Electric vehicles are in their infancy at present and although they are still a rarity on Britain’s roads Skoda has decided it wants a piece that particular pie.
Nissan’s LEAF is probably the best-known electric car at the moment but the Czech firm is joining the plug-in fray and is now looking to build an electric city car based on the firm’s new Citigo hatchback.
The Czech firm has begun by using the Octavia Estate as a test mule for its new electric powertrain. Effectively, this is a way of testing the technology without harming the brand.
The electric Citigo won’t be unveiled until 2014, giving Skoda a further two years to develop the system and tinker with its battery in an effort to make its range even better.
When the Citigo goes into production it will be up against the Peugeot iOn, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Citroen C Zero – which are all based on the same platform. Unfortunately for the PSA group, these models have not had the same success as Nissan’s LEAF. However, the Citigo should be a different proposition. It looks like a ‘normal’ car – unlike the bubble shaped iOn – and the UK’s charging infrastructure should be much improved by the time it goes on sale.
The Octavia green E Line may be a test mule, but is the electric powertrain up to scratch?
It’s actually fairly impressive. It won’t break any land speed records with its benchmark sprint time of 11.9 seconds or a top speed of 89mph. However, scratch the surface and you’ll notice that the 0-62mph time is only 0.1s slower than the Nissan LEAF, which is a significantly smaller car. Sounds better already, doesn’t it?
Range is another consideration. Although the mule we tested boasts capacity for 93 miles – 14 less than Nissan’s LEAF – there’s a few things to think about. Firstly, as we’ve mentioned above, the Octavia is a bigger and heavier platform than the Nissan. Secondly, there’s still significant time for Skoda to develop this technology before it is unleashed on the public in the much smaller Citigo.
So how does it drive?
The most impressive aspect of any electric car is the instant pulling power up to around 30mph and the Skoda is no different.
On test the electric Octavia feels more like a normal car than many of its electric competitors because Skoda has added a fake engine noise. This may get on your nerves after a few miles, but is a useful safety device for pedestrians (especially those with a visual impairment) and cyclists who may not otherwise hear you coming until it’s too late.
Slot the gearstick into D and the E Line drives like an automatic. The Octavia is fairly nimble for an estate car and this version handles much like its petrol/diesel-powered siblings. Through the corners there is little body roll and it feels composed when driving at the national speed limit.
The switchgear is largely identical to the petrol/diesel engines on the Octavia range. When you are running out of electric power the sat nav screen will issue alerts and point you to the nearest charging point.
To deter thieves or practical jokers Skoda has made the plug lock into the port, preventing it from being pulled out at a charging station. Unlock the car’s doors and the charging plug will unlock for 30 seconds. However, if it is not pulled out during this period the lock will arm itself again and the charging process continues.
The Octavia Estate Green E Line is a great demonstration of how electric cars are moving forwards. The Skoda Citigo – which will eventually receive this technology – also has a further two years of development before it goes into production in 2014 so there’s scope for plenty more improvement before then. We’ll look forward to driving an electric Citigo to see how well electrification translates into a smaller city car.