There’s something about the ‘early adopter’ mindset. These are people who always have to buy into a new piece of technology before all their friends, and almost always before the manufacturers have got it right.
Being an early adopter means you’re up to speed on all the latest gadgets and what’s around the corner at tech shows. It means reading about the latest no-doubt fascinating innovations and, to an extent, living your life a little bit ahead of the present. That must make you a bit weird; a bit impatient and/or intolerant of everyone ‘behind’ you.
My basis for this accusation is that electric cars have, until now, been a niche product built for early adopters. There are exceptions like in Norway and the Netherlands, where the governments have heavily invested in charging infrastructure and tax-related incentives, but in most markets, the audience is limited to those slightly odd folks with their noses in tech websites whose content moves so fast that it’s almost out of date by the time anyone reads it.
The point is that these people are fundamentally not quite mainstream and have no desire to be. Thus, so have the cars that were built for them. From the desperately awkward early Nissan Leaf to the weirdly bulbous Renault Zoe, purpose-built EVs have been about as pretty as a pork pie that was recently dropped from the 25th floor. Is it any wonder they haven’t been more popular?
Thankfully that’s changing. We know as well as anyone that emissions need to be curbed for the sake of everyone’s health and for the sake of keeping the planet habitable, so we’re genuinely pleased to see a whole bunch of (relatively) affordable electric cars emerging – ones that don’t look like a dog’s dinner and shouldn’t be utterly depressing for people like us to live with.
Tesla is finally getting around to creating an entry-level Model 3 that it can sell in the US for $35,000. It’s being forced to shrink the battery and move to an online-only sales model to be able to afford to drop the car’s price to that point, but the 3 is a handsome thing that will sell.
Then there’s the strikingly Saab-ish Polestar 2. We shouldn’t wonder at the visual similarities – the Swedes have a certain way, after all. Priced at under €40,000 in Germany for the entry-grade model at launch, it’s going to be a little more expensive than the cheapest Model 3 but still within reach for a sizeable part of the general population. Cheaper versions might be on the cards in time.
Even cheaper will be the Peugeot e-208, the chunky electric supermini with 134bhp and the ability to recharge 80 per cent of its battery at a public fast-charger in 30 minutes. We expect a price in the low £20,000s, which isn’t cheap for a small car but is heading in the right direction. Plus, you’d be happy to be seen driving it.
Let’s not forget the Honda e Prototype, the cutesy offspring of the classically handsome Urban EV concept. We just might be looking at the first desirable sub-£20,000 EV, there, and it’ll be easy to live with thanks to a spacious cabin and decent real-world range. The looks are designed to invade Mini and Fiat 500 territory; an audacious move but one that’s primed to succeed. That part of the market is crying out for something genuinely different.
On top of those four are the likes of the Seat el Born concept-but-we’re-actually-making-it, the Volkswagen ID hatchback, the already-here Hyundai Kona EV and more besides. The Nissan Leaf is no longer hideous and the oddball Renault EV range won’t last long in its current form. Expect more normal-looking choices soon.
As of 2019, electric cars are no longer for early adopters. Thank God: maybe normal people can now begin to like them.