Remember the Toyota Prius? Remember how we chuckled? Remember the Nissan Leaf? The last twenty years have been all about the slow march of the hybrid and all-electric production car. No-one is laughing now; we're all too busy reading the writing on the wall and wringing our hands about what it all means for the naturally-aspirated V10 engine. It is redundant now to talk about tipping points - whether we like it or not, the electrified car is here to stay and it wouldn't be a stretch to speculate that the majority of people reading this sentence under the age of sixty will end up owning one at some point.
Is that something to despair at? Well, yes and no. There are myriad, momentous problems with the current process of electrification: range anxiety, charging infrastructure, manufacturing complexity, environmental issues, recycling concerns - the list goes on and on. But anyone who has driven a BMW i3 through a city centre will tell you that the future is as serene and as effortless as riding a bike downhill. Or as fast as a bike falling off a cliff.
For the optimist then, there is much to look forward to. The automobile has been a thing since 1886, but it was 131 years before we got the 991.2 GT3 - which is another way of saying it takes a while for these things to hit their stride. If you can't wait that long, there's still plenty to get excited about, even in the fledgling secondhand market. With a suspiciously big budget to play with (though safely small enough to eliminate a new generation of hypercars), here are half a dozen ways to really electrify your personal mobility.
At first glance, the Taycan does not seem like a much of a gamechanger. On paper it looks like Porsche trying to catch up with Tesla's head start - and falling a little way short given the modest deficit in quoted range. But you do not drive cars on paper. In the real world the Taycan is bewilderingly good. It exposes the Model S as a two-dimensional effort; very quick and clever, but ultimately limited in the old fashioned business of being a car. The Taycan suffers no such limitation: it succeeds magnificently in delivering a well-rounded drive experience - one invigorated by the application of an electric drivetrain, but not defined by it as the Tesla is.
It is also fundamentally nicer than its rival from Palo Alto. Porsche's immaculate build quality and attention to detail - never among Tesla's strengths - is carried over effortlessly; ditto its capacity for making the driver feel like they are sat at the car's focal point. Granted, it is still hugely heavy and no M1-commuting, Supercharger-using Model S driver is going to be swayed by rumour of the Taycan's far superior handling. But that doesn't prevent the Porsche being the best electric car you can currently buy in the UK.
It needs to be really because its maker has not been timid in the pricing strategy. The Taycan starts at £83,580 for the 4S, but the all-singing Turbo S is £138,830. And, in familiar testament to the car's class-leading status and long wait list, you'll need to pay more than that if you want to beat the queue. The most affordable Taycan in the classifieds is a 4S at £118,000 - meaning that you'll need to pay nearly £35k over retail to buy it, despite it having already covered 5,500 miles. C'est la vie.
I remember vividly the arrival of the Tesla Model S. Rumour of the car's accelerative potential was confirmed in the office by a senior hack who called it 'competition quick' - and coming from a man who'd ridden shotgun in numerous WRC cars, his opinion was taken seriously. It was confirmed not long after courtesy of an early UK press car which left a set of traffic lights near its fledgling West Drayton showroom like a cobra's strike.
We've become more accustomed to the car's outlandish, neck-wrenching ability over time, but it remains the Model S's defining party trick - a fact affirmed by Tesla's evolution of the product, pointedly adding 'Ludicrous Mode' to ever greater output from its all-electric powertrain. If you haven't been keeping track, the current Performance variant, furnished with 1,013lb ft of torque, will deliver 60mph in a claimed 2.3 seconds.
Of course, it comes at a price: the quickest model starts at £92,980 in the UK. But the pace of change has kept the secondhand market reasonably well stocked - you can have this no less propulsive 2016 P100D for £67,995; sure, it's got 29k on the clock, but the battery and drive unit are warrantied for eight years, and previous studies have suggested that accumulated battery loss levels off after 30k, and declines only 1 per cent per additional 30k miles thereafter. Whether that's accurate or not, there are plainly years of neck ache left in the car yet, and with the best proprietary charging network at your disposal, this is still the electric car to beat.
The Volkswagen Golf rarely does much wrong, and the GTE is no exception. Think of this as the electrified vehicle for those who want an electric car that is fun to drive but also who don't want it to be a lifestyle statement. I had the pleasure of leasing one for three years and it was a very sad day when the man came to take it away.
