Last summer I drove a Tesla for an hour. The sudden, smooth acceleration was a revelation. It dispatched nought to 60 in about five seconds but it’s nought to 30 time was the quickest I’ve ever experienced in a the car. Apparently it was quicker to 30mph than a Ferrari Enzo. It certainly felt it.  The new four-wheel-drive Tesla can apparently reach 60 in about three seconds, similar to a Bugatti Veyron for a 10th of the price! I can’t wait to try one.

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Tesla – good looking and fast

 

Whilst the Nissan Leaf was nowhere near as quick as a Tesla it still felt very nippy up to 40mph. In urban driving the Leaf’s acceleration is probably more than adequate, certainly more than enough to embarrass a warm hatchback.

When I picked up the car it had been fully recharged and showed a maximum range of 78 miles. To drive it home to Surrey the quickest route was via the M25, a Journey of about 30 miles. I drove the car like I would any other. As such I did not have it in eco-mode and I had the climate control, wipers and headlights on. By the time I reached home the range remaining showed only 22 miles. I was not that worried as I intended to charge the car overnight but I was surprised at how quickly the battery had depleted.

The following day I found the car had not not charged at all. I thought I had made a mistake in fixing the charging cable, although everything had seemed correct at the time.  As I only had a short journey to do that day I didn’t bother trying to charge it further. However my short journey, with wipers, climate control and headlights, again drained the battery faster than I anticipated. The last couple of miles home were rather fraught as the car was showing zero mileage left on the remaining battery charge. Range anxiety became a reality.

When I tried to charge the car again that evening I found it would not take a charge. It would start charging for a short period and then would cut out. The next day I rang Nissan to see if they could help. They thought it could be a problem with the charging cable or potentially the car. They told me to ring Nissan Assist who would arrange for the RAC to come and look at the problem. The RAC, however, said they were not able to look at any problems with electric cars as they were not qualified to do so. All they could do was recover the car back to me Nissan. This they did so after only two days my test drive was over.

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So what have I learnt about electric cars?

Firstly, home charging with a three point domestic supply is not practical. You really need a fast charger and to get that in the UK you have to do battle with the incompetent British Gas if you intend to buy a Renault or Nissan. You also need offstreet parking.

Secondly, the range of current electric cars (except the Tesla) is simply not enough even for average suburban or urban driving. This is especially true when driving in winter. Even the range of a Tesla is hardly sufficient for winter driving of any more than 150 miles.

Thirdly, unlike a petrol or diesel car, if your electric car has a problem, no one will be able to fix it at the roadside. The best you will be able to hope for is being recovered to the manufacturer’s nearest garage.

On the positive side I enjoyed the smoothness, rapid power delivery, silence, lack of vibration and zero emissions of the electric motors. Once you have driven an electric car anything with a combustion engine feels like driving an antique. Electric cars are undoubtedly the future, just not yet.

I have , in the past, wondered what was the point of hybrid cars. I can now see the point. Electric cars are just not yet able to provide the worry free motoring that the public require. Maybe in the future people will look at hybrid cars as nothing more than a complex and expensive step towards electric cars, but for the time being they seem to offer the correct balance between usability and efficiency. I hope to try some hybrids soon.

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One of the peculiarities of the show was the fact that many manufacturers brought along their modern cars as well as cars from their heritage collections. Some highlights below.

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Volkswagen brought along a lot of VWs, Skodas, Seats, Audis and half a dozen Bugatti Veyrons. What an ugly car – though this colour scheme is smart.

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The same Veyron – note its a manual. Must be one of very few without flappy paddles.

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On the Audi stand there was the 2013 Le Mans winning LMP hybrid diesel – complete with French bug graveyard

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My parents had two of these VW Variants when I was growing up. Like the Beetle they were air-cooled with the engine at the back (see the cooling gills at the rear). In winter we would drive up to see my grandparents in the North of England and my brother and I would take it in turns sleeping in the boot which, being over the engine, was lovely and warm . No child seats then..

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Peugeot had this lovely 504 Coupe on their stand. Designed by Pininfarina its one of my favourite cars and very rare in the UK.

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Peugeot chose to showcase the new R version of their striking RCZ Coupe. Commencement of production of the RCZ was the sign that Peugeot had begun to get their mojo back after decades of producing rubbish. The R version looks great and is the most powerful production car ever produced by Peugeot. Sadly it will be produced in very limited numbers and sales will not helped by a £30k plus price tag.

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Citroen chose to show case their new Cactus Crossover. I think it looks great inside and out. Having been on the receiving end of far too many car park door opening dents I love the idea of the protective air pockets on the sides. They look good too. Fantastic French design. You could never imagine a German company coming up with anything like this.

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BMW had a lot of great cars on display. The CSL is a wonderful 70’s icon and one of the most beautiful coupes ever built. Especially in 70’s orange.

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M1 Sports – a real 80’s supercar

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Martini Liveried Batmobile CSL racer. Great to see that livery back in racing with Williams F1.

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Another lovely CSL in another great 70’s colour

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Z8 Sportscar – undoubtedly a great car bout now over £120,000?

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Supercar bargain – V12 850 CSi. These wonderful Ferrari baiters are very undervalued but look great, are fast and have that cracking engine. Sure fire future classic.

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The stunning new BMW i8 electric sports car. Absolutely stunning from all angles.

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The i8 is so of the future it makes most other new cars look like antiques. Can’t wait to drive one.

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