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What exactly is an electric car?

What exactly is an electric car?

Electric autos have been around since the 1880s in small numbers, but it was only in the 2000s that advances in battery technology boosted their range - and their popularity.

EVs (short for electric vehicles) have no internal combustion engine (unlike range-extending electric vehicles, which use a petrol engine to recharge batteries) and are classified as zero-emission vehicles.

Electric cars use banks of lithium ion batteries that typically power one or two electric motors. These drive the front or rear wheels, or all four, as with the Tesla Model S.

Electric car manufacturers have come and gone over the years but Tesla looks like it’s here to stay.

Its first model was the short-lived Roadster, based on the Lotus Elise, but since then it has launched the Model S (with a range of around 300 miles and a 0-60mph time as low as 2.5sec).

What exactly is an electric car?

Telsa subsequently launched the Model X SUV in 2015 and the Model S family car is expected to go on sale in 2018.

Other electric car makers are mainstream car manufacturers that are dipping their toes in the EV market. Nissan was one of the first to launch an all-electric model - the Leaf - in 2010.

It began life with a real-world range of less than 80 miles but the latest version can now cover around 150 miles.

Other EVs from mainstream manufacturers include the Volkswagen e-Golf and e-Up, BMW i3, Kia Soul EV, Hyundai Ioniq Electric and Smart Fortwo and Forfour Electric Drive.

Arguably the most interesting, however, is the Renault Zoe, a compact car that was launched in 2012 with a claimed range of 130 miles.

However, it was fitted with a new battery in late 2016 to give it a claimed range of 250 miles.

The environmental advantages of EVs are obvious, and running costs are low, thanks to minimal servicing requirements. However, they are comparatively expensive to buy outright, which is why most are bought on finance.

Some manufacturers also require you to rent the batteries, which is an extra cost to factor in.