: โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜… 5/5

 

Pros:

  • Great DC fast charging rates.
  • Great battery that will probably outlast the rest of the car.
  • Powerful motor with good acceleration.
  • Good interior.

Cons:

  • The rear โ€œsuicideโ€ doors can’t be opened unless you first open the front door. Some might love it, some might hate it.
  • Only 4 seats.

 

The BMW i3 is a premium urban electric car, if you only need 4 seats and don’t mind the “suicide” doors, it’s a great choice.

 

Used Renault ZOE R90 (ZE 40 battery)

Renault Zoe charging

 

  • Year: 2016-2019
  • Starting price: 10.900 euros (battery rental) or 17.500 euros (battery included)
  • Seats: 5
  • Motor: 68 kW
  • On-board charger: 22 kW
  • DC fast charging: not available
  • WLTP range: 317 km
  • Total battery capacity: 44,1 kWh
  • Usable battery capacity: 41 kWh
  • Battery weight: 305 kg
  • Battery energy density: 145 Wh/kg
  • Battery cells: 192 (96s2p)
  • Battery chemistry: NCM 622
  • Battery manufacturer: LG Chem
  • Battery TMS: active air cooling
  • Battery warranty: 8-year or 160.000 km (100.000 miles)
  • Battery life cycle: โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜… 4/5

 

Pros:

  • Good range.
  • Great on-board charger that enables 22 kW charging at pretty common public EVSEs.
  • Good battery that will probably outlast the rest of the car.
  • Unlike the other electric cars mentioned, this one has 5 seats.

Cons:

  • Powertrain can be problematic.
  • Not having DC fast charging capability.
  • Rear seat can only be folded in one big piece, which isn’t very practical.
  • Interior is not as good as it’s in the new generation.

 

In the old days the Renault ZOE wasn’t regarded as a very reliable electric car. Most of its bad reputation came from the old Q210 and Q90 powertrains made by Continental. However, while the R240, R90, R110 and R135 powertrains made by Renault are much more reliable and efficient, they can still be problematic. Renault really needs to fix this problem for good.

If you can avoid the cheapest Life variant and look for the more popular Intens and Zen variants.

Also important is that in Europe there are a lot of public 22 kW EVSEs (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) that are free to use. The Renault ZOE with its good range and fast 22 kW on-board charger is the best electric car to make the best use of them and save the most money possible. However, if you do really want to save money in the long run avoid the battery lease.

 

Summing up.

  • If you want to buy new and want an electric car with good price-range ratio go for the UpMiiGo triplets.
  • If you want to regularly use DC fast chargers and enjoy a powerful motor go for an used BMW i3 (94 Ah battery).
  • If you plan to use free 22 kW public EVSEs and want to save as much money as possible go for an used Renault ZOE R90 with battery included.

 

People often buy used cars to save money and for this reason, in my opinion the used electric car that offers the best value for money is the Renault R90 with the ZE 40 battery. You can save a lot of money with this electric car.

However, remember that if you buy an electric car from 2016 in 2020, half of its 8-year battery warranty is already gone. This makes it even more important to know what to expect of its battery. If you care about battery quality you can’t go wrong with either the Renault ZOE R90 (ZE 40 battery) or the BMW i3 (94 Ah battery).

 

Which electric car do you think has the best value for money?

32 Comments
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carlos
5 months ago

The 28 kWh Hyundai Ioniq is becoming available for about โ‚ฌ 17.000. It’s in my opinion one of the best options for a used EV for several reasons:
– it’s very efficient
– well spec’ed, even the cheapest version
– it has really fast DC charging: 10-80% in 25 minutes at a 100 kW charger
– it is quite spacious
– the battery seems to be indestructible

cons:
– only 28 kWh battery which translates to 200 km range on motorways at reasonable speeds
– no liquid cooling, so maybe not ideal for very hot climates

5 months ago
Reply to  carlos

Indeed, the old generation Hyundai IONIQ Electric is a great choice. I didn’t mention it because it’s very hard to find one and because of it prices tend to be high. If it was more common it would be on the list. I may add it later.

carlos
5 months ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

On AutoScout they are becoming available at the prices I mentioned. They’re easier to come by than say a Kona although of course there’s more Zoes or Leafs

Buutvrij
5 months ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

I’m also looking for an 28 Kwh Ioniq, but the fact that it does not have liquid cooling battery and that the previous owner most likely did not ‘care’ (80%-20% SoC) for the battery is holding me back somewhat. I live in Netherlands so moderate climate. Do you/can you still recommend Ioniq with sub 80k km used? By the way: Great site and great articles. All the info and insights you won’t find in regular car press!
Greetings

5 months ago
Reply to  Buutvrij

Thanks Buutvrij.

