How much of a car’s character comes from the engine? I found myself mulling over this question the other day when I was looking at the raft of electric cars on show at the Frankfurt motor show.

The answer of course is a lot, considering the engine contributes to how fast a vehicle is, the handling depending on where it is positioned, noise, I could go on. So if all cars are electric they all become the same, right?

When Autocar gathered four main electric contenders for a feature yesterday, the answer surprisingly was: no. The battery-powered protagonists all offered a slightly different take on electric propulsion, all with very different results.

Despite its gawky looks the cheap(ish) and in no way cheerful G-Wiz is a common sight on our streets for an electric car, with a claimed 48-mile range and a 50-mile top speed from its lead-acid battery. The electric Smart has lithium ion batteries under the floor, with the motor replacing the engine.

The ECC C1 Ev'ie is a conventional small Citroen running on a 30kw electric engine, powered by lithium-ion batteries that are placed where the conventional fuel tank is and under the bonnet along with the electric motor. The futuristic i-Miev uses ‘new-generation’ lithium-ion batteries, which recharge more quickly giving the car a real-world range of 100 miles.

Without giving too much away the cars differed in the way the power was delivered, their handling characteristics resulting from the layout of the powertrain, and the noise coming from the motors. Some of the cars felt similar to petrol-powered vehicles, others intrinsically different.

OK, so perhaps it’s wishful thinking that electric power will ever be as characterful as the huge variety of combustion engines on offer, but I was surprised to see how much these zero-emissions chariots differed. But let’s face it three-phase charging doesn’t have quite the ring of quad-turbocharging…

Technorati Tags: , , , ,