To celebrate World EV Day, here are the top 10 most significant electric cars of all time (according to me).
How I wish we could have the i8 here, the demise of which is nothing less than a tragedy, but that’s a hybrid, so it’s the creative, surprise-and-delight i3, with its intelligent design, blue seat belts, recycled and renewable material in 80 per cent of visible surfaces and rear-hinged doors. It was a very brave, very bold city design that showcased massive commitment by BMW to electric propulsion.
For longevity alone, this practical hatchback gets a gold star. A look at its family tree since it first appeared a decade ago shows how much and how quickly the industry has developed, from a car that could barely squeeze 80 miles out of its battery and looked like a dislocated frog, to one that resembles a normal car and can cover over 200 miles in long-range version. And it’s still one of the most affordable EVs, with a great one-pedal driving solution.
Love them or loathe them, there has to be a Tesla on this list, if not for the cars, then for the supercharging network which is a total game changer for owners, and one which no competitor brand has managed to match.
So which car? Yes, the Model S was first, and the Model 3 is more relevant for more people, but it’s the Model X that has combined electric propulsion and the innovative touchscreen tech with a six-seat layout in ice-white synthetic leather that manages to be both hugely glamorous and highly (wipe-clean) practical. And those doors….
Hyundai didn’t rest on its laurels and just shove a battery into a broadly existing design. No: it went crazy. Fearless exterior design conceals a big battery and reliable architecture, cool but useful tech features like side blind-spot cameras when you indicate, and tons of space inside. All of this, and it’s well-priced with a generous warranty. Pretty much the perfect consumer package and brilliant example of how to evolve a car brand.
OK, so it’s not actually a car, more a quadricycle type thing. But it’s the first, genius, last-mile, e-mobility product from a legacy car manufacturer, and French teenagers can’t believe they can essentially whip round Paris in a car. Modular design means you can easily clip on new body parts when your teenager has an inevitable crash. Brilliant juxtaposing monochrome palette and splashes of orange.
It’s got a digital aquarium with moving fish across the dashboard. End of. Rubbish range and price aside, the Honda e was the first electric car to show how artistic design, humour and desirability could combine in an urban EV. In some ways, the precursor to the Ioniq 5, thanks to a weird but beguiling mixture of retro and futuristic styling that compels you to buy one.
At the other end of the scale to the Honda e, is the Porsche Taycan. A serious and expensive driver’s car that proved a battery and motors were no stumbling blocks to motorsport-derived engineering and thoroughbred performance. Incredible handling and pace, a sombre interior, glossy surfaces and menacing colours (apart from Frozen Berry, which is the best paint finish ever).
Thank you MG, for not throwing the estate baby out with the ICE bathwater. The only affordable, pure electric estate car on sale, which is a massive relief for those of us who’ve never understood the appeal of high-riding, heavy SUVs. A respectful workhorse for drivers with loads to lug but the desire to cut tailpipe emissions. It’s spacious, comfortable, reliable and all the car an electrified family needs.
A highly significant model because it was, for a long time, the only electric car on sale that cost the same as a petrol or diesel equivalent from competitor brands. Price parity is non-existent in the market right now, with the 36 per cent cost differential between EV and ICE still very much in evidence, but, as usual, Skoda gave us an alternative price point, in the shape of a large family SUV with a real luxe vibe thanks to eco-tanned leather, Volkswagen infotainment screen and space for four adults.
The pinnacle of electric luxury motoring, from a brand born to go electric, quite literally – Charles Rolls was an electric engineer and would have used the power if it were not for the scarcity of a public charging network. Plus ca change. A century later, here we are, with a car that has starlit doors, lambswool carpets, endless colour palettes, options for displaying client artwork behind a huge glass screen, cooled champagne flutes and illuminated fridges. You name it. And, of course, it’s rapid and silent. The perfect application of electric propulsion’s many positive attributes.