What are electric cars?

With a pedigree stretching right back into the 19th Century, electric cars are nothing new. Powered by electricity in some form, electric vehicles such as forklift trucks and milk floats have been around for decades.

What is new is the resurgence in interest in electric vehicles as a sustainable, green transport solution. Renewed interest in electric vehicles came about in the early 2000s, facilitated by Elon Musk's pioneering brand of Tesla electric cars.

At the present time, more than a dozen manufacturers export electric cars to Australia. The ACE-EV Group in Australia has also begun manufacturing electric vehicles, with the ACE Urban and ACE Yewt set to hit showrooms next year.

Why Opt for an Electric Car?

Electric cars aren't just better for the planet, they also cost far less per km to run than a conventional petrol or diesel car. They may operate completely on electricity (Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV), or be hybrid cars (some hybrids have a combustion engine that charges the battery, with the battery powering the vehicle; others work with both the combustion engine and the electric engine).

When running on electricity, they have zero carbon emissions. The average cost/km of running a conventional car is anywhere from 5.96 cents to 20.46 cents/km. In comparison, the cost of running an electric car is around 2-2.5 cents/km.

Popular Electric Cars On The Road

Audi E-tron

Audi is a by-word for quality, and their e-tron is no exception. Although power and acceleration are unremarkable for its class (300bhp and 0-100 in 6.8 seconds respectively), it handles well and offers an extremely comfortable ride.

A stunning, spacious interior (including the option of leather upholstery), packed with safety features and driving aids results in a car that's a pleasure to spend time in. The main downside of the Audi is the range - a measly 315km (which is likely to be lower out on the road), which is less than most comparable vehicles.

BMW i3

The best things come in small packages, which could explain why the highly acclaimed BMW i3 is such a popular choice.

With a range of around 300km, 170 bhp and 0-100km in around 7.3 seconds, you get a fair bit of power in what is a relatively small vehicle. A wide selection of optional extras enables buyers to take advantage of some exciting BMW upgrades.

Beautifully styled interior features, plenty of space and BMW's impressive list of safety features make i3 ownership an attractive proposition.

Tesla Model S

Tesla is at the forefront of EV (electric vehicle) manufacturing, so it's little surprise that the model S is a force to be reckoned with.

Top of the model S offerings is the P100D: fast (0-100 in around 2.5 seconds), roomy, and full of hi-tech features, this is a car that definitely has a futuristic feel. The vehicle's software is even updated periodically, ensuring your vehicle is always up-to-date.

For purists, the issue with Tesla is often that they don't always achieve the quality and elegance that other cars in a similar price category can command. At between $136,900 and $164,500 on the road, the Tesla S certainly isn't a cheap option!

Tesla Model X

Benefiting from a range of around 500km, the Model X is an SUV that combines power with a stunning range of features.

Fast, stable and with plenty of comforts, the only criticism of the driving experience is that it's not particularly exciting. The large internal touchscreen controls not only the infotainment side of proceedings but also a number of driver functions.

At least initially, operating the screen whilst on the move can be a challenge. Spacious and able to accommodate a range of seat layouts, the X offers a safe, engaging driver experience. Like other vehicles from Tesla, the X is a relatively expensive choice, which can be off-putting for car owners who have value as a priority.

Tesla Model 3

If you're looking for a Tesla that offers good value, the Model 3 is probably it. The economy offering in the Tesla family, the Model 3 manages 0-100 in 6.6 seconds and has a more-than-adequate range of around 300km between charges.

Reviewers are raving about the drive experience, which is judged by some as being vastly superior to the higher-spec models. A good range of driver and safety features, about the only thing that lets the Model 3 down is an interior that is somewhat lacking in high-grade styling and/or premium materials and finishes.

Upcoming Electric Cars In 2021

Nissan Leaf e+

It may not be the sportiest or the most comfortable on the road when it comes to longer distances, but for many drivers, the Leaf is the absolute epitome of what an electric car should be about: cheap to run, great about town, reasonably priced and with a more-than-respectable performance, as well as plenty of driver features, it's a good all-rounder that's a popular choice.

Volvo XC 40

Although Volvo isn't traditionally associated with electric vehicles, the XC 40 is one of the upcoming electric cars that's worth a second glance.

The basic spec manages 161 BHP, as well as 0-100 in 9.6secs. Higher-spec versions offer even more. A reasonable drive, the XC40's beautiful interior, range of features, and comfortable ride makes this a highly desirable set of wheels.

It's quiet and spacious, with a roomy boot and a good range of additional, optional extras. Arguably one of the best electric cars out this year, this version of the XC is every bit as good as its predecessors.

Check Out Our Review Of The Volvo XC 40 Recharge

Mazda MX 30

A smallish range (around 200km) is the main drawback of the Mazda. Initial reports speak of a comfortable drive and excellent road handling, along with a well-equipped, high-spec interior that manages to fuse chic styling with an impressive range of hi-tech features.

Whilst the front has plenty of space, the rear is smaller than comparable cars, which is a particular disadvantage if you intend to drive with adults and/or teens in the back. A relatively slow depreciation value and competitive pricing are further reasons why the Mazda MX 30 is an attractive purchase.

The Future of Electric Cars

Globally, it's almost a foregone conclusion that the volume of electric cars in circulation will increase as time goes on.

An increasing imperative to utilise alternatives to fossil fuel, as well as a need to reduce pollution and the use of fossil fuels, are all-powerful reasons why electric cars are likely to grow in importance as a driving option over the next couple of decades. Some commentators suggest that over half of cars on the road by 2040 globally will be electric ones.

The main challenge to the growth in electric car sales appears to be cost and access to charging points.

Electric cars are still significantly more expensive than traditional petrol or diesel cars, with the high initial purchase cost and the need to replace the battery every few years off-setting the savings made in running costs in some cases.

As the technology becomes better established, it's likely that the cost will drop, opening up the electric car market to a wider group of owners. Future EVs may well incorporate a significant level of autonomy, eventually leading to drivers having less input into the travel process, or even being made completely redundant!

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Jordan Ballard

Jordan Ballard

Automotive Content Editor

Jordan is a car finance and automotive industry specialist at Only Cars. With over 20 years of experience with frontline and management roles in sales, finance and other areas, Jordan has an incredible understanding of the automotive industry. As Automotive Content Editor, Jordan loves sharing his passion for cars with the Only Cars audience.