The moment has come for electric cars. Lockdown is easing and, due to that, we’re seeing a rapid acceleration in demand for new cars – along with a determination in many a keen owner’s mind that this is a time to take a new view on life and concentrate on what really matters.
For a great number of us, that means making a well-informed and far-sighted decision about our next car. Do we stick with the same, safe, internal-combustion choices or embrace the future with an EV? We know it’s coming, so why not do it now?
EV guide part two: your questions answered | EV guide part three: how to buy a used EV
Autocar believes it’s okay to think such things. Even before Covid-19, this was always going to be a major year for EV sales. The biggest European car makers must this year begin reducing their fleet-average CO2 emissions to 95g/km, and there’s no better way of offsetting the petrol cars that most of the market will still want by selling a decent number of zero-emissions ones. One reason EVs were so hard to buy last year is that firms were using 2019 to clear their less fuel-efficient stock, knowing 2020 would be the year of the EV push. Now, suddenly, they want to sell you battery cars.
There are other prime reasons for considering the change. The supply of enticing EVs has grown from a dozen to 40-plus in short order, and there’s now a viable second-hand EV market, reassuring for those considering the change. Company car economics have moved decisively in the favour of EVs, too. Road tax is eliminated, parking costs are low, fuelling costs are slashed and London’s congestion charge and ULEZ fees don’t apply.
What used to be a speculative topic has become a serious option. Now read on as we rate every EV on sale and answer the questions surrounding them.
Note: Prices include the government grant if the car costs less than £50,000 and thus is eligible.
Runners and riders
The annoying thing about the Reva G-Wiz, and the Mahindra e2o that followed it, is that it made sense.
This tiny, ugly, Indian-made electric contraption, registered as a quadricycle to avoid lots of awkward European crash and compliance laws – even if it looks vaguely like a little hatchback – was quick to catch on in London a couple of decades ago. That was because it allowed moneyed owners who cared only about convenience to zip through the traffic in something barely bigger (and significantly uglier) than a wheelbarrow and then park all day for free in the centre of the capital – a sacred advantage.
You’d see grand-looking legal or corporate types, who had left their Bentleys in the garage, looking smug as they crawled along with the traffic in their G-Wizes, because they weren’t going to have to bother with constraints like the rest of us.
It made sense – or rather it did until you drove one. Then you knew different. Think of all the ways we judge cars: steering, driving position, accelerator response, body roll and road grip. In the G-Wiz, they were all terrible. The wheelbase was so short and the tracks so narrow that your body weight created dramatic body roll. It cornered differently through left-hand and right-hand bends. The brake pedal was always long, so you never quite knew for sure the thing was going to stop. In my brief time at the wheel, I had a closer views of the backs of red buses than I ever want to have again.
Since my day in an e2o a few years ago, I’ve often thought the car would at least be instructive for trainee road testers. I mean, if you want to know what the influence of decent shock absorbers is on ride quality or what centre feel is to steering, there’s no better way of finding out than trying a car with none of either. What the car did have was compactness, which would have been great if it wasn’t for the fact you felt so damned vulnerable.
Two things seem to have killed the e2o here: the rise of other cheap and much better EVs available on PCP deals and a rising unwillingness of drivers, even those who love beating the system, to look like such a pillock. EVs had to start somewhere in the UK, and the G-Wiz had the virtue of making everything that came after it look fantastic.