BBC News UK’s newest electric cars turning heads at last

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UK’s newest electric turning heads at last

The Ampera heralds a new breed of cars

Global Car Industry

outside the Barley Mow on Tilford cricket ground, a group of evening drinkers swing gaze from left to as earnestly as fans of Andy on Centre Court.

Indeed, they re watching has just past with the quiet of a tennis ball.

But this isn t

The object of their fascination is the Ampera, the latest electric car to in the UK.

For unusually in the world of electric this is a car that actually rather cool: the first in its class, perhaps.

And it s a sign electric cars are changing

Ranges are extending, charge are decreasing and prices are about to

Costs cut

In the space of a year and a the economics of electric motoring have changed significantly.

s best-known electric car, the Leaf, currently sells for under £26,000, once the grant of £5,000 is deducted.

The Leaf is the UK s best-known electric car

month, the Renault Fluence enter showrooms in the UK with starting from £17,500.

And by the the Renault Zoe will be with us for than £14,000.

How has Renault such price reductions so

For starters, the company has gone for a new of ownership.

Drivers will buy the but rent the battery quite Depending on mileage, the rental will be roughly £1,000 a

But for that price, you get a battery is guaranteed for life. That mean no more worries batteries deteriorating over or depressing the second-hand value of the

Limited range

Driving the through the daffodil-fringed villages of the Hills, it s hard not to get a good

Until the moment at which anxiety begins to kick in.

In the Fluence has a range of up to 125 miles but in practice, you can call that 70 and 80 miles, especially in colder

The Renault Fluence is designed for journeys

And it still needs up to hours to charge the battery.

It s not the car for admits Andy Heiron, the of Renault s electric car division in the UK.

But the majority of people travel than 40 miles a day, he

And that s a significant enough of people for whom a vehicle a 100-mile range makes sense.

Despite such electric motoring so far hasn t on.

Philip Hammond, then Secretary, predicted that was going to be the year the industry off.

It didn t.

In Britain year, just 1,000 cars were sold, though the government offered its incentive to buyers.

Leading the

But if Renault hasn t yet solved the problem, General Motors it has.

Next month, the car as the Chevrolet Volt in the US will go on in the UK as the Vauxhall Ampera.

The Volt has had sales in the US, partly because of a of fires in its batteries after testing.

The Vauxhall Ampera life in the US as the Chevrolet Volt

So can it do any in the UK?

Vauxhall is targeting 2,000 this year and 5,000 in While it is aiming particularly at the market, these are ambitious

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But certainly anyone looking for a driving range may want to at the Ampera seriously.

Even it will only do between 20 and 50 on its battery alone, it has a range-extending which kicks in automatically that, taking its possible up to 350 miles.

That s certainly to get you from London to Carlisle, if not to Edinburgh.

Conventional battery are fine as a second car, for local commuting, says Chick of Vauxhall.

But this can be the family car, so you don t have to getting a second.

Yet with the generator, it s hard to calculate costs.

Vauxhall claims it do between 50 and 100 miles to the gallon, would compare favourably many other small

But the biggest stumbling block the cost: £29,950 for the basic after accounting for the government

Even for a good-looker, that s a lot of

Future shock

Electric is changing fast. Renault s of renting out the battery separately the cost of the car has inspired an Israeli called Better Place, to building battery swap

The Renault Zoe will allow charging

The idea is that you in and automatically get your battery in about the same time it to fill up with a tank of

No need to recharge the battery on a drive, so the range becomes indefinite.

The company is building a of such stations in Israel, and later this year in although there are no plans to any yet in the UK.

I think battery-swapping is a brilliant says Renault s Andy

But don t hold off, waiting for the solution, when the reality is cable charging is what people will be working for several years.

When the Zoe is launched this Renault also claims the charging time issue also have been

The car will accept so-called charging, which allows it to 80% of a full charge in just an hour.

With its price tag of that could make it a game-changer.

Philip Hammond s may even prove correct, if years later than he predicted.

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