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Road Tests

VW e-up!, motoring review: The electric car of the future is very nearly upon us


PRICE £19,250
ENGINE CAPACITY 80bhp electric motor
RANGE Up to 100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS (G/KM) 0 at tailpipe

It would be all too easy to slide predictable jokes about the Yorkshire vernacular with the name of this car. Even the unnecessary exclamation mark of the e-up! annoys me, but that would be stupid. It would be particularly stupid because this little VW city car is probably the most important motor that I'll drive all year.

Essentially it's the all-electric version of VW's excellent up! run-around, so instead of a petrol engine it has a sprightly electric motor and 230kg of electric battery, which should, so the people at VW say, give you a range of about 100 miles before you need to find a charging station or plug it in at the mains (with a normal plug) at home.

Quite simply it's a revelation; as good as the petrol version on pretty much every front (except its limited 100-mile range) with a smooth power delivery, supple ride and well-behaved cornering manners. It just happens to run on electricity, not refined hydrocarbons. Unlike many "green" cars, there aren't even any garish lime-green panels or fancy displays to constantly remind you that you've bought an electric car, which is good. Electric cars will catch on when they don't feel compromised or handle like some futuristic but risky endeavour.

Great as it is, drivers will have to make two sacrifices. The first is its limited range and the second is its price, which at close to £20k is staggering (a petrol model costs just £8,265).

Of course, electric-car prices will drop eventually as the technology matures but as far as I can see they'll only really start selling when they pass what I call the Great Aunt June test. You see, most commuters do fewer than 30 miles to work and back by car each day. But what about my fictional Great Aunt, who lives 110 miles away? What happens if the e-up! is my only car and she has a fall in the night? There are no trains, hire car companies are shut and the street car down the road is booked out?

For my money this fear, along with the price-tag, is why VW has taken so long to introduce an all-electric model; customers still expect to be able to dash off down the motorway at the drop of a hat.

As wonderful as the e-up! is, it's still a limited second-car proposition for wealthy city types. That said, give it a year or two for VW to knock the price down and add some range, well, then we'd be in business.