Electric Motoring gets a new star with the arrival of the BMW i3
The German maker's first all-electric model brings ground-breaking technology to kickstart the electric car revolution.
Sales of electric cars in the UK have risen 150 per cent in the past 12 months. Yet the sector remains a tiny niche at just 2,345 cars - although hybrid/electric sales are now more than 29,000.
With more manufacturers adding electric cars to their line-up and the Government backing plans to dramatically increase the number of charging points, electric is sparking into life.
Experts predict that by 2015, annual worldwide sales of electric cars will reach 600,000 - hitting three million a year by 2020.
Road Test: Nissan Leaf
Eight out of ten electric cars sold in the UK are now Nissan Leafs. The great thing about the Leaf is how normal it feels to drive in a day-to-day use.
Its electric motor will take you from 0-60 in 11.2 seconds up to a top speed of 83mph - but it feels much quicker. And it is just as happy in city traffic or cruising on a motorway, although the maximum range of 124 miles drops once you hit motorway speeds. An 80 mile round trip to London with a two-hour charge at one of the capital's 1,300 charging points before the "range anxiety" disappeared.
It's easy to understand the Leaf's appeal. It is easy and intuitive to drive and is backed up by lots of technology that keeps you informed. But until the charging infrastructure develops even further, it will remain a city car or second motor for most.
Road Test: Kia Soulev (prototype)
Leading a new electric charge from Korea next year is the Soul EV.
Based on Kia's next-generation Soul cross-over, it is part of a £2billion investment in green technology by the firm and Hyundai.
It is quiet, with a reasonable surge of power from the 81.4kW motor. It takes 12 seconds for 0-62mph. Top speed is 90mph. Like rivals, range is an issue - Kia says 120 miles but the reality is less than 100 in city traffic. The Kia Soulev is on sale in the UK next year from £25,000.
Road Test: Renault Zoe
For the cutest and most affordable electric car, look no further than the Renault's Zoe. The entry model is £13,995, including the Government grant, but you also pay £70 a month to lease the battery.
Nippy and whisper quiet, the Zoe is great fun to drive. Despite being supermini, it is comfy for four, with a smart trendy cabin. It has a range of 130 miles - in a test mixing city and motorway driving it did nearly 100 miles and still had a little charge left. And Renault offer a fast charger that boosts the battery in 30 minutes.
Road Test BMW i3
The airy modern cabin features some very trendy trim materials, including new wood grain and recycled textiles that give the i3 its own unique appeal. Although the rear seats are a tight fit for tall adults, the i3 is practical enough for a city car with split-folding rear seats that go flat to give plenty of space for the occasional awkward items we need to transport.
The steering is light and responsive, the ride is comfortable and the i3 is ideal for nipping in and out of city traffic. It also has a brilliant turning circle, better than a London black cab. In fact, there is very little not to like about the i3.
Yes it's expensive for a small car but you are getting pioneering technology and a BMW badge that will guarantee its resale value beats any other electric car. The i3 will not switch everyone on to electric cars overnight but it will shine a very bright spotlight for the first time.
Price: £28,830 including Government grant for option of 650cc engine.
Range: 80-100 miles in pure electric, 180 miles with range-extending petrol engine.
Top Speed: 93mph
Acceleration: 0-60mph in 7.2 secs.
Other benefits: No road tax or congestion charge