The Model S is like a piece of a glamorous future beamed down to 2014

 

Price: £69,080 (range from £50,280)
Engine: Electric, 422bhp
Transmission: Single-speed, clutchless, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 130mph, 0-60 in 4.2 seconds, up to 265 miles, CO2 0g/km at point of use

Electric cars– great idea or vehicles in which to chase rainbows? We would all like to see their success, and governments are doing much to encourage buyers into them. Sales, however, are low – much lower than the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which has sunk the most resources into the idea, predicted.

Quite simply, people are avoiding electric cars because the cars don't go far enough on a single electric charge, their batteries take too long to recharge, and it's too hard to find a recharging point. All these things are improving, but there is still a long way to go.

How can it be, then, that the car you see here is the best-selling luxury car in Norway – and, indeed, the third best-selling luxury car in the state of its manufacture, early-adopter California? True, Norway is not a normal luxury-car market; taxes see to that. But those taxes are greatly reduced if a luxury car is electric – and so the Tesla Model S, currently the world's only fully electric, high-end, director-level saloon, has the field to itself.

It would not have achieved this, though, were it not a viable mode of posh transport, especially as big saloons are expected to cover bigger distances than small cars. The Tesla does so by the seemingly simple method of using a very big battery, mounted under the floor, so there's plenty of luggage space both under the bonnet and in the boot. The optional 85kWh battery, which pushes the price up to £57,680, has a range of 265 miles – though this range drops if you go for the extra pace of the top Model S with the Performance Pack, which brings the price to £69,080.

Charging, for now, remains a snag, with more than half a day needed to replenish a fully discharged 85kWh Tesla from a domestic socket. The answer could be one of Tesla's own Superchargers, which can charge the battery pack to half its capacity, enough for more than 100 miles, in 20 minutes, free of charge. However, so far there are only two of these, based at hotels in central London and Birmingham, though many more are planned. In the meantime, existing fast-charging points will work with the Tesla.

Leaving aside this problem, the Model S is like a piece of a glamorous future beamed down to 2014. It looks smooth and sleekly confident from the outside, and even more forward-looking inside. This is the interior of a concept car, except that it's real, and the giant central screen, with its crisp, calm graphics – like an enlarged iPad – controls nearly everything via touches and swipes, including air-conditioning, satnav, battery charge and range, and optional wi-fi.

The drive is astonishing, like nothing I have experienced before, and you are barely aware of that weighty battery when you press the accelerator pedal. Press hard enough and you can overtake a bunch of main-road traffic with ease, as if you have lit the afterburner of your silent jet engine. Driving briskly with even an occasional burst of overtaking energy keeps the remaining battery charge healthy.

A very quiet car at speed, the serenity is punctured only by occasional thumps from the suspension. Bear in mind, too, that this luxurious rapid-transit module attracts no benefit-in-kind tax if run as a company car.

But the most impressive and most viable electric car yet? Undoubtedly.

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