Honestly I can’t give you a straight answer. I’ve seen the datasheet of the LG Chem E63 cells used by the Renault ZOE R90 and the datasheet of 94 Ah Samsung SDI cells used in the BMW i3, but never seen that information about the LG Chem cells used in the Hyundai IONIQ Electric. I don’t know how good they are.

The good news is that drivers of this electric car seem happy with the battery, the bad news is that if you use an OBD2 scanner to extract the SOH you always get a perfect 100 %, which isn’t a real value, therefore is useless. Check the topic below.

https://www.ioniqforum.com/threads/battery-degradation.5529/

Buutvrij
5 months ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

thanks for info and link. Appreciate it!

carlos
5 months ago
Reply to  Buutvrij

In the Netherlands with its temperate climate I wouldn’t worry about the battery. Moreover, you get a 7 year warranty if I’m not mistaken. If the range were sufficient for me, I’d get a second hand sub 80k Ioniq in a heartbeat, and I live in the south of Spain.

Buutvrij
5 months ago
Reply to  carlos

Thank you. I’ll take that in consideration.

Dante
5 months ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

So my Citigo iV has the same LG Chem LGY E63B cells described on https://pushevs.com/2019/02/10/renault-zoe-ze-40-full-battery-specs/ ?

5 months ago
Reply to  Dante

No, it’s the same as Audi e-tron (60 Ah cells).

Alnair
5 months ago

Regarding the Zoe ZE40, R90 motor still had manufacturing issues. I needed a motor replacement at 25.000 km (under warranty).

Lars
5 months ago
Reply to  Alnair

I had the same problem at about a year old and about 10.000 km. I would recommend a R110, they seem to be better.

5 months ago
Reply to  Lars

That sucks, Renault really needs to solve this problem for good.

Xurde
5 months ago

Acabo de comprar un Zoe 40 de finales de 2018 con 12.000km procedente de concesionario por 18.000โ‚ฌ…encantado con el muy buena autรณnomia lo cargo en casa con un cargador shuko que puedo escoger la carga desde 8 hasta 16 amperios por la noche aprovechando la tarifa valle de 10pm a 12am con el kw a 0.07โ‚ฌ..la instalaciรณn exclusiva para el Zoe la he hecho yo muy fรกcil….ahorro de gasolina total… Muy contento con la compra

Gustaf
5 months ago

What do you think of the i3 Rex edition?

5 months ago
Reply to  Gustaf

The battery is the same, but having an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) adds extra complexity, more things that can go wrong. Most problems I saw about the BMW i3 in forums were related to the REx unit.

Gustaf Ernst
5 months ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

Thank you for your answer! I have been thinking the same and would prefer a car without an exhaust pipe (mainly for environmental issues). But the price for REX models are down so I have become curious since it will add to the range thus a smaller battery is needed. However – what about fast charging, is it also the same between REX and not REX?

5 months ago
Reply to  Gustaf Ernst

Yes, fast charging is the same. But since the BMW i3 REx is heavier, you get more electric range with the BEV version.

You get an idea of possible problems you might get in the forum below.

https://www.mybmwi3.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=15

Tom Houlden
5 months ago
Reply to  Gustaf Ernst

Unless you need longer range on a regular basis, please consider renting for those occasions.

MNMN
4 months ago
Reply to  Gustaf Ernst

The REX version does not have heatpump in the climate system.
And you have to triple-check the car, based on the VIN number, to see, if that specific car has the DC fast charging option, or not. There are a lot of REXs in Germany, with only AC charging plug.
Some more cons: the rear tyre is different to the front in diameter…
And you have to visit a BMW shop based on the working hours of the REX, and have the oil+etc. changed. (which costs quite a lot, beacuse it’s a BMW shop…)

Gustaf
4 months ago
Reply to  MNMN

Yeah – I have come to my senses now and I am no longer considering the REX model ๐Ÿ˜‰
The car I want most is the model 3 but perhaps it is out of reach..

Tom Houlden
5 months ago

Thanks Pedro for another set of great articles! Please see the request in my final sentence below, meanwhile:

“an OBD2 scanner…isnโ€™t 100 % reliable.” Unfortunately very true, in fact on a Fiat 500e it’s nearly 100% UN-reliable, often even giving readings that IMPROVE over time & mileage!

