With EVs set to bypass ICE cars in terms of sales by 2030, surely we should now start considering whether they could be considered classics, right? Car Journalist, broadcaster, and all-round Car Pervert Jonny Smith is on hand to help us with this question..
If you remember back to last month, car journalist and TV presenter, Jonny Smith, helped us define the term “classic car”. As you may also recall, Jonny is also a self-confessed “car pervert”, which is also the name of his YouTube channel.
Unlike most car YouTubers, Jonny focuses on what he describes as a “broad church of cars.” This means that instead of practising sporty driving in the Ferraris and the McLarens of this world, you’re more likely to find him exploring vehicles that are a little unusual. In short, a car’s badge, price tag, and top speed are not important - if a car is interesting, it will catch Jonny’s attention.
Within the next five years, EVs are set to make up 10% of all global passenger vehicle sales, and Volkswagen has set itself a target to produce one million electric cars by the end of 2023. However, the Internal Combustion Engine is still king (for now!), which is why EVs still fall into the left-field category and hold an enormous amount of appeal for Jonny.
Throughout his career, Jonny has sought to change the public perception of electric and hybrid vehicles being a fad - his efforts saw him set a world record for the world’s fastest road-legal EV in 2015 with a re-engineered Enfield 8000 city car from 1974. Across the quarter-mile at the Santa Pod drag strip, he and the car recorded a speed of 121mph in just 9.86 seconds - a figure that can put most supercars in the shade.
Until early 2020, Jonny was also a presenter on the Fully Charged YouTube channel and out of the 130 cars he has owned, a number of them have been EV and hybrids. In fact, a few of them have even made this list including the Volkswagen e-Golf, and first-generations of the Honda Insight and Kia Soul EV.
We at Dyler.com are big fans of electric cars, which is why we asked Jonny for his thoughts on the EVs he considers to be future classics.
In no particular order, here they are.
Over to you, Jonny Smith!
Nissan Leaf (first-generation/2010-2017)
Jonny says: “The first car I thought of for this list is the first-generation Nissan Leaf. Now, it's styling isn't to everyone's taste, but it is undoubtedly a landmark vehicle. The Leaf bought EVs very, very quietly to the mass market, which is something it continues to do to this day. People always go on about Tesla being the first this and the first that, but a Tesla is not a cheap car. They are good, don't get me wrong, but if I said that everyone should go out and buy a £50,000 family car, I'd be met with replies of "well, not everyone can afford that sort of money". It’s absolutely right, and that's where the Nissan Leaf comes in. In the classic world, something that was the "first" or "last" of something always tends to garner quite a lot of attention. Cars that fall into these categories tend to be the most collectable. I was in Japan at the Nissan factory for the launch of the Leaf, and I was really excited about it, so when the wraps came off, it looked and still looks like a Parrot Fish. All that said and done though, whilst I still maintain it's ugly as buggery, I love the drivetrain on the first-generation Leaf. It's a properly reliable and decent car, and given what it did in bringing mass EV appeal to the general public, I think it fully deserves a place on this list.”
Honda e (2020)
Jonny says: “The Honda e is almost set to become an instant cult car and on that basis, cult cars always tend to have a lot of collectable value. I think the e is Honda doing Honda best, because they haven't copied anyone. When they go their own way, they're genius, which is why the Insight I owned was so excellent. With the e, Honda hasn't said it has the best range and the fact it has a range of 125 miles won't be for everyone. However, this isn't for people who are looking for maximum range or bang-for-buck. I'd say this car is aimed at people who simply love and appreciate everything about cars. Honda has been totally unique in its aesthetics and approach to the e's design, and that’s what makes the e desirable and interesting. You just can't resist it. I drove one again recently for a CarPervert video, and it just makes you smile and want one - fact, my wife has caught me a couple of times speccing one up on the Honda configurator and I've had to really tell her "oh no, I'm not buying it, I'm not buying it!" I think it's fair to compare the e to one of those polycarbonate Mac g3 desktop computers from the early 2000s. They were one of the first computers to be an all-in-one desktop and Apple made them in all sorts of bright translucent colours. I had one in blue, and I loved it. The same can be said for those white MacBooks from the mid-2000s, too. Like the e, Macs are probably not the best thing bang-for-buck, but as a piece of design you just look at them and say "wow, that's amazing!" That’s what it's all about really, so who cares if it doesn’t have the biggest or best numbers? Design is about really making you desire something, and Honda has nailed this feeling of want with the e.”
Tesla Roadster (2008 - 2012)
Jonny says: “The Roadster is the first “Elon Tesla”, so this leaves no doubt in my mind that it will become a really collectable car in the future. Tesla bought a Lotus Elise rolling shell and adapted it for an EV drive train because it didn't have the money to build a car from the ground up. I think this is quite funny to think about now that we know Tesla is the company it is. The Roadster is a mash-up of British and American engineering, so it has the Lotus characteristics of great handling and a lightweight body combined with Tesla tech. At the time it seemed a pretty strange decision to build a sports car as Tesla’s first car because the Roadster is essentially an Elise with a battery pack. Looking back though, it made sense, because Elon wanted to prove the power, strength, and reliability of his batteries and drivetrain. A number of other manufactures including Rimac and Pininfarina are also now following this route of making a sports car or a supercar first to show off the durability of their tech. Overall, I think that the Tesla Roadster will be the pinnacle of this list in terms of collectable value.“
BMW i3 (2013 - present)
Jonny says: “I know I've just mentioned it, but I think that in terms of a piece of design, the BMW i3 is the best EV out there - especially when you get inside. If you just take its interior alone and consider the quality of the materials that BMW used and how well made it is, I’m not joking when I say it easily puts £200,000 supercars to shame. In terms of making a bold statement, I also think BMW did a hell of a thing with the i3 - it threw everything they had at it and actually ended up losing money on it. I am absolutely sure that there will never, ever be another car like this. When people say "oh, it's £36,000 and that's quite expensive," I always reply "dude, it's built like a McLaren except it's built well and a McLaren costs about four times more. With the i3, you're also getting a full carbon fibre EV which is an amazing little car. Trust me, it is not expensive." The i3 fully deserves to be on this list because I truly believe it's a piece of history we will not see again in our lifetime. The best thing is, is you can get one in the UK for around £12 or £13k now.”
