Nice and EV does it
Although hybrids are what's being hyped and what's selling, interest in electric cars/electric vehicles/EVs continues to tick along nicely. And eerily silently.
Little wonder: they cost next to nothing to run, and can be huge fun to drive. Yes, sure, worries over battery longevity, public charging infrastructure (there are about 6,000 charging points in the UK, and it feels like most of those are in Zone 1 of the London Underground). and range remain but in our opinion are overstated.
With government grants available due to their status as zero-emissions rides, the minimal running costs and all manner of hire purchase and rental options, EVs are also much cheaper than some of the headline pricing would suggest.
These are our top 10 EVs that we've tried out to date. There's something for everyone, from Tesla's neo-supercar to some solid runabouts that give their petrol equivalents a run for their money, to what can only be described as "mad electric clown cars for eccentric early adopters".
Please note that pricing is given as a ballpark or "from…" cost.
Best for: anyone who loves driving
Unveiled as the 'world's first premium electric car' the i3 was designed as the ultimate city e-car, and duly won a T3 Award in 2014.
As well as a powerful electric motor that produces 170bhp - giving the i3 an impressive 0-62mph of 7.2 secs - there's a state of the art interior featuring dual colour screens.
The interior features a specially built version of BMW's ConnectedDrive system which features two displays, one behind the wheel and another mounted in the middle of the dashboard. Outside of the car there's the new BMW i Remote iPhone and Android app which, when connected to the car will let you check battery levels and change the climate control to allow defrosting before you leave the house.
The main thing to say about the i3, however, is that it's just amazing fun to whizz around in. It really feels like the future. And for those still worried about range, there's also a hybrid 'Range Extender' remix of the i3.
Price: from £25,680 | BMW
Range 120 miles 0-60 7.2 secs
VW's iconic Golf is Marks and Sparks on wheels, defining middle-market motoring with an aspirational twist.
But now there's this pure-electric effort and optional extras like robo-parking and radar-controlled cruise. It's a bit like pulling on a pair of M&S pants and finding a touchscreen sown into the gusset. Ahem. And like the i3, it may be economical and a very sensible way of getting around town, it definitely doesn't feel worthy or dull.
Another EV that's challenged our reservations about EVs, in short.
Price: £25,000 | Volkswagen
Range 118 miles 0-60 10.4 seconds
Tesla Model S P90D
Best for: Supercar-shaming
It's very difficult to talk about a Tesla in conventional car terms because the Californian company refuses to do anything by the book. Take the face-melting P90D for example. It looks just like any other Model S but the dual-motor technology and advanced battery gubbins sees it out-run many supercars.
The fiery P90D is based on the P85D, which in turn is based on the marque's standard Dual-Motor model but adds a dollop of performance (that's the 'P' bit) for extra spice. The suffixed numerals equate to the output of the lithium ion batteries (85kWh in this case), so it doesn't take a mathematician to dissect the P90D moniker.
Basically, it's an utterly bonkers software download that adds a button on the infotainment screen that's labelled 'Ludicrous Mode'. This unleashes maximum attack and enables the sleek saloon to hit 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds. Plus, when you've finished driving anywhere like a highly flammable maniac, it still eeks out 300-miles of overall range. Is it the most impressive electric car currently on sale? Without a doubt.
Price £85,700 | Tesla
Range 300 miles 0-60 2.8 secs
Renault ZOE Dynamique Nav
Best for: eco-friendly types on a budget
Renault's brilliantly affordable EV now comes in a distinctly darker flavour, namely a jet-black Dynamique Nav model with a load of interior extras that make it an ace place to while away the hours.
The batteries and motors remain the same, meaning a range of around 100 miles of mixed driving but the new trim level can be specified with a Chameleon rapid charger that can brim the batteries in around 30-minutes from the correct outlet.
Additional interior niceties include a choon-blasting 3D digital sound system by Arkamys, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera to avoid unwanted supermarket prangs. A rapid charge version is also available, with a £500 higher starting price.
