Driving an electric car in London instead of a petrol one can save you over £4,500 a year. That's about £375 per month, or £12 every single day of the week -- enough, remarkably, to buy a barely used Ford Fiesta*.
Not many people have cottoned on to this fact, but an increasing number of city dwellers are coming round to the idea that electric cars aren't just gutless eco wagons designed for attention-seeking celebutants and stinky-haired hippies.
Electric vehicles are exempt from road tax and London's congestion charge, and are free to park in many areas. They also have low insurance costs, absolutely no petrol or diesel costs, and can be topped up overnight for mere pennies.
With this in mind, and given the fact that we've driven most of them, we've decided to share our views on which electric motors you should be investing in. So, without further ado, let's kick off our top ten list of electric vehicles, starting with the car at the bottom of the pile, the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid.
Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid
We start our electric-car countdown with a car that isn't exclusively an electric car. It actually uses dirty, seabird-murdering petrol to power an internal combustion engine, but it also has an electric motor that can operate independently in EV mode.
The Prius has one of the most polarising designs on the market. Toyota would argue its appearance is a direct consequence of its supreme aerodynamic efficiency, but there's no denying its bizarre, wedge-shaped profile and space-age, wedge-on-wheels design has put off many potential buyers.
The Prius makes other cars -- electric or otherwise -- look as if they were designed in the era of the horse-drawn cart. It comes with a whole host of standard features, including power steering, air-conditioning and dynamic stability control, plus some rather futuristic non-essentials.
The top-spec models have a truly awesome head-up display that projects your speed and nav instructions on to the windscreen in front of you. They also have a hard drive for ripping your CDs, and can even parallel park themselves, as you can see for yourself in our Prius video review.
Performance and batteries
The Prius plug-in hybrid has the performance of an ordinary car. That might not sound like much of a compliment, but most electric cars fall way short of this norm. The time it takes to accelerate from 0-60mph is 3.3 seconds slower than that of the standard Prius, which can do it in 10.4 seconds. That's due in part to the larger, heavier lithium-ion battery pack, but it'll still go from 0-62mph in a... yawn... respectable 13.7 seconds.
top speed in electric mode is a useful 62mph, although its range in
this mode is rather pathetic. The standard non-plug-in Prius could run
in electric mode for a little over 1.2 miles at up to around 30mph,
and, while this plug-in model ups the ante to 12.5 miles, that's barely
enough to get most people to work and back. Inevitably, you'll have to
fall back on the petrol engine.
Pricing and availability
The plug-in Prius won't be available for purchase until 2012, and, even then, we're expecting its price to be in the region of £30,000. In the meantime, Toyota has a fleet of around 600 taking part in a global trial. Keep an eye on the company's Web site to snag yourself a trial car.
Should I buy one?
The standard Prius is a magnificent car, but the plug-in model seems like something of an afterthought. Currently, its limited electric range and high projected price point make it difficult to recommend, although we'll reserve final judgement until the car is released in 2012.
EV rating: 2/5
Click 'Continue' below for 9 electric cars that put the Prius plugin in its place.
*Based on spending £50 per week on petrol, Band M vehicle tax and an annual congestion-charge spend of £1,696.