I still rhink it’s the used EV deal of the century so far, at $6,000 US (โ‚ฌ5.500!) & real-world 100-mile (160km) city-speed range, because:

Range loss reports with sufficient detail to be believed (for example headwinds &/or avg speed history) are virtually nonexistent, even though Pedro has said that its older Samsung SDI isn’t all that great, so I would love to see any data for it, like chemistry & cycle life specs.

5 months ago
Reply to  Tom Houlden

Thanks Tom.

BMW i3 and Fiat 500e had different battery cells, how much different they are I don’t know for sure. We need some detective work in here…

For example Fiat 500e’s Operation and Diagnosis manual mentions 97 Samsung SDI 63 Ah cells. We get: 97 x 63 Ah x 3,75 V = 22,9 kWh

https://pushevs.com/2017/03/06/future-holds-fiat-500e/#comment-2203
comment image

I assume that the 60 Ah cells (BMW i3) and the 63 Ah cells (Fiat 500e) both have LMO/NCM hybrid cathodes, which were common back then, just like the GS Yuasa LEV50 and LEV50N battery cells in the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

https://pushevs.com/2015/11/04/gs-yuasas-improved-cells-lev50-vs-lev50n/

Just like the LEV50 and LEV50N, a different electrolyte could mean that the Samsung SDI 63 Ah version is longer lasting than the 60 Ah.

Here you have battery capacity tests of two 2014 BMW i3 (BEV and REx).

https://avt.inl.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/fsev/batteryi35626.pdf

https://avt.inl.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/phev/batteryi4162.pdf

Tom Houlden
4 months ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

THANKS PEDRO! (for the BMW tests).ย  I’d seen the rest before, but just now got around to reading the BMW tests, & I have a few comments & 1 question: ย ย 

Of the few i3 drivers I’ve polled at public chargers, 2 have been able to measure significant range loss, yet of the MANY Fiat drivers I’ve polled NONE has.ย  My Fiat also has too little range loss to even measure, after the same 24k miles as the tested REX that had 7% loss which I’m pretty sure I’d be able to notice. Unlike the active (A/C chilled) WATER cooling of the Fiat, apparently the BMW has a “secret, proprietary refrigerant cooled” system which I would bet doesn’t work quite as well, &/or your comment is spot-on about its 60Ah being less robust than the Fiat’s 63Ah (which might even rival the newer 68Ah’s 6,000 cycles before 20% loss shown in your other link).ย  Also note in the test, with the same size battery, after 12k miles the lighter non-REX lost MORE than the heavier REX which inflicts more current for the same acceleration/regen.ย  This indicates they weren’t limited to a set standard of damagingly high current & DOD & temp. ย  ย ย 

Question: Any idea why Charge & Discharge Power Capability would INCREASE over time/mileage?

p-run
4 months ago

And what about 40 kWh Nissan Leaf? Prices are higher but car is also bigger than let say Zoe.. AFAIK Leafs are very reliable, so question is , is battery degradation such a big problem?

4 months ago
Reply to  p-run

Yes it is. We cannot say that electric cars are good for the environment if their batteries need premature replacement due to excessive aging. Nissan should follow Volkswagen’s example and release an App to set variable charging limits (70-80 % would be great), it’s the easiest solution to minimize this problem of excessive battery degradation for electric cars, especially those without TMS.

If Nissan eventually does launch this feature, I’ll then add the LEAF to the recommended used electric cars list.

https://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?t=25350

p-run
4 months ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

Thanks for reply. Its a shame, every EV should have this feature…

4 months ago
Reply to  p-run

Yes, it should. I wonder why it’s not a requirement of the European Union environmental legislation yet. It would at least double the life cycle of EV batteries.

carlos
4 months ago
Reply to  Pedro Lima

Same for smartphones / laptops etc. Users should have an option between ‘Agressive charging’ and ‘Battery conservation charging’ and get a warning message about battery life if they charge agressively frequently. But hey, manufacturers prefer you buy a new phone every 2 years. It’s actually an outrage.

Marcel
4 months ago
Reply to  carlos

Hard agree.

4 months ago
Reply to  carlos

Yes, even Apple, which is a company that loves planned obsolescence, recently introduced in the iOS 13 the ability to stop charging at 80 %.

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT210512

I also don’t understand why disposable batteries are still used in many electronics such as remote controls. Especially now that we have great rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in every format imaginable.

bananapeal
1 month ago

if you like i3, why also not mercedes b250e? it is made with tesla inside. also previous short range kia soul ev can come well equipped.