Plugged

Nissan Leaf

So, the Nissan Leaf. The price has come down a bit since it was first launched. It was too expensive then and I think it’s still too expensive now but I’m glad it’s here. It was a courageous move to launch a proper electrically-powered family hatch when it did. Apart from assorted Renaults, I don’t think there have been very many other pure electric-drive cars launched.

There’s a Focus which is even more expensive than the Nissan. There are also assorted Germans coming from Audi, Volkswagen and Mercedes, none of which are going to be cheap. Better men than I have done sums which show that the cost of running a Renault Zoe including the battery lease offers marginal savings over a diesel hatch like a Clio. I don’t know about that. Diesels have their own issues in the form of their particulate emissions of course and as someone whose nicotine-kippered lungs don’t function quite as well as they should, I am grateful for every reduction in PM10 levels.

BMW i3BMW got in there ahead of the other Germans. Unlike the others, BMW chose to develop unique vehicles to carry their electric drivetrains. Audi, Mercedes and Volkswagen have developed electric versions of the A3, B-Class and Golf respectively and Mercedes has borrowed tech from Tesla. It’s also a bit expensive but it’s a BMW so we sort of expect that. In fact, it’s less expensive than the Focus Electric in its basic spec. The Focus is very well equipped but so is the i3 and just look at it. The Focus is the facelifted version so it looks a little like an Aston Martin but the i3 looks like the future.

I’m smitten with it, very smitten. It’s made from carbon fibre and has suicide rear doors and the interior is probably the most gorgeous I’ve seen on a car in several yonks. It’s odd-looking on the outside, but good-odd. It’s much more to my taste than the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf looks like it’s on its way to a geography lesson. The BMW on the other hand is definitely on its way to a BDSM masterclass.

Shhhhhhhhzzzzzzzzzoooooooooooommmmmmm

Meanwhile the Tesla Model S is on its way to mug an XFR, and then steal an M5’s lunch money and sneak up behind an S-Class. I’ve seen a few of these out and about and they glide. It’s a shame that the rumbliest, grumbliest V-twin motorcycles in the world are knows as Electraglides because if ever a product deserved that name, it’s this one. There is a new one which has a second motor driving the front wheels giving it 690hp in total. It’s such a Q-car that it’s really a q-car. It doesn’t even shout about not shouting about its performance. It even has a reasonable range. You can’t get a green one any more which seems a little ironic, but still.

I don’t think electric cars have been this sexy since the days of the Jamais Contente. (The world landspeed record holder in 1899, look it up. It was driven by a famous Belgian and everything.)

There are still people insisting that the power for personal mobility be produced locally using fuel cells and maybe that’s true but I think it’s adding an extra layer of unnecessary complexity to the system. You need to produce the hydrogen, distribute it and then process it on board the car before you generate your electricity. It all seems inefficient compared to plugging in like you do your mobile phone or your laptop.

¬†Anyway, I’ll have an i3 in orange. You know how I feel about orange cars.

Look Out! It’s The Up!

This is exciting! The new Volkwagen up! is not just another small hatchback! It’s the only car whose name ends in an exclamation mark! Now the Kia Ce’ed or Cee’d or C’eed or whatever it’s called is not the only car whose name includes punctuation! The VW up! is the Westward Ho! of the car world!

It’s really hard to maintain these excitement levels without the use of either recreational drugs or extraneous punctuation! I don’t like either of them much! Errant typography notwithstanding, I really like the up!

The production version of the up! owes little other than its excitable name to the original concept! That one had a rear-mounted two-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels! It was probably too expensive to engineer and put into production! It’s a much less interesting car than that concept was! That makes me sad!

I think we’re supposed to forget the Fox! Not that that will be too much of a problem! Hardly anyone remembers that it exists in the first place! We’re supposed to see the up! as the successor to the Lupo! That was a genuinely lightweight little hatch which I fell in love with when I saw the GTI version! Who wouldn’t love a tiny little car like that with a six speed gearbox and central exit exhausts!? Oh, and the interior! It was designed for a mid-engined W12 supercar concept and Ferdinand Piech liked it so much that he wanted it in a production car! The Lupo was the next one coming down the pipeline! Result for the baby car!

The interior of the up! is quite special too! I’m a sucker for painted metal on an interior! I mourn for its passing! We wouldn’t have to go on about slush-moulded and soft-touch plastics so much if there were more painted metal inside a car! I’d be a much happier man! Only the Fiat 500 really makes much of a play of having its body colour on display to the driver and passengers! That can’t be right!! I therefore wholeheartedly welcome the huge swathe of body colour across the dashboard of the up! Volkswagen has what it calls a Personal Infotainment Device to control the telephone, sat-nav and music systems! It’s detachable! It’s new! It’s slightly bollocks!

The engines aren’t bollocks! They are ickle triples which produce either 60 or 75PS! Those German horses are slightly weedier than stout British ones but that should be enough to shift the little up! along at a decent rate! You can have it with a Stop/Start system in a Bluemotion Technology version! There will be an electrically-powered version along next year! That’s certainly exciting!

It’s a Lupo which has lost its L and O in a weightsaving measure! Not that Volkwagen have released its weight yet! That will no doubt come when the final prices and specifications are made public nearer its UK launch date! In the meantime, let’s rejoice that the Fox has finally gone the way of all flesh!