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.