Piaggio Porter Electric MPV - The Verdict

With prices at the pump hitting the roof, the prospect of testing an electrically powered vehicle is increasingly attractive to David Wilkins

Price: £16,495
Engine: 10.5kW electric motor
Performance: Top speed 35mph, charging time 8 hrs
CO2: 0g/km (local pollution)
Worth considering: GoinGreen G-Wiz; Piaggio Porter Diesel; Tanfield Faraday

I have to admit that I wasn't particularly excited at the prospect of testing the Piaggio Porter Electric. All I knew was that it was a small, electrically powered van with a top speed scarcely higher than the 30mph limit. How much fun was that going to be?

By the time it turned up a couple of weeks ago, things were looking different.

The price of petrol was breaking through the £1-per-litre barrier, and the fuel protesters were on the television news bulletins threatening to bring the country to a halt. Suddenly, any vehicle that could be charged up from the mains was starting to look pretty attractive.

My feelings towards the Piaggio remained warm throughout our test. But in order to appreciate electric vehicles, you have to understand the limitations and characteristics of the type. The 35mph top speed and maximum 85-mile range seem, on the face of it, to be restrictions that would be almost impossible to live with. However, in town, 35mph is enough. Electric vehicles provide a lot of torque at low revs; if anything, take-off from rest is rather abrupt. Driving is otherwise extremely easy. A small lever between the front seats is moved forwards or backwards, depending on the direction of travel. There is no clutch or gear lever - you just press the accelerator to go and the brake to stop.

It takes eight hours to recharge the Piaggio, which can be a bit awkward to organise. Nobody wants to leave a downstairs window open overnight, and most letter flaps were not designed to have plugs posted through them. A catflap would work best, or a space in your garage with access to a wall socket.

The Piaggio did once run out of puff on a near-full charge, after one of our Cambridgeshire readers ran it at high speed uphill on the Ely bypass (" high speed" and "uphill" being relative concepts in the cases of the Porter Electric and East Anglia respectively). After a short push and a rest, it was able to continue as normal.

One obstacle to the take-up of electric vehicles is the high initial price. Whether the sums add up depends on your pattern of driving and the value you place on reducing local pollution; the power station that produces the juice for your electric car is probably on someone else's doorstep, not yours. Electric vehicles are exempt from road tax and the London congestion charge.

In all, the electric experience was a surprisingly enjoyable and interesting one. If, in order to save the planet, we all end up driving Piaggio Porter Electrics, it certainly won't be the end of the world.

Mark Tyler, 35, general practitioner from March, Cambridgeshire, and Emma Tyler, 6,
USUAL CARS: CITROEN C5, ELEGANCE ESTATE, GRINNALL SCORPION 1100, LAND ROVER SERIES 3 SWB DIESEL

"The driving position was so high that your view through the windscreen was obscured by the rear-view mirror and roofline. I was stooping to get a clear view of the road. The clearance between the front seat base and the A-pillar was very narrow. The ride itself was very reasonable, but the absence of power-steering made for hard work."

Emma says: "It was a quiet comfortable ride with a good view through the big windows. I though it was too high for small children to get in and out of easily."

Mick King, 50, paramedic from Warboys, Cambridgeshire
USUAL CARS: BMW 3-SERIES, PEUGEOT 206

My initial impressions were very poor and in keeping with most electric vehicles - why can't we have better styling on battery-powered vehicles? The start-up procedure is simple, with one lever for forward/reverse drive (no gearbox) and the vehicle is driven almost like an automatic car - however, this is where the similarity ends! On inclines the Piaggio can be held on the brake but once this is released the vehicle has a tendency to roll back before the throttle picks up. It can be held on the handbrake but this emits an ear-piercing warning - not ideal. Overall the driving position was excellent and comfortable, but the drive itself is very underpowered.

Derek Morris, 45, consultant from Sawston, Cambridgeshire
USUAL CAR: LEXUS SC430

Driving it around town was fine - I didn't like the accelerator pedal, though, which had an "on-off" quality. The suspension was a bit stiff so there was some harshness over speed bumps. Acceleration and speed were sufficient around town but out on the open road you quickly begin to hold up the traffic even at the indicated 40mph or so that seemed to be its top speed. It was surprisingly roomy inside and the driving position was fine despite being bus-like, although the unassisted steering was a little heavy. The interior trim, although it may be normal for a small van, wasn't really up to the price; I was amazed there was no radio, for example.

THE VERDICT: If you would like to take part, e-mail motoring@indepen dent.co.uk or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special
tvNick Frost, Natalie Gumede and Michael Troughton step up
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
filmReview: Sheer nastiness of Riot Club takes you aback
PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

    £32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Senior Research Executive - Quantitative/Qualitative

    £27000 - £31000 Per Annum Excellent Benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ETL Developer / Consultant

    £300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

    Geography Teacher, Immediate start, Dover School

    Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is urgently s...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week