There are two schools of thought in the car industry at the moment: those who want to create radical design for electric vehicles (think the Volkswagen ID or Honda Urban EV) and those who are erring on the safe side (think Mercedes EQC or the new Audi E-tron unveiled today).

It’s early days but, so far, the cars that look most different have unsurprisingly got the most attention. The VW ID hatchback looks space-agey, and we’re told the production version stays true to the concept, while the charmingly retro Honda Urban EV was one of our most popular news stories when it was revealed last year.

But people reading stories on concept cars doesn’t necessarily equate to sales.

In the past few months, three premium brands have revealed electric stand-alone SUVs. The Jaguar I-Pace has been lauded for its design, looking relatively conventional yet innovative and standing out from its non-electric SUV range, the Jaguar F-Pace and Jaguar E-Pace.

The EQC, revealed earlier this month, has stuck closer to its tried-and-tested formula. One of the EQC’s designers, Hartmut Sinkwitz, told Autocar: “[The EQC] is the beginning of the electric family. We felt this is the right amount of revolution to start with for this car. You will see more with other EQ models. We believe this is a good starting point.”

And then there’s the E-tron. One fellow journalist said of the pictures that it looked “like some extra bits had been stuck on a Audi Q5”. That’s harsh but, at the very least, the design language of the E-tron is close to Audi’s internal-combustion-engined SUVs.

Audi E-tron revealed

There are some specific details for the electric model – a new take on Audi’s single-frame grille, unique, aerodynamic wheels and some lines intended to point to the battery. Car designer Stephan Fahr-Becker said: “We want to point out where the battery is laying - that’s why there is a wedge [lower down on the sides of the car].”

The quandary is that there are two different types of buyers: those who want to show they are in an electric car, and those who want an electric car but don’t want to show it off. Fahr-Becker agrees: “The struggle was that there are some customers who want to show they are driving an EV and some who don’t want to put so much emphasis on it.”

The Nissan Leaf – a car that isn’t particularly pretty – remains the biggest-selling electric vehicle, followed by the more ‘normal’-looking Renault Zoe. But as the market floods with electric options in the next two years, it’ll be telling to see which tactic wins on the design front.