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Plug-in prestige of electric

Luxury auto makers are warming to the idea of electric but the market could be captured by and innovative newcomers.

The first electric car to arrive on local will be BMW’s i3, which around the middle of next (courtesy of BMW)

In September year Nissan will the Leaf (from leading, friendly, affordable family in South Africa. The curiously-shaped will seat five, some luggage, and use no petrol at

It will be the first passenger vehicle (EV) mass-produced or to be sold in the country: a milestone for the industry. The Leaf is also a litmus test for how the general will react to these new

Like the masses that to see the first horseless carriages than 100 years ago, will no doubt line up to get a of Nissan s electric car.

How it charge? What does it to run? Can it get to Durban from on a single charge? What our ailing power grid?

All questions, of course, and despite the s mainstream appeal, those persist across the board, for the luxury brands all of whom are different approaches.


Premium manufacturers face the problems as Nissan s Leaf, with cars that to be more luxurious, for a more consumer base. The first electric car to arrive on local will be BMW s i3, which lands the middle of next year.

Previously known as the Megacity the compact i3 is planned to be a premium EV for who live in large cities. It have a range of around and BMW s studies have shown only a small percentage of travel more than in a single day, so practical should not be a huge concern. In BMW is aiming for it to be a second or third car in a

This makes it perfect for who want to leave their high-end sedans or SUVs at home.

Although the i3 is designed the ground up to be an excellent all-rounder, luggage space for an airport and seating for five adults, its will occasionally be a concern.

The automaker will also a scheme for electric car buyers to access to a pool of extended vehicles; petrol or diesel. customers will plan trips in advance and part of planning would include a vehicle with their dealership.

This marries the of petrol-free commuting with the of mind that comes a fossil-fuel vehicle that not have limitations like recharge times or lack of infrastructure.

The i3 is a perfect everyday EV but BMW is not the only premium manufacturer on something. High-performance electric is taken care of by the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Drive. As its name suggests, is a high-performance AMG derivative and it has an electric

Additional oomph

The standard car is driven by a rip-snorting V8 engine produces 420kW and 650Nm, but the variant has 552kW of power, an earth-moving 1 000Nm of torque.

additional oomph comes of an electric motor in each and a 548kg battery pack. the electric SLS tips the scales at With that extra and weight come a 250km and enough juice to reach an limited top speed of 250km/h.

It not come to South African though, and if you really want one you have to fork out $525 000 for the

Between the extremes of the sensible BMW i3 and the SLS Electric Drive, there are not any luxury EVs to choose from from Tesla Motors s

The American upstart disrupted in a very conservative premium segment when it released its in 2008. More recently, its S has been winning awards for that electric cars are not but can be fun and don t have to skimp on modern Tesla s approach is to build people can buy right now using the technology available.

But they are not and there are occasional issues. is the threat of reduced range in cold, something that all battery-powered vehicles.

Glitches, as owners being locked out of cars (which boast door locks) also that Tesla is still a company and it doesn t have the or experience of more established

Problems aside, the company s S has taken to the drag strip and has many high-end performance from Europe. And it almost them in range too: a battery pack endows the model with a range of A cheaper model has a 60kW/h pack that is good for on a charge.

Inside there is for five adults and jump for two children or enough luggage to transport a mountain bike, TV and surfboard all at once.


is investing heavily in its Superchargers, a of solar-powered chargers that can add 50% to a Model S in just 30 minutes that could do away range anxiety altogether. The of ultra-luxurious electric cars relies on the perceptions of buyers.

the most prestigious luxury car in the world, has had two electric concepts. The recent one, the 102EX, the traditional V12 engine and replaced it a big battery pack; two electric took care of drive.

The press praised the car, its quiet operation and effortless shunt as the culmination of all things yet customers shunned the concept.

Not was the meager 200km range a but so was the eight-hour charge time.

For who own planes and traverse large on a whim, this is an obvious Status also plays a in an interview with Motor magazine in the United States, the executive of Rolls-Royce said people love the idea of a burly V12 engine under the As a result, both concepts canned.

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In the meantime, petrol-electric hybrid are far easier to build and market, with customers who accept no from their expensive, vehicles.

Lexus, the luxury of Japanese automaker Toyota, has its range of performance hybrid available in South Africa 2008.

Even by name the were designed to shrug off the that hybrid vehicles are for the planet, which became the slogan for the mainstream Prius. planet-saving is a noble cause, says it can offer performance a smaller engine mated to a electric drivetrain.

A case in would be its GS450h luxury which has a 3.5l petrol and an electric motor that 147kW. The total system (it is not as easy as adding power is 250kW and there is plenty of on tap. Lexus also has an the RX450h, and an upscale version of the the Lexus CT200h hatchback, offers stylish, low-emissions commuting.

The company positions the as a competitor for V8-engined models Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz that far less fuel than bigger engines do.

German car

Among German car manufacturers, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and BMW all have models to offer, but only and BMW have released models

Stuttgart s sports car experts offer a hybrid version of its SUV: a 3l six-cylinder petrol mated to an electric motor, a total power output of and 580Nm of torque.

The Bavarian automaker offers buyers a 3-series, 5-series and hybrid. In each case a electric motor is mated to BMW s 3l engine, for a total system of 250kW and 450Nm of torque.

than being battery-assisted of the regular models, ActiveHybrid have many tweaks to them to save fuel. systems shut down the engine when the car comes to a

At speeds of up to 160km the engine can be off and the electric motor (plus will coast the car along using fuel. Even like air conditioning, power oil- and fuel-pumps are electrically negating the need to draw from the internal combustion

When the i3 lands next BMW will also add a high-performance model, the i8. This will ultra-economical internal combustion technology with a high-output system, resulting in a sports car will be as fast and dynamic as the M3 saloon, yet consume fuel at a of less than four per 100km.

Hybrids also at the extreme high-end, though in a different form. McLaren, and Porsche will all launch flagship supercars the P1, LaFerrari, and respectively later this each boasting hybrid that has been proven on Porsche has been field-testing its system, which sends to electric motors mounted in the wheels, in its race-ready 911 GT3-R.

Audi, which is yet to introduce a model, has been entering its diesel hybrid racecars in the Le series. McLaren and Ferrari, of have Formula 1 teams, of which use the kinetic energy system hybrid system to performance.

In each of the high-end coming this year, the implementation is used exactly as in conditions: a push-button system send electric power to the for a performance boost during conditions.

It might not benefit economy, but the use of the technology in these will ultimately benefit the of lighter batteries with energy density the one thing is keeping full electric models from becoming a on showroom floors.

Although article has been made by the Mail Guardian’s advertisers, and photographs were sourced by the MG supplements editorial team. It part of a larger supplement.

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