If you look back at cars on sale a century ago, alongside temperamental steam cars and fume-belching petrol cars were a variety of electric cars. 100 years later and electric cars are making a comeback.
Electric motors convert stored energy into forward motion much more effectively than traditional combustion-engined cars. They also don’t produce any tailpipe emissions meaning they’re exempt from the congestion charge and incur minimal road tax. With instantaneous torque, electric cars are ideally suited to nipping around city streets.
When judging the selection of electric cars we looked at how well they made use of their alternative power sources, how well they worked as a regular car and how many compromises they asked of the owner. We also took into consideration how green their production methods are.
Just when it seemed that the ‘car for everyone’ couldn’t gain any more universal appeal, Volkswagen released this all-electric version of the Golf. Packing a 113hp electric motor, the e-Golf accelerates to town speeds from a standstill at a rate that would be more appropriate in a hot hatch.
Its main advantage is simply that it’s a Golf, and thus requires very few compromises from the owner – it only loses 40 litres of luggage space over the regular hatch (blame the batteries) and still has plenty of room for full-grown adults. It handles like a Golf, too, meaning you get the composed ride and handling we’ve come to expect.
The darling of the electric car segment – the BMW i3, unlike the e-Golf, was designed from the ground-up to be an electric car only. This means that its carbon-composite tub has been tailored to suit the i3’s drivetrain and so offers a huge amount of interior space compared to its exterior size.
Those anxious about running out of charge in the middle of nowhere need not worry as the i3 is available with a small motorbike engine that functions as a generator when the batteries are exhausted. Inside, the i3 has a delightfully contemporary feel with sustainable materials used tastefully throughout the cabin.
Objectively, the Renault Zoe struggles to deliver the kind of faultless driving and ownership experience offered by the best electric cars. What it does do is deliver most of the thrills of electric car ownership at a fraction of the price of its rivals.
The under-floor mounting of the batteries means that, though it has been raised, the driving position doesn’t suffer – nor does legroom or boot space compared to the Clio on which it’s based. The 87hp electric motor may not be blessed with vast power, but with instant torque from rest it feels fairly brisk when driven around the city. The fact that it provides a really affordable way to get into all-electric driving could help it stand out.