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Comment: Will electric vehicles ever become classic cars?

Published 07 February 2017

There was a time when owning an electric car was seen as being a bit quirky and well, something of a chore. A perception not always helped by the design of the cars. Just 15 years ago, if you wanted to own an electric vehicle made by a mainstream motor manufacturer, then your choices were limited.

The only electric vehicle on sale in the UK was the G-Wiz, which makes the current crop of EVs like the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe look perfectly normal by comparison. The G-wiz had a face that only a mother could love - it's bizarre styling coupled with almost no crash protection. But at least it had a range of 45 miles and was a true zero emissions vehicle. Drivers, however, were not convinced. That left the new kids on the block - the petrol electric hybrids - to lead the charge.

Early Toyota Prius models were drab and dumpy, while driving around in a Mk1 Honda Insight (complete with spats) saw drivers ridiculed by school kids all over the country. But despite the image problem, drivers and engineers quickly cottoned on to the potential offered by electric power.

Unlike their petrol-engined equivalents, electric vehicles can offer 100 percent torque from the get-go – there’s no waiting around for the revs to rise or the turbocharger to kick in. Sure enough, stories started emerging of the Inzight being banned from a rally after spanner wavers managed to extract some serious oomph courtesy of a battery boost.

Civic Hybrid

The Honda Civic Hybrid was an early rival to the Prius.

Fast-forward to 2017 and electric cars are a lot cooler. Well, some of them are. Drive past the school at lunchtime in a Tesla Model S and the jeers and laughs once directed towards environmentally conscious drivers have been replaced by spotty grins and double-thumbs up.

While the 1088bhp Concept_One has been busy beating a string of supercar rivals thanks to its 0-62mph time of just 2.8 seconds. I don’t know about you, but I feel like we’re on the verge of a sea change. Formula E (F1 for electric cars) is gathering more momentum and proving the technology where it matters most. Indeed, last year Audi announced it was quitting the prestigious 24 hour race at Le Mans (where it pioneered diesel technology) to focus on building electric race cars.

People will complain that these zero-emissions vehicles lack the power, passion, and sheer aural assault of petrol-engined race cars. And they’ll be right. But there’s this little thing called progress that isn’t too concerned with looking backwards. F1’s 1.6-litre hybrid V6 may not sound as great as the V8s, but Mercedes is busy teasing us with an AMG-branded F1-engined hyper car. That's right - a road legal F1 car.

Where we had posters of Lamborghini Countachs and Ferrari F40s on our bedroom walls, the next generation of car enthusiasts will lust after cars where petrol power is only a small part of the attraction.

Tesla

The first Tesla imported to the UK sold at auction for more than £43k.

So, will electric cars ever be classics? If age is any description of a classic, they already are with the first ones appearing in the mid-19th century and one holding the land speed record around 1900. And more modern examples are already taking their first steps to classic status. The first Tesla imported to the UK recently went under the hammer at a classic car auction.

But what about that generation of 1990s petrol-electric hybrids? Well, Mk1 Honda Insights are already fetching £2500-£3000 on eBay.

And we meet more and more people at classic car shows who have fitted an electric engine to an older vehicle, such as a Triumph Herald or even an MGF. There are even companies now that will convert your classic for you, like Electric Classic Cars UK. There are also now shows dedicated to electric cars.

It’s really no different to all those Eighties and Nineties cars that your next-door neighbour said would never be classic - if people care enough about electric cars, then they’ll become a classic. It’s a matter of when, not if.

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