Having secured an invitation via Guardian Extra, I tootled on over to City Hall on Saturday for the UK launch of Renault's Z.E. (for Zero Emission) range of electric vehicles. And that's my driver's-eye view above. For yes, I got to drive them as well. And the driving experience? Fantastic. I've never driven an electric vehicle before, and I'm not sure quite what I was expecting. But certainly what I didn't expect was silence. For there's no noise whatsoever. It's very disconcerting. The weird thing is, though, the disoriantation only lasts for the first 100 metres or so. Once you get going, it feels just like driving any other car (or at least any other car with automatic transmission). But the lack of engine noise has the funny effect of making you feel totally relaxed. So if this is the future of motoring, bring it on I say.
And there really is no doubt that this (or something very like this) is going to be the future for motoring. Some of us may be motivated purely by the wish to reduce our carbon footprint. And that's fine, I have no argument with that. But I suspect that only the ever-increasing cost of petrol and diesel is going to be enough to get the majority of motorists to reconsider the type of car they buy. It will come though: the day that buying this new type of car will be the only sensible choice to make. So I'd suggest that now might be the time to start getting used to the idea.
First up for my test drive was the Kangoo: my chance to become a white van man sans any semblance of van man driving behaviour. If I was running a business that relied upon transporting goods within London or any other major conurbation, I'd be in the queueing round the block to buy one of these. And no doubt you'll start seeing these on the streets after their arrival in September. Not that you'll hear them coming, mind - so watch out when you're crossing the road.
And then there was the Fluence. A lovely car to drive, to be sure. But with so little in the way of personality, it has to pass the same place twice to cast a shadow. Which is rather a shame for the purchaser who may want to be making a statement about their green credentials. I'm really not sure what Renault's idea with this one is: a car that's styled to appeal to the mass market, but without a mass market to sell it to. But it would make for a great mini cab, which is perhaps it's destiny.
But there are some more exciting models in the pipeline: again, rather aimed at the mass market in its styling cues, though somewhat more 'edgy', is the Zoe. But before that will come the one to really get excited about: the Twizy. Yes, I'd like one of those.
Anyway, thanks to Renault for an extremely well-organised preview.