Electric cars are expensive to manufacture. Some carmakers have, therefore, shied away from them entirely, sticking to traditional propulsion methods, while others have taken the plunge and created their own vehicles at great expense.
Others -- Peugeot Citroen and Mitsubishi in particular -- have combined their resources to create a single shared platform, in order to reduce costs. The result of this talent fusion is the Peugeot Ion, a car that can also be seen sporting Mitsubishi i-Miev and Citroen C-Zero badges.
We took the Peugeot incarnation of this electric city car for a few short trips, punctuated by several long stints of recharging, to see whether it's worth £33,000 -- or £28,000 after government subsidies.
The Ion is an odd-looking car. It's extremely tall and narrow, and looks as if it's been involved in some sort of horrific side impact with a pair of double-decker buses. Don't let its odd shape fool you, though. The Ion may be tall and narrow, but it affords its occupants plenty of space, like some sort of electrified Tardis on wheels.
There's bags of room for four passengers -- two in the front and two in the rear -- and there's absolutely no need to snuggle up to those sat next to you, unless they're particularly obese. Speaking of which, if you're extremely fat, you may want to stay away from the Ion, as its maximum payload is 330kg, which is around 52 stone. The world's heaviest man should stay clear of this motor.
The Ion is perfectly suited to extremely tall people, though -- its head room is like nothing we've ever seen in a car before. We'd have sacrificed some ceiling height for better aerodynamic efficiency, although anyone from the Amy Winehouse or Marge Simpson school of hair styling will absolutely adore this arrangement.
Boot space is fairly pathetic. The boot's volume is a mere 163 litres, which is only enough for a few days worth of shopping.
Handling and performance
Like most electric cars, the Ion is a remarkably refined drive. It pulls away with a silence that's initially quite disconcerting, but its smooth, effortless acceleration and quiet cabin create limousine levels of luxury.
Unfortunately, it's not particularly fast off the line. It seems to take an age to get from a dead stop to 15mph, but, once above this speed, torque from its 64bhp electric motor comes on in spades, helping the car accelerate briskly until the speedo hits about 40mph. After this point, the power delivery is more of a trickle than a torrent.
Peugeot claims the Ion will get you from 0-30mph in a fairly respectable 5.9 seconds or 0-62mph in 15.9 seconds. Its top speed of 81mph means you can venture onto the motorway without fear of being passed by lorries, although its height means it's quite badly affected by strong crosswinds.
Around town, the Ion rides well. It does, however, struggle when confronted by large potholes, and you'll need to slow right down when you encounter speed bumps, which feel like miniature mountains.
The Ion's cornering and braking abilities were absolutely fine in the dry conditions in which we tested it. But we have our doubts as to whether the Ion, with its uber-narrow wheels, would cope well with wet, icy or snowy conditions.
Range and recharging
Like all electric cars, the Ion can be recharged via a standard household electrical outlet. Its 16kWh lithium-ion battery pack can be fully charged in around 7 hours, after which it can achieve about 93 miles of driving, according to the New European Driving Cycle test.
Sadly, the NEDC doesn't accurately reflect the way normal human beings drive, or the myriad factors that affect an electric car's range -- speed, road gradients, stop-start traffic, ambient temperature, use of ancillary systems such as the stereo or air conditioning, and so on. As a result, the actual driving range will vary from person to person.
On average, we achieved around 58 miles of driving between charges, across routes that mixed traffic-infested B roads, short stretches of A roads, and half-mile stints in our local area. Many of these miles, it must be said, were fraught with anxiety, since the Ion doesn't attempt to tell you how much range you've got left. Instead, it shows a fairly useless power bar -- much like you get on a mobile phone -- that tells you the state of charge, but not the rate at which that charge is declining.
The Ion doesn't have a great deal of tech in the cabin. There's a pretty mediocre CD stereo system that does, to its credit, support Bluetooth hands-free calls, and there's a USB port for playing digital music. That's pretty much it, though.
Peugeot can provide an optional heated driver's seat and door mirrors if you're willing to part with an extra £155. You can also equip the car with a Garmin sat-nav. Still, luxuries are few and far between.
The Peugeot Ion is a good city runabout for those wishing to drive short distances. It's quiet, usually refined and has sufficient poke to keep up with the flow of traffic in any road conditions. It's let down by problems inherent to all current electric cars, though -- it's pricey, its range can't be trusted on longer trips, and it takes ages to recharge from empty.
Edited by Charles Kloet