Like drinking smoothies, pursuing rainbows and weight-watching, electric vehicles, or EVs, are very much ‘on trend’, although somebody needs to tell their makers and the nation, urges Iain P W Robertson, else their sheer ugliness fails them .

plugugly1Never having been a proponent of the novelty value of electric transport, mainly because electrically powered vehicles are anything but ‘new’, the current phase (if you can ever pardon such blatant punnery) is not exactly illuminating. However, while beauty might well reside in the eye of the beholder, surely somebody would inform their best buddy that their underarm odour is creating an impenetrable barrier?

Take the latest (and most enthralling) BMW i3 as an example. Oh, sure, its skinny tyres, ‘suicide’ rear passenger doors and hefty, £30k+ price tag will all be justifiable characteristics. Yet, why does it have to look so execrably grotesque, making many cathedral gargoyles look more Hollywood than Cripple Creek?

plugugly2Taking a leaf from Nissan’s book does not provide a decent sense of direction either. Its British-built Leaf projects a fat lip from its front bumper, as though the school bullies had managed to slip in a few blows before the car made market. I am unsurprised. Have you seen its far from elegant rear three-quarter view?

While the Toyota Prius, albeit a model from the hybrid branch of automotive technology, is now so familiar that it can boast over a million registrations (not all in the UK, thank the heavens), it is also just on the edge of ugliness. plugugly3Mind you, I would prefer to run a plug-in version of it, rather than the inexplicably repulsive Lexus CT200h, which is not only bulkier and pricier but also less practical and significantly slower than its Toyota stable-mate.

However, one of my favourite ‘clean and green’ machines was the original Honda Insight hybrid introduced at the turn of the Millennium. Part-petrol, part-electrically powered and exceptionally streamlined, yet with clear styling links to the sporty CRX coupe, the original Insight was a strict two-seater, featuring genuine ground-breaking technology, undersold very expertly and wrongly by Honda.

plugugly4In some ways, even with a new price tag of £17,000, it was sorely under-priced and each model was reportedly subsidised by Honda to the tune of £10,000. However, with year-old examples failing to excite the UK motor trade, even early auction clearance sales witnessed values hovering around the £4,000 to £5,000 level. It was abundantly clear that fear was the greatest enemy of early hybrid progress.

Explain to me then, why is it that the carmakers involved in driving our futures have to resort to all manner of ploys, to stop us from wanting to be spotted driving in any of their latest and ugliest models? I can only presume that it has the same origins that provide us with utterly useless letter-box rear windows of the BMW X6 and Range Rover Evoque, Minis that are not, any posh Datsun Infiniti and most car rear-ends that look as though they have been rear-ended beforehand.

Conclusion: Although I am not seeking the Dan Dare designs of my youth, there is simply no logic attached to making cars that we ought to be driving any less appealing than those that we do drive. Come on, motor industry! Wake up and smell the coffee, which might direct a few extra EV sales your way.

About Iain P W Robertson

Frequently being told to 'go forth and multiply', Iain P W Robertson's automotive wisdom is based on almost forty years in the business, across all aspects from sport to production, at the highest levels. He likes dogs and drives a Suzuki (not related).