Where are all the electric car cabriolets?

3 April 2014

What a BMW i3 Convertible might look like

It was encouraging to read this week that electric car sales have risen exponentially over the past few years, roughly doubling year on year. According to German researchers, who I suspect we can trust to be correct, 400,000 zero emission vehicles were sold last year around the world.

I can’t help feeling that sales would be even higher if electric cars weren’t all so dull and worthy. The Nissan Leaf is a lovely car and fun to drive, but how much more fun would it be without a roof? Similarly, the BMW i3 is a technological marvel, from its aluminium chassis to its carbon fibre body, but it’s not going to blow away the cobwebs on a sunny spring day. The rear windows don’t even wind down, so I think it clearly needs to lose the roof.

Nissan Leaf convertible

And my favourite open-to-the-elements EV, the incredible Renault Twizy, may not have windows but it does have the unwanted clutter of superstructure over your head. True, you can opt for a perspex roof panel, but it’s not the same. Who wants to sit in a greenhouse?

Fair enough, I do understand that some of these vehicles – the i3 and Twizy especially – presumably depend on the presence of a roof to provide much of their structural integrity. And lopping off the top would require bracing to the remains of the car, adding weight when heft is the enemy of electric car efficiency.

Renault Twizy convertible

But if these two astonishing cars can be built in the first place – against all the odds and without precedent in the car market – surely they can be taken that little step further.

After all, electric propulsion is a perfect match for open-topped motoring. What better way to enjoy your surroundings when you’re not polluting them, or to hear the birds tweeting in the hedgerows when you’re drowning them out with mechanical din. There is the slight drawback that open cars generally have terrible aerodynamics, with the roof down at least, which will tend to stunt the range somewhat, but that can’t be an insurmountable barrier.

Smart ForTwo ED Cabriolet

After all, there are open-topped electric car options already. The Tesla Roadster is as open as its Lotus Elise cousin, while the Smart ForTwo ED can be had in tin-top or soft-top variants. But we need some other cabrio-EV options between the extraordinarily expensive and the not very good.

What do you think? Do we need more open-topped electric cars?

Renault Zoe Cabriolet

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