Perrys picks: Top five electric cars

It’s been an incredibly important week so far in the world of electric car technology. Last week came the news that the boss of electric car wizards Tesla Motors would open up their patents to the rest of the world and a string of high-profile announcements from automakers looking to go electric has swiftly followed.

The stereotype of boxy and slow electric cars being driven by swivel-eyed hippie loons has been left far behind in the rear-view mirror. Electric cars are now hot property as mainstream manufacturers like Vauxhall, Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, Renault and Peugeot move further and further into electric territory and even Audi have announced an all-electric version of their R8 supercar.

Last Sunday, figures showed that nearly 35,000 electric vehicles are on the road in Norway, while here in Britain there are nearly 10,000 currently on our roads.

Nearly a quarter of that number were registered in this year alone, meaning that all-electric vehicles are getting increasingly popular, a trend that will no doubt continue to gather momentum in the future.

The attraction of an electric vehicle, for many, is simple. As well as the obvious benefits to the environment, an electric-powered vehicle can also benefit the amount of change in your pocket; a full charge will cost around £2 to £3 and will give a typical range of 100 miles. Compare this to an average £12 to £18 in fuel for a petrol or diesel-fuelled car, which evens out at around six times the cost of an electric, and the math practically does itself.

In addition to that, plug-in vehicles are exempt from road tax, don’t have to pay the London Congestion Charge (an instant saving of up to £2,400 a year), servicing costs are low with fewer mechanical components and for company car drivers, there’s zero benefit in kind tax.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, the British government will also offer grants to anybody buying a new electric car, for up to £5,000 off the cost of a new electric car or £8,000 off the cost of an electric van.

If that sounds like the sort of thing that would interest you, then read on to find see our hand-picked list of the top five electric cars on the market:

Renault ZOE

While the current trend amongst car manufacturers is to try an electric model or two to see how it goes, Renault have had no reservations about plunging head-first into the plug-in market. The ZOE is Renault’s fourth electric model and definitely one of its best.

It’s based on, is priced similar to, and looks quite a bit like your average Clio, but is slightly longer and taller, with a modern and minimalist look and feel. The dash is all-digital and includes displays for speed and battery range, and also includes Renault’s R-Link infotainment screen which includes SatNav, Bluetooth and a range of downloadable apps as standard.

The zero-emission electric motor has plenty of puff, with a power output of 87bhp (that’s 28 more than your standard Ford Fiesta), while engaging Eco mode will bring the power down to an energy-conserving 60bhp. The ZOE also has a surprisingly brawny 220Nm of torque, with punchy acceleration making overtaking is a breeze, and the car will do 0-62mph in just a hair over eight seconds.

However, unlike some other electric cars, the ZOE can’t be charged from a standard three-pin wall socket meaning that your charging point options can be limited. Regardless, the fitting of a wall-point charger for your home comes included in the ZOE’s standard price tag, which starts at £13,995 for the basic model.

The ZOE also has a decent 388-litre boot, 38 more than a Clio meaning that the ZOE is a better choice if you regularly carry passengers or luggage in the back, and with six airbags, five-star Euro NCAP rating and parking sensors as standard, the ZOE is reliable, safe and surprisingly nippy.

Citroen C-Zero

Like Renault, Citroen are no newcomers to the electric car trend, having produced all-electric versions of the Berlingo as early as the mid-90s.

Two decades later and the company debuted their latest electric model, the C-Zero. Powered by a 66bhp electric motor with a top speed of 80mph. The car particularly excels in sharp bursts of quick acceleration, making it perfect for slicing through the rush-hour frenzy, while the automatic gearbox and silent motor makes for a soothing experience when caught in stop-start traffic.

With a starting price of £25,486, it’s slightly more expensive than its competitors, but in return for your extra cash you get a fair amount of extra room. The tall roof gives plenty of headroom, particularly for taller drivers or passengers, and there’s more than enough storage space in the car and boot for a week’s shopping.

The few moving parts of the electric motor keep the servicing costs of the C-Zero down and Citroen claim that it can manage up to 93 miles on a single charge, which takes seven hours from a household electricity supply and costs only around £2.

