Recharge With An Electric Car

Posted on: 19 December 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

We profile the electric car market to see what options are available to new hybrid drivers.

The electric car industry is burgeoning, thanks in part to the parking and congestion charge exemptions greener cars sometimes enjoy in London.

Here, we look at some of the electric cars and quadricycles driving this growing market.

Electric Cars

The fully electric car, long a dream of environmentalists, has been experiencing some limited success recently.

Favourable parking and congestion charge rules in London have led to huge sales increases in and around the capital, and the electric car industry is burgeoning.

Strictly speaking, though, many of these models are not officially classed as cars, but as quadricycles. This means they have to weigh less than 400kg (without batteries – and, often, they double the overall weight of the cars) and produce less than 20bhp.

As such, the cars are primarily for urban transport, and are nowhere near as flexible as even the cheapest Citroën C1 city car.

They also do not have to be crash-tested, or meet the same legislative standards as conventional cars. This means airbags, anti-lock brakes and stability control systems are rarely fitted.

London is developing a recharging infrastructure, with recharge points located around the city. Ideally, this will expand to all major cities, which will help to overcome worries about the short range of electric cars.

Around 50 miles is the claim for many models, although improvements in battery technology – including the adoption of lithium-ion units – will improve this.

These are some of the key players in this growing market.

Tesla

The Tesla Roadster - photo at the top of the page - the world’s first electric sports car, was built and developed in association with Lotus. The lightweight model is claimed to be a genuine sports car, as exciting and enjoyable to drive as a Ferrari.

Its lithium-ion battery technology is state of the art, and gives the car a 125mph top speed, a 0-60mph time of less than four seconds and a 200-mile range.

The only stumbling block is price: it’s on sale now for £92,000.

Smart

SMART-ELECTRICTrials of electric-powered Smart cars (with the police, among others) are under way in London. The prototype car has a range of 70 miles and a top speed of 60mph. It produces 40bhp and accelerates from 0-30mph in 6.5 seconds.

Currently, the Smart ed is offered to corporate customers on a lease basis for around £400 a month. British company Zytek developed the electrical system and converts the models at its base in Lichfield.

The process has been designed to be fast and simple enough to allow conversions on the car’s production line. However, Smart has yet to commit to full-scale production, and will analyse the findings from the four-year trial carefully.

Think

THINK-CARNorwegian company Think was an electric-car pioneer. It sold the two-seat City model years ago, but sales were poor.

However, now that there is some interest in electric cars, Think will be back from 2009 with a redesigned City. This is a supermini-sized electric car with a claimed 125-mile range, a 62mph top speed and the possible availability of higher-capacity lithium-ion batteries.

It is as heavy as a supermini, so is classed as a car, not a quadricycle, and Think is aiming for a four-star Euro NCAP crash-test result from the car, which is set to cost around £16,000.

NICE

NICE-CARThe most ambitious of electric car retailers, NICE (No Internal Combustion Engine) sells an array of electric motors. The Mega City is a French two-seater (with a 2+2 option), that is capable of 40mph and has a 60-mile range.

The MyCar is a smaller two-seater, closer in concept (and size) to a Smart ForTwo. It has similar performance to the Mega, and costs £8,995. NICE also sells Britain’s first electric people carrier, the £13,995 Ze-O.

This is a rare five-seat electric car, which has five doors and a 55mph top speed. However, its range is restricted to just 40 miles.

G-Wiz

GWIZLondoners have already made the Californian-designed, Indian-built G-Wiz electric car very popular. The latest two-seat G-Wiz i – the third generation of the car – remains a rather odd-looking beast, but it does have the attractions of a 50-mile range and a 50mph top speed.

The company also claims it is 60% faster from 0-30mph than key rivals. The 2008 model has been independently crash-tested at 40mph and now incorporates a series of safety measures that were developed in conjunction with Lotus Engineering.

Claimed running costs for the car are 1p per mile, and prices start at £8,895.

With plenty of electrical cars hitting the global markets in the next six months, would you consider selling your diesel or petrol motor for a hybrid vehicle?

Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below. 

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