BBC's Top Gear Guide
by Phil Salcedo
Top Gear Online
a vision of the future runs on 3 x ion batteries (included)
faster than a standard Ka
I broke it
This is about an electric car. There, we may as well get rid of some of the
audience right away, because even if we were testing an electric
Diablo, there are some who wouldn't be interested - myself included,
come to think of it.
For all you free thinkers who are still
here, though, get ready for something of a surprise in what may well
turn out to be my last ever test drive.
The subject for
today is Ford's electric prototype, the e-Ka - powered by the next
generation of lithium ion batteries, and offering a range of some
200km between plug-ins. That's more than enough for the average
townie, and as the e-Ka's research engineer, Peter Schmitz points
out, the thing's not meant as a long-range cruiser.
technology would only be aimed at a niche market, maybe as a third
family car. It's suited to an urban, or perhaps extra-urban
The average car journey in Germany is 5km,
with an average daily total of just 15km, so the e-Ka really could
do a job, if range was the only concern. It's not, though, so let's
go for a battery-powered drive.
The first thing to note is
that this car isn't slow - 0-62mph comes up in 12.7 seconds, which
doesn't sound much, but it's faster than the conventional Ka on
which it's based. There's also 190Nm of torque available at… are you
ready… zero rpm. As anyone who's driven a golf kart can testify,
electric vehicles don't have an optimal power band - all the grunt
is there as soon as you hit the pedal. This allows for the rather
ridiculous spectacle of spinning the wheels and screeching the tyres
of the e-Ka before any forward motion kicks in - not that I'd know
of course. Just probably.
Out on the road, Ford's foray into
the electric is something of a revelation. There's ample power for
overtaking, the smoothest of smooth acceleration thanks to the
continual shiftless transmission, and a ride so quiet, you have to
be wary of hapless pedestrians - completely oblivious of your
imminent arrival. It's a stealth shopper's dream.
one of the drawbacks of electric power is the loss of an emotive
engine note. As one unkind commentator pointed out whilst driving
the thing, all that's missing is the sound of clattering milk
bottles. That's not altogether fair, though. If you remember Knight
Rider's quiet pursuit mode, you're getting close to the e-Ka's
fairly pleasant whistle. If you don’t remember it, Colin
Montgomery's greens-mobile probably isn't far off either.
its place, what the e-Ka would do is transform a town centre.
Pollution would still occur in the production of electricity, but it
wouldn't be concentrated in such choking density in the high street.
There wouldn't be a risk of deafness on every visit to the shops
either, in fact the whole urban experience might become a lot more
civilised. I feel like I'm in a seventies Coke advert now.
Just as I'm settling into the whole electric thing, I
realise that even the quiet whistle from the cooling system is much
quieter than I first thought. In fact it's silent. In fact, the
power's cut out and I'm cruising down a German autobahn with nothing
but steering and a pleasant breeze to power me.
Once on the
hard shoulder, I'm faced with two fairly pressing difficulties:
1. How to get back to Ford's Aachen development sight, and
2. What's the most tactful way to explain the breakage of a
multi-million pound, only-two-in-the-whole-world, concept car to its
A few minutes later, power's back and I begin a
comedic limp back home, stopping every few hundred metres whilst the
batteries take an unscheduled break.
It's hard to tell who
feels worse - the e-Ka's PR representative, or Top Gear's
car-breaking delegate. Don't think we'll be driving many Fords in
the near future.
What the car did show, is that electricity
can provide a viable alternative to petrol as an in-town tool. It's
quiet, quick and provides more than enough longevity for the average
day. The reason for its breakdown is most likely to be found in its
stage of development - this is a prototype only, with reliability
yet to be factored in.
There are no plans to bring the e-Ka
to market as it stands, but the technology will work its way into
the next generation of Th!nk cars. Ferrari probably isn't
overly-concerned as of yet, but makers of town runabouts everywhere
should be distinctly worried - though perhaps not as worried as poor
Monika at Ford Germany, who lent me the car to start with.
Top Gear Online