Almost one in five cars sold by 2025 will be battery powered – have you plugged into the electric revolution? Jeremy Taylor investigates…
The Best Electric Cars 2018
The rise and rise of the electric car market is going to change the way we get from A to B forever. Electric cars are lean, green and soon to be seen in every town and village across the country. Manufacturers around the world are locked in a race to build the most economical vehicle for every type of buyer. SUVs and urban runabouts top the list but even luxury saloons and sports cars are included in the electric revolution.
Ignore the charge towards electric cars at your peril – opting for a diesel right now could seriously hit you in the purse. Their demise has been accelerated thanks to the Volkswagen emissions scandal known as ‘dieselgate’. Porsche has already stopped making diesels. Volvo, Toyota, Fiat and most other manufacturers will soon follow suit. Britain will officially ban the sale of all petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040.
New electric models are set to flood the market in 2018, with Nissan, Ford, BMW, Renault and Volkswagen leading the charge. You can read our thoughts on some of the best to the right but if it sounds like the future has finally arrived on the driveway, it’s worth remembering this isn’t the first time motorists have been magnetised by the power of electricity.
A century ago, the first electric vehicles were essentially horseless carriages that didn’t require the driver to struggle with awkward gearsticks. Easy to operate, manufacturers blatantly targeted women customers who wouldn’t have to worry about the mechanics of a steam or motor car.
Pope Manufacturing Company’s Christmas advert of 1904 proudly proclaimed: ‘There is absolutely nothing that you can give her for Christmas that will afford as much happiness, convenience, luxury and social prestige as a Pope Waverley Electric. Absolutely noiseless and odourless – they glide as smoothly and silently as the flight of a bird.’
Among the early pioneers in Britain was Consuelo Vanderbilt, an American heiress who put the celebrity into society weddings. In 1895, she married Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill, the ninth Duke of Marlborough and the most eligible peer in the country.
After moving in to Blenheim Palace, the new Duchess wasted no time in investing in a Columbia Phaeton electric carriage to explore the 12,000-acre Oxfordshire estate. Built in America by Pope, the two-seater cost $1,500 and would travel at about 15mph. It had an impressive range of 75 miles on one charge.
It is said the Duchess bought the EV not because of the environmental bene ts but because she didn’t like the noise of an engine. When the couple separated in 1906, the Phaeton disappeared and its whereabouts is now unknown.
Today, the wheel has turned full circle as electric charging points are being installed at one entrance to Blenheim, with more planned in the main car park. Dominic Hare, CEO at the estate, explained: ‘We are considering a variety of electric options that aid the environment, including an electric car share scheme with people in neighbouring Woodstock.’
No doubt Consuelo would have approved. Here’s a guide to the best electric cars currently on the market…
1. Tesla Model X 100D
Space man Elon Musk’s funky family-mover boasts more luggage space than a Range Rover, will outpace a Porsche and features a thoroughly entertaining party piece. The list of features also includes four-wheel drive, optional seven seats (£2,800 extra) for the school run, and a cool interior to make your children the talk of the playground. Model X is at the cutting edge of battery technology – even though it’s undeniably expensive compared to a ‘normal’ car. The party piece? Tap into ‘Celebration Mode’ and the Model X puts on a display of light flashing, door opening madness to music. You have to admire a man who can build a car with a sense of humour…
Engine: Plug-in 100 kWh
0-62mph: 4.9 seconds
Max range: 351 miles
2. BMW i3 Auto (with Range Extender)
Range anxiety – it’s every EV owner’s nightmare. I got used to it but there ’s always a calculation going on in my head comparing the distance to destination with miles left in the battery. The funky i3 it comes with the option of the Range Extender, a tiny, two-cylinder petrol engine that offers an extra 40-50 miles to get you home. Brilliant. If that sounds like cheating then save the extra £3,000 and go completely green because the latest 2018 model has plenty of power from the batteries alone. The i3 isn’t that big but it’s the best small, premium electric vehicle you can buy. It looks great and drives even better.
Engine: 647cc petrol and
33 kWh motor
0-62mph: 7.3 seconds
Max range: 186 miles
3. Nissan Leaf Tekna
Some manufacturers are racing to bring out their first all-electric car. This is already the second-generation Leaf and it’s officially the world’s bestselling EV with 300,000 sales. Leaf has all the range most people will need for their daily commute, is relatively affordable to buy and comes absolutely loaded with standard equipment. However, not everybody will like the styling, and regular motorway drivers covering hundreds of miles should look elsewhere. I also found the seats strangely uncomfortable, whatever way I adjusted them, but I found it hard not to like the Leaf because it has been designed for first-time EV owners. Everything from the bonnet ap plug-in ports to the chic interior appeals.
Engine: Plug-in 40 kWh
0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
Max range: 168 miles
4. Range Rover PHEV Vogue SE
Land Rover has offered a hybrid before but never a plug-in. This one has a tiny – by Range Rover standards – 2.0-litre petrol engine and a small electric motor. Remarkably, combine the two and this model performs as well as the diesel equivalent. Inside, it has the latest Land Rover double- screen dash, which disposes of a rash of buttons but will require use of the manual. After a few hours, I found it all pretty straightforward. Off-road it’s still an unbeatable Range Rover. And in EV mode you can creep through the trees without any noise at all…
Engine: 13.1 kWh motor/ 2.0 petrol
0-62mph: 6.8 seconds
Max range: 31 miles battery only
5. VW E-Golf BEV
Understated, classy, Volkswagen’s all-electric Golf is just what you would expect it to be. Not as well-equipped as the Leaf, or as conspicuous as the BMW, the VW is a tried and trusted ve-seater that has been around for decades. In fact, VW has deliberately kept the car as Golf-like as possible, with a familiar interior that won’t frighten away newbies to EVs. Quality of finish, practicality and space are exceptional. It’s not as zippy around town as the i3 but the ambience is a cut above the Nissan. On a country lane, it handles with Golf sure-footedness.
Engine: Plug-in 24.2 kWh
0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
Max range: 186 miles
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