The Golf GTE combines Volkswagen's 1.4-litre TSI engine with a 75 kW electric motor, which is then mated to a perfectly decent six-speed DSG. The result is a respectable 7.6 second 0-60 time, but also nearly 50mpg on the motorway. The pure EV range of 30 miles is plenty for weekly errands and it's only when taking trips on the motorway that the fuel needle ever moves. Of course, you can also just press the GTE button to get all of the power from both engine and motor and say to hell with the environment. In fact, that's why this car is such a good option - because it can be whatever you need it to be. eGolf? Sure. GTI? Close enough. Just a standard Golf that can do a run to Ikea? That's fine, too.
These cars hold their value really well, perhaps a testament to that usability, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a good example under £15k, even with a basic spec. This one has all of the options ticked for a Golf GTE, but the most common spec will only be missing the leather seats and sunroof. Whatever extras are fitted, you can't really go wrong with a GTE - and that's from someone who's actually owned one, not like the freeloading journalists around here!
As the racing driver of the group (in case you hadn't heard), my electrified choice had to be the only full electric production car that's had a one-make racing series: the Jaguar I-Pace. Oh sure, the eTrophy was frightfully expensive to enter and not very much fun to watch - hence its recent cancellation - but a race car is a race car nonetheless. And thus the I-Pace has my attention.
Let's not forget, either, that the first electric Jaguar confounded a lot of expectations at launch in being, well, in being exceptionally good. Because we all had some doubts, didn't we? But through being the most stylish and desirable Jaguar in yonks, as well as expertly integrating EV tech, the I-Pace was a momentous achievement for the brand. If it is a preview of what to expect from an electrified Jaguar future, then bring it on; given the doldrums the rest of the range currently seems to reside in, that future arguably can't come soon enough.
As the racing driver of the group, I've chosen a Firenze Red I-Pace (because they're the fastest ones) that's racked up a fair 11,000 miles in its first year on the road. The Ebony leather looks to have held up well, even if the touchscreen does still look a little baffling, and I'd be sure to add plenty more miles trekking to race tracks up and down the country. Perhaps when these lose a bit more than their initial £15k - or rather, an awful lot more - we can resurrect the eTrophy as a club series. I'll be on the grid in spirit...
It's funny, really: having had so long to come up with a new NSX - probably longer than anyone wanted them to, in fact - Honda repeated the same mistakes the second time around. Namely by creating an excellent sports car, one brimming with technical intrigue and driver reward, but then entering it into a part of the market where nobody would buy it. Walk into a Porsche showroom to collect a 911 and you'll be surrounded by Caymans, Taycans and Cayennes; do the same with Honda and your NSX and... well, it'll be different, that's for sure. And we all know image sells when it comes to supercars.
Regardless, I love the NSX. It's been a while since I've driven one, but my overriding memory is of a fiendishly complex car defined - yet, crucially, not dominated - by its technology. It felt like an alternative way of doing a mid-engined sports car, yet one just as valid as any other. It was ludicrously fast, spookily agile for something so large and felt futuristic - especially when gliding along on electricity - without losing traditional sports car appeal. It's not a perfect attempt at downsizing the hybrid hypercar, but it's a damn exciting try if nothing else.
Fast Hondas should always be white with a red interior - see Integra Type R and EK9 Civic Type R - and so that's a spec I've aimed to mimic here. It's for sale at Honda Chiswick with just the advert pics and not a word of description. Presumably they're thinking if you know, you just know. I look forward to being treated like royalty between the Jazz, Civic and HR-V customers...
I'll confess it's taken a while to get onboard with electrification but, love it or hate it, there will be no avoiding the move at some point in my driving career. And with the alternative fuels thread in our forums being one of the fastest growing of 2020 it appears PHers have a lot to say on the matter, too...
For now, the thought of a hybrid suits me just fine - and no hybrid appeals more than the BMW i8. Like most, my biggest barrier to electric car ownership is range anxiety, but clearly that issue goes away when there's a petrol engine in residence. It's easy to forget, too, that the i8's motor was fairly clever in itself, making 231hp from just 1.5-litre and three cylinders.
Futuristic styling mixed with an M1 influenced silhouette is now, due to eye watering depreciation, relatively cheap to come by. I've gone for one of the cheapest you can get in the classifieds at the moment, advertised at a shade over £40k, which is a staggering £66,000 less than its 2015 list price. This example has the larger 20-inch wheels plus a Harmon Kardon stereo and a full BMW service history. So, if head turning drama is your thing, this has it in spades; the i8 still looks striking seven years on from its release, even if you will have to be careful how close you park against walls...
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