Price £15,045 | Renault
Range 130 miles 0-60 8.4 secs
Nissan Leaf (2015-16)
Best for: The conservative commuter
You may need to pop to Specsavers and order the strongest pair of spectacles they sell in order to spot the updates on the new Leaf but we assure you, they are there. The exterior bodywork has received a few aerodynamic flourishes, there are LED low-beam headlights and the interior gets a refresh with an Around View Monitor parking system and a new touch-screen interface.
But it is the changes underneath that make the biggest difference, namely the new 30kWh battery that now offers a range of up to 155 miles in normal climate conditions and when driven at a 'leisurely' pace.
At £19,490 (albeit with an extra monthly battery lease cost; you can also buy the car and battery outright), it remains one of the cheapest ways to own an EV and that improved battery range and reduced charging times now make it one of the easiest, too.
Price £19,490 | Nissan
Range 155 miles
Kia Soul EV
Best for: Environmentalists with a lot of kit to carry
The hybrid SUV is currently hot property, with marques like Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Porsche all jumping on the bandwagon, but few have fully committed to the all-electric soft-roader.
Kia rose to the challenge last year with the Soul EV, a funky, high-riding wagon that swaps an emissions-belching combustion engine for electric motors and battery packs. Charging the eco-friendly Kia costs around £2.80 and that money will transport you 132-miles if you're careful with the throttle and go easy on the air conditioning.
It looks good too, with a number of bespoke EV features that make it stand out from the rest of the range. These include 16-inch lightweight alloy wheels with super-low rolling resistance tyres, a smooth grille for improved aerodynamic efficiency, a tweaked mapping system that highlights the nearest charging points and an electrifying blue paint job. We are so very sorry.
Price £23,695 | Kia
Range 133 miles 0-60 10.8 secs
Best for: those with small parking spaces
Don't let the diminutive package fool you, as the miniscule e-up! packs a serious amount of tech underneath its svelte body. The lightweight run-around features compact lithium ion battery packs and the latest electric motor technology, which develops 60kWh, the equivalent of 80bhp.
That may not sound like much bit it's enough to offer extremely nippy around-town driving and the instantaneous torque is perfect fro sprinting away from the lights. The maximum official range is 93-miles but the batteries can be topped up in just 30-minutes from a DC charging point.
It has been designed predominantly with city-dwellers in mind but that's not to say it lacks creature comforts for longer schleps. In fact, it can be specified with VW's latest infotainment system, LED running lights, cruise control, city emergency braking and satellite navigation. Just don't turn them all on at once, for the battery's sake.
£24,795 | Volkswagen
Range 93 miles 0-60 12.4 secs
Smart FourTwo Electric
It’s no surprise that Smart has decided to fit their eye-catching ForTwo with an electric motor; it just seems to make so much sense, given that its petrol cars have the look and feel of electric ones.
The little city runner keeps the styling of the original, but adds in a 55kw electric motor and a 16.7-kwh lithium-ion battery pack. It does look kind of ridiculous - and the coupé version is truly ludicrous - the range is not great, although Smart reckons you can push it to nearly 100m if it's warm out and you drive very carefully. Uh-huh.
It's not really as much fun as it looks either, but it's not outright terrible to drive and about the easiest thing to park that we can imagine.
Price: from £12,275 | Smart
Range 63 miles 0-60 9.8 secs
Continuing the string of rather strangely designed electric cars, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV sports an, ahem, 'eye-catching' swooped look, yet it manages to fit four doors into a compact frame. The interior is packed full of gauges, ensuring know when it’s time for a charge and there’s a variety of driving modes so you can customise your ride. A full charge takes around seven hours.
Price £28,499 | Mitsubishi
Range 99 miles 0-60 not quoted
The Twizy is actually a quadricycle. The lithium battery is stored in the spine, plus there’s a rear mounted AC motor. The lack of door and windows may put some off, as the lack of security is pretty clear. It’s pretty cheap and has a top speed of about 50mph.
Now, clearly, we wouldn't be seen dead in one. But hats off to Renault for its originality here.
Price £6,895 | Renault
Range 56 miles 0-60 Not quoted