Nissan Leaf

Nissan’s Leaf (www.perrys.co.uk/new-nissan-leaf) is something of a celebrity amongst electric cars; it was the first electric car in the UK to sell in significant numbers and has spawned a range of different trim levels, including the entry-level Visia, as well as the Acenta and Tekna.

The bodywork is sculpted to improved aerodynamics and efficiency and the charging point is neatly concealed under the Nissan badge at the front. Inside the car, even the basic Leaf model comes with a range of high-tech technology including readouts for speed and battery range, SatNav, a reversing camera, Bluetooth and keyless start as standard.

The Leaf also boasts an impressive 108bhp with a top speed of 89mph and a 0-62mph time of just over 11 seconds, while it stays nippy and punchy in the acceleration department with 284Nm of torque, making it the best performing car in the line-up.

In addition, the car comes with the option to lease the batteries for the duration of your ownership rather than buying them outright, which can save more money and keeps the purchase price, which is already subject to the £5,000 government grant, as low as possible.

In terms of space and practicality, the Leaf can even hold a candle to family hatchback benchmarks like the Ford Focus or VW Golf, with enough room in the back seats for three adults to sit comfortably and 370-litre boot that can carry plenty of luggage.

It takes slightly longer to charge than other electric vehicles, with the battery charging from flat to full capacity in eight hours, meaning you’ll probably want to leave it on charge overnight. Regardless, once fully charged the Leaf can manage 120 miles before needing powered-up again and can also be used at fast-charge points which are springing up more and more across the UK, giving the Leaf full charge in just half an hour.

With automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and keyless entry all fitted as standard, the Leaf makes for a highly competitive alternative to a regular petrol or diesel family hatchback. Pricing for the car starts at £26,490, which can be reduced to £21,490 if the battery is leased or a more than reasonable £16,490 once the government grant is detracted.

Peugeot iOn

The Peugeot iOn is the French carmaker’s entry into the electric city car market, which started life as a petrol model before having its engine swapped for an electric powertrain.

Compact but not cramped, the iOn has enough room for four adults on the inside, and ride quality is comfortable while its narrow dimensions and rear-wheel drive give it a handy turning circle for navigating tight city streets.

Like the Citroen, the iOn’s electric motor produces 66bhp and has 180Nm of torque, giving it enough poke to shoot ahead of traffic, while the automatic gearbox makes for smooth and pain-free shifting and the high driving position and large windscreen give excellent visibility.

Designed as an urban get-around, the iOn therefore performs less well on a motorway environment but can still hold its own, while there’s enough space in the boot and storage compartments for shopping bags.

Pricing for the iOn is £26,216, making it a bit more expensive than its rivals, but it comes well-equipped with a range of features as standard including USB connectivity, a CD stereo, electric windows, remote central locking and climate control and plenty of safety kit too, including multiple airbags and stability control.

Renault Twizy

Let’s get this straight about the Twizy right away; this isn’t the sort of car that you’ll want if you have a family, if you like to go on long-distance journeys or if you like to take part in late-night street racing. Now that’s said and done, here’s what the Twizy is good for: it’s cheap, it looks like a slice of science fiction and it offers a uniquely fun driving experience.

First unveiled in 2009 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the Twizy stole the thunder from its larger cousin, the ZOE, with its unique design that’ll turn heads quicker than any supercar could.

A two-seater car that’s strictly for short distance driving, the Twizy is powered by a 17bhp electric motor that produces 57Nm of torque and has a top speed of 50mph. It also comes with a 31-litre lockable luggage compartment that’s perfect for a briefcase or rucksack and optional scissor-doors for added drama.

The inside is also surprisingly well-equipped for a vehicle of its diminutive size, with a display screen, heated windscreen, on-board computer and buttons on the dash to operate the gear system.

The Twizy is charged via three-meter charging cable that’s compatible with standard household sockets and can be charged in just three and a half hours for a measly £1 a pop, which will give a range of around 62 miles. Coupled with a starting price for the car is just £6,795, if you want a cheap and simple method of arriving to and from work in style, the Twizy will be just your ticket.