Image Copyright marvellousworld, 2011 Used under license from Shutterstock.com
Now I've seen it all. Back in April, Miss H and Mags went sports car shopping. Now Rolls-Royce are launching an electric car. When the last bastion of premium indulgence and super-slick luxury decides it's going down the environmental route to produce an eco car, it's time people like me stood up and paid attention. And I have.
Don't get me wrong - I'm a big fan of the environment. Not least because it's produced some incredible scenery, encouraging me to get in the car on road trips through both Northern Spain and also Italy. And if you've read my blog about the world's best running marathons, you'll know I'm not against putting in the effort myself. Heck, I'll even hop on a scooter to get somewhere in style - because travelling in style is the only way to travel, in my opinion.
But I'll be honest - the Toyota Prius does nothing for me. That boxy behind just isn't my cup of tea. And the Smart Car has its place in city-driving, not least because you can park it on the street width-ways. But there's only space for two people inside. And can you imagine pulling up to a five-star hotel hoping for one of those prized bays at the front in either of those? Course not. "Er, lovely sir, the basement car park entrance is to your left. Please park up as far back as you can." Bang goes your chance of that room upgrade to a suite too. And the abuse from your friends and family? It doesn't bear thinking about.
We all know that a great fuel efficiency and lengthy warranty are 'good', but try explaining that to your date when she's complaining about the shoddy interior. Or the fact the car's run out of juice 15 kilometres short of your dinner date venue. No, what's going to do it for people like you and me is a luxury car straight out of the top drawer regardless of how it's powered. But first, some background.
About hybrid cars
Hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius, combine a petrol engine with a battery that interchange under different driving conditions to maximise the best of both. Their petrol engines (or in some cases, diesel engines, like the Peugeot 3008 HYbrid 4) are pretty fuel-efficient too. But all that battery has to go somewhere, and what it takes up in space, it robs you of in the cabin.
About electric cars
Electric cars rely entirely on electricity charged in battery cells to power the car - there's no petrol or diesel engine whatsoever. How eco-friendly they are is entirely dependent on how the electricity was produced in the first place.
The pros and cons of electric cars
There are lots of pretty average-looking hybrid and electric cars. Some ugly ones too. As lovers of luxury and good design, let's leave those to everyone else. What we're really talking about are high-end luxury cars like these:
- the Opel Ampera saloon out in 2012;
- the Tesla Roadster sports car (based on the Lotus Elise);
- the Nissan Leaf hatchback - Car of The Year 2011; and
- the Rolls-Royce 102EX Phantom Experimental Electric.
The Ampera is a hot-looking car - that snarly air-intake at the front and the 'sports-hatch' at the back which is so popular right now? Now THAT I could park on the front drive. Or anyone's drive, as it will have a range of 560km between charges. It will also do 100km/h - a speed it's electronically limited to.
And the Tesla Roadster? No-one need know it's an electric. The Lotus Elise on which its based is always up there as a sporty little number I'd happily have in the collection.
The Nissan Leaf I'm not so sure about - the looks aren't quite there for me, but on the inside, it has a welcome futuristic feel that in cities, as a rental, I'd be happy with.
The electric Phantom - absolutely. Same incredibly quiet ride, same level of comfort inside, same out-and-out British luxury. Same price? Not quite, but if you're getting behind the wheel of a Phantom, petrol or electric, you're hardly looking at the price tag, are you?
As an ex once remarked to me, "it's what's on the outside that counts". She'd had one too many Martinis of course, and mixed up her words, but still, she had a point.