The unexpected challenge of selecting a second electric family car

Till Follow 30 Jun 2023
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The adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is on the rise. However, families looking to acquire a second, smaller EV for short-distance tasks are often met with unexpected challenges. I encountered this personally, being on the lookout for a second smaller EV in addition to our Tesla Model Y to serve our family of four. This article discusses these issues, shedding light on the surprising absence of ideal options in the current market.


Given a set of specific requirements - compact size, affordability (less than EUR 30k would be ideal), suitability for short, local trips but still capable of longer journeys, and most importantly, safety, I embarked on a journey to identify the best contenders from a pool of available and upcoming models. The results were surprising and illustrate the gaps in the current electric vehicle market.

I looked at the following options:

Persons Real-world Range (km at 90km/h / 120km/h) WLTP Range km Charging AC kW Security Price EUR Price CHF Availability
Tesla Model 3 (cheapest version) 5 443/313 491 11 42,000 42,000 Now
Smart #1 5 400 7.4 42,000 37,500 Now
Mini electric 4 236/163 234 11 35,000 42,000 Now
Fiat 500e 4 249/170 190 11 30,000 30,000 Now
Microlino 2 91 2.6 No airbag 22,000 15,000 Now
Smart EQ fortwo 2 134 22,000 22,000 Now
Nissan Leaf 5 370/254 270 6.6 35,000 32,000 Now
Renault twingo electric 4 190 22 25,000 24,000 Now
BYD Dolphin 5 340 25,000* 25,000* (Now)
VW ID.2 5 450 25,000* 25,000* 2025
Tesla's rumored new entry level model ? ? 25,000* 25,000* 2025
  • indicates estimated prices.

Comparison of options

1. Size and Practicality

Contrary to expectations, the market for compact EVs is relatively limited. Cars like the Mini Electric and Fiat 500e fit the bill in terms of size, but their range is unsuitable for longer journeys. Even the Tesla Model 3, while spacious, isn’t ideal for navigating narrow spaces, such as tight parking lots. The Microlino and Smart Fortwo offer only two seats, which would require more compromise as a second car for most families.

2. Safety Considerations

Safety is an undeniable priority, especially for a family vehicle. Some of the smaller, affordable EV options, such as the Microlino, lack essential safety features. For instance, the Microlino does not have airbags, making it a less suitable choice for families.

3. Range and Affordability

For those seeking a balance between affordability and range, the options are surprisingly limited. Cost-effective models like the Fiat 500e and Smart fortwo, Renault Twingo, or even Microlino offer insufficient range, compromising their ability for longer trips. The Model 3 and Smart #1 offer the best WLTP range, but are in the 40k price range. (For the Smart #1 it would also be good to wait for real-world range tests.) If one is ready to spend 35-40k, our redommendation would definitely be to go with a Tesla. A Mini electric seems a really bad tradeoff at low range, slow charging, and rather high price.

The BYD Dolphin, which is now available in some European countries seems to be a gread option, but hasn’t been tested widely yet.

4. Future Models

There are also upcoming models like the VW ID.2 and the rumored cheaper Tesla model. These vehicles appear promising, but their unavailability until 2025 creates a gap for current buyers.

In conclusion, despite the growing popularity of EVs, it’s surprising to note that the search for a second, smaller electric car is challenging. The lack of compact, safe, and affordable EV options with a decent range points towards a gap in the market that manufacturers will need to address as the industry evolves.

ev   compact   family