Electric cars to come in 2012

  • All the electrically powered cars arriving in 2012
  • Includes range-extenders and plug-in hybrids
  • From Renault's Twizy to Chevrolet's Volt

While 2011 was touted as the big year for electric cars, it was only the Nissan Leaf that made any impact as a truly viable plug-in powered car.

From next year, however, this could all change. With Renault alone launching three electric vehicles, 2012 could be the year that we see electric cars become a common sight on UK roads.

Not everyone seems fully convinced by cars powered solely by the national grid, however. A number of manufacturers have opted to sit on the fence, and rather than go full electric are instead offering models with an electric powertrain backed up by a conventional engine.

Here's a guide to some of the most important electric cars that you will be able to buy in 2012.

1. Renault Fluence Z.E.

What is it?  

It's the first part of Renault’s assault on the electric car market. The French firm claims that this is the first production saloon-styled electric car. This means that you reputedly get all the benefits of a standard saloon, such as space and comfort, while driving a car that produces zero emissions and offers incredibly low running costs. Things do get a bit complicated in the buying process though. The purchase price doesn't include the battery; instead this has to be paid for separately on a monthly leasing agreement.

Vital statistics

Rating: Three stars

Price: The car costs £22,850, reduced to £17,850 with the government grant. The battery is leased on a monthly basis, with a sliding scale of pricing depending on usage

Range: 125 miles at best, 50 miles at worst

Power: 95bhp

Charging time: six to 12 hours depending on charge type

 
2. Chevrolet Volt

What is it?  

Not strictly an electric car, the Volt can run on electric power alone for 50 miles but comes with a 1.4-litre petrol generator that provides the required current to offer a range of a further 310 miles. This eliminates the problem of so-called ‘range anxiety'. You still need to charge the car to in order to use the electric power, but if you get caught short then as long as you have petrol you will still be able to use it. You will find that the battery does eat in to the rear space but you still get 310 litres of boot space. That's the same as a Ford Focus.

Vital statistics

Rating: Four stars

Price: From £33,545 reduced to £28,545 with £5,000 government incentive

Range: 50 miles on electric and 310 miles with 1.4-litre generator

Power: 150bhp

Charging time: Up to four hours on a standard household plug 

 
3. Renault Zoe

What is it?  

Another electric offering from the French manufacturer set to arrive in 2012. The plug-in small hatchback is slightly bigger than a standard Clio model and is a more interesting offering than the rather bland Fluence model. Like the Fluence you pay for the car but lease the battery on a monthly basis. That’s enough of the boring stuff. The interesting point of the Zoe is performance. With 220Nm torque available at zero rpm it will go from 0-62mph in just 8.1s, not bad for a small electric powered car.

Vital statistics

Price: The Zoe will cost approximately £17,000, reduced to £12,000 with government grant. The battery is leased on a monthly basis, with a sliding scale of pricing depending on usage

Range: 100 miles

Power: 80bhp

Charging time: six to eight hours full charge, or 30 minutes quick charge for 80% power 

 
4. Toyota Plug-in Prius

What is it?  

Based on the standard Prius model, this version will can be plugged in to charge the electric part of the hybrid power train rather than having to have the car running like the standard petrol/electric hybrid model. It’s hardly a game changer though, with the electric power only offering a range of up to 14 miles. This is twinned with a 1.8-litre petrol engine, but gets the advantages of other electric models such as zero road tax, zero congestion charge as well as benefiting from the government's £5,000 subsidy.

Vital statistics

Price: From £31,000 reduced to £26,000 with £5,000 government subsidy

Range: Up to 14 miles on electric power and claimed 620 miles on the 1.8-litre engine

Power: 134bhp 

Charging time: 90 minutes on a standard household plug 

 
5. Vauxhall Ampera

What is it?  

This is essentially the same as the Chevrolet volt. An electric powertrain offers up to 50 miles range. When this runs out, a 1.4-litre generator kicks in to charge the batteries and extend the range for a further 310 miles. In fact there’s little that’s different from the Volt apart from the badge and name, really. So, if you prefer the griffin badge to the bow tie branding then the Ampera is the way to go. However, if you have no particular company loyalty then it’s time to toss a coin.

Vital statistics

Rating: Four stars

Price: From £33,995 dropping to £28,995 with the electric car £5,000 incentive

Range: 50 miles on electric and 310 miles with 1.4-litre generator 

Power: 150bhp

Charging time: Up to four hours on a standard charge

 
6. Renault Twizy

What is it?  

The final instalment of Renault’s big electric dreams for 2012, the Twizy is definitely the more obscure of the French firm’s plug-in offerings. It isn’t a standard car but a two seater compact city car with the passenger sitting behind the driver instead of side by side. This is truly for inner city driving, as the Twizy has a range of just 62 miles on a full charge and will only reach 50mph. Don’t expect to see too many hurtling up the A1. The more impressive side of the Twizy is its price. The entry-level model is planned to cost less than £7,000.

Vital statistics

Price: £11,690, reduced to £6,690 with £5,000 government grant. The battery is leased on a monthly basis, with a sliding scale of pricing depending on usage

Range: 62 miles

Power: 17bhp

Charging time: Up to three hours on standard household charge

 
7. Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

What is it?  

Like a number of other manufacturers, the Swedish firm clearly isn’t fully convinced by electric cars and is hedging its bets by launching a plug-in hybrid version of the stylish V60 Sportwagon. As with the Prius Plug-in, Ampera and Volt, the V60 will run on electric charge for a short distance but is backed up by a 2.4-litre diesel engine. You get 32-miles out of the battery but thanks to the added diesel engine it will travel a total claimed distance of 746 miles. Along with the impressive range, emissions are quoted as 49g/km of CO2. This means there’s no road tax to pay and no congestion charge costs either.

Vital statistics

Price: No details yet but likely to be around the £40,000 mark with £5,000 subsidy

Range: 32 miles on electric power and a claimed total of 746 miles

Power: 285bhp

Charging time: Between three and 7.5 hours depending on power used

Note: Prices correct at time of publication.