IT’S NOT that long since there weren’t five electric cars to choose from – and certainly not five genuinely decent models worth investing your own hard-earned cash. If your idea of and electric car is still a Reva G-Whiz, you need to drive some of the latest examples of the breed to see just how good a modern volt-wagen can be.
Tesla Model S
You don’t have to drive the Tesla Model S very far or for very long for your preconceptions about luxury motoring to be completely rewritten. The car’s jaw-dropping exterior design, its rule-changing packaging and its seven-seat practicality all separate it from rivals such as the Audi A8 or Mercedes S-Class.
Then there’s the performance; opt for the latest four-wheel drive Model S, in Dual Motor Performance D guise, and you’ll get hypercar-baiting pace. How does 0-62mph in 3.2 seconds grab you, along with a 155mph top speed? All in virtually complete silence. The ride may be below par, but other than that it’s hard to fault the Model S.
How has a company that didn’t exist a decade ago produced something that trumps anything to come out of the big luxury car makers? We don’t know, but if the Tesla Model S availability accelerates the development of clones from Mercedes and its rivals, the future is looking extremely bright indeed.
- Model Tesla Model S P85 D
- Price £79,900
- Range 305 miles
- Top speed 155mph
- Acceleration 0-62mph in 3.2sec
BMW doesn’t have a reputation for doing things by halves. When the company decides to do something, it chucks away the goalposts altogether if necessary, rather than merely rearranging them. So when BMW created the i3 from scratch, it sketched out the perfect no-holds barred electric car, then created it.
By building the i3 around a carbon-fibre monocoque, BMW maintained strength and stiffness while slashing weight. The battery pack sits low down in the centre of the car to provide perfect balance with a low centre of gravity. The result is a vehicle that’s good to drive on urban streets – but not up to usual BMW standards, sadly.
- Model BMW i3 electric
- Price £25,980
- Range 80-112 miles
- Top speed 93mph
- Acceleration 0-62mph in 7.2sec
As many of Nissan’s rivals have discovered, when you electrify a conventional car you’re allowing compromise from the outset. But Nissan didn’t do that when it created the Leaf. Instead it developed a car that from the start would be powered solely by batteries. And it shows.
Superbly built and genuinely good to drive, the Leaf was given a makeover in 2014 so it’s better than ever. Now offered in three grades, one of the biggest changes was an option to lease the batteries rather than buy them, which slashes the purchase cost by five grand, to just £15,995. Plus at least £70 per month to rent the batteries though.
- Model Nissan Leaf Tekna
- Price £25,590
- Range 124 miles
- Top speed 87mph
- Acceleration 0-62mph in 11.5sec
The problem with electric cars is that they tend to be expensive, but Renault has made them more affordable than anybody else with cars like the Zoe. One of the reasons for the lower cost is that you don’t have to buy the battery pack when you buy the car, as you can lease it instead. This knocks a handy five grand off the asking price, which represents a 25 per cent cut in your up-front costs.
As a result you’ll have to pay a monthly fee of anywhere between £45 and £103 depending on how many miles you do each year and whether the lease is for two years or three. Don’t let that put you off though because the Zoe is a really impressive car. For less than 14 grand you can have something that was developed from the outset purely as an electric car, and while the Zoe is good value, it doesn’t feel cheap.
- Model Renault Zoe Expression
- Price £13,445 (+£70/month battery leasing)
- Range 130 miles
- Top speed 84mph
- Acceleration 0-62mph in 13.5sec
The e-Up is a great example of how buying an electric car might not make sense financially. You could have a decent-spec Up for less than £10k, or you could spend double this for a car that’s more compromised in terms of packaging and range, because it was developed first and foremost as a petrol-powered car.
But if you can live with those compromises, the e-Up makes great urban transport. It drives well, it’s comfortable and it can swallow more than you’d think considering its diminutive proportions. But unless you can scoop a load of concessions such as zero congestion charge and maybe some free parking you’re probably better off with a regular petrol-powered Up.
- Model Volkswagen e-Up
- Price £19,795
- Range 75-103 miles (summer), 50-75 miles (winter)
- Top speed 81mph
- Acceleration 0-62mph in 12.4sec
Driving Green contents
Introduction to green driving
- What is a “green” car?
- What does Euro 6 mean when it comes to emissions?
- Why have green cars been developed?
- Nine tips for eco-driving
Choosing a green car
- What are hybrid cars?
- What are plug-in hybrid (PHEV) cars?
- What are extended-range electric vehicles (E-REVs)?
- What are hydrogen fuel cell vehicles?
- Are pure-electric cars suitable?
- Whatever happened to LPG (liquid petroleum gas)?
- What are biofuels?
Green car buying guides
Financial, environmental and practical implications of green motoring
- Electric car UK public charging point maps
- The truth about real-world mpg and fuel costs
- How much is VED (road tax) for green cars?
- Are electric cars expensive to insure?