What Car? Green Awards 2009 - Editor's award

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Tesla
Should car makers try to persuade car buyers that battery-powered cars are a genuine option for the future, they're not going to be able to rely on ill thought-through Government handouts to get buyers to part with their cash.

Battery-powered cars have got to be viable: in terms of price, range and practicality. They've got to be desirable, too.

Let's be honest here: most battery-powered cars don't exactly tug at your heart strings. In fact, many of them aren't even cars, they're quadricycles – so they don't have to meet the same safety standards as cars. Frankly, some of them feel like they're made from egg boxes and make you feel as though you should wear a tall hat with a bell on top.

Leading the charge
Something clearly has to change, and one car maker has done more than any other to prove that battery-powered cars can be sexy: sexy to look at and pretty sexy to drive. Pictures of battery-powered cars may well knock McFly or Fernando Torres off of teenagers' bedroom walls some time soon – and that revolution has been started by Tesla.

The Tesla Roadster is a motoring sensation. Granted, with prices starting from £87,100 it's not cheap, but trend-setters rarely are. There are issues over battery life and replacement costs, and the cars we've driven have had other reliability 'issues'.

Yet performance is in supercar territory – 0-62mph in 3.9sec. The way the power is delivered is nothing short of astonishing, too. The Tesla's torque – all 276lb ft of it – is produced from standstill, so you get a shove in the back like little else, accompanied by, well, barely a whirr of the electric motor. Bizarre, but intoxicating.

Electric performance
Remember that this car is based on a Lotus Elise and, while its handling isn't quite as razor sharp as the donor car's, it comes pretty close. The ride isn't bone jarring and motorway driving is more than bearable – even if prolonged high-speed driving does bring 'range anxiety' as the numbers on the power gauge head south.

Tesla's not a one-trick pony, either. The Model S, a seven-seat saloon, is on its way in 2012. It looks stunning, promises 0-62mph in 5.6sec and can have different battery packs offering a claimed range of up to 300 miles. It should be less than half the price of the Roadster, too.

We don't expect all battery-powered cars to look as good or drive as well as a Tesla, but for proving that electric cars are something we can lust after, Tesla deserves massive credit.


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