Kia Soul EV (first-generation/2014 - 2020)
Jonny says: “I think the first-generation of Kia Soul EV will become a definite future classic, simply because like the BMW i3, it's a really interesting package. It was amongst the first cars to have a fully-recyclable interior, and Kia used some really unusual materials inside. It was also one of the first cars to have eco wheels and like the Honda e and VW e-Golf, I think it'll become a bit of a cult car because it looks awesome but unusual, and it works really well as an EV. If I were in the market for a future classic EV, I'd really have my eye on a first-gen Soul EV because you can still use it as a daily. It’s also the first car that showed the world that an EV can be superb looking and affordable, which is why it's got future classic written all over it. Generally speaking, I'd say that the current crop of Hyundai and Kia EVs are amazing and they probably have the best motor and battery pack combinations on sale today. In the early 2010s, the South Korean manufacturers developed some of the most energy-dense, mass-produced battery cells, and the final versions ended up in great EVs such as the Soul, the Kia e-Niro and the Hyundai Kona. These all have a range of around 300 miles or so, and they're not overpriced because they don't have the whole Tesla-esque fanfare around them. I really believe that South Korea is making the best EVs in terms of range and reliability at the moment.”
Volkswagen e-Golf (2014 - 2020)
Jonny says: “Like I said earlier, one of the things that gives a car classic status is whether it was the first or last in a line of cars, which is why I want to mention the Volkswagen e-Golf and the Golf CitySTROMER. The e-Golf went out of production earlier this year and it'll be replaced by Volkswagen's line of ID electric cars which will go on sale very soon. I am sure VW will dominate the electric car market, because they've been doing this for over 40 years. It all started in 1981 with the Golf CitySTROMER - a Mk1 Golf fitted with lead batteries that gave it a range of up to 100 kilometres when fully charged. The CitySTROMER was a low-production vehicle. Only 215 were produced from 1981 to 1996 when the model was phased out alongside the last version of the CitySTROMER - the Golf MkIII. I'd say that the e-Golf is a future classic because it's where the electric Golf story stops, and the CitySTROMER is already a definite classic because where the electric golf story began. There's actually a CitySTROMER in the reception area of Volkswagen UK's headquarters, and given what it represents and its low production numbers - bear in mind that only three or four made it to the UK - I think it's very cool."
Honda Insight (first-generation / 2000 - 2006)
Jonny says: “The Honda Insight is a hybrid, so I'm not sure if it should be here and maybe I'm biased because I owned one. However, I truly believe the Honda Insight to be one of the best cars ever made. Like the e, the Insight is Honda at its finest because it's Honda doing its own thing. The Insight is simply gorgeous in every way - the aluminium chassis is amazing, and the car’s subsequent lightness means it has an overall weight of just 840 kilograms. Its little 1.0-litre hybrid engine is also a wonder, because Honda used more aluminium, magnesium, and even plastic in its construction to keep the weight down. The Insight was also built on the same production line as the old Honda NSX and the S2000 because like the two sports cars, it was also low-volume, all-aluminium, and built by hand. In fact, from 2000 to 2006, just 17,020 Insights were made. It might sound strange to say this, but I really think the Insight is almost better than the NSX and the S2000 because again, it was Honda doing something entirely unique and not copying anyone else. You can get a good one for around £5,000 upwards, and I really don't think they won't depreciate lower than that. The Insight is also a really interesting driver's car whether you care about the environment or not.”
Toyota Prius (second-generation / 2003 - 2009)
Jonny says: "I think everyone knows the second-gen Prius, because it's used mainly as a taxi now. As much as I think it's a hateful looking device, it's undeniable that it changed the automotive landscape as we know it, because it introduced electric-hybrid power to the masses. If you think about the cars that have become desirable or classics for nostalgic reasons - for example, the Ford Cortina and Vauxhall Cavaliers of this world - I think the Prius will shortly join these. This Prius is a bit like the first-gen Honda Civic. That's not because it's flamboyant or exotic, it's because it's quite cute and a bit weird. If you can find a second-generation Prius that's been well-loved and not been buggered about with, it'll be worth quite a lot of money in the future." ."
Fisker Karma (2011 - 2012)
Jonny says: “The Fisker Karma isn't a particularly old car, but it's definitely a modern classic. Fisker is owned by Henrik Fisker - the guy who designed the BMW Z8. If you're a bit of a car fan of a certain age, you’ll remember the one that got chopped in half by a helicopter in the James Bond film - The World Is Not Enough. The Z8 is a beautiful car, so that was quite upsetting! Anyway, the Fisker Karma was amazing! The Karma was revealed at the 2008 Detroit motor show, and production began in 2011. It was a four-door, really sleek super saloon, and I was blown away by the design and its hybrid drivetrain. Because it predated the Tesla Model S and Fisker doesn't make them anymore, I'm certain the Karma will become a very collectable thing. It is also fully aluminium and has a mid-mounted battery pack. It has a 2.0-litre petrol engine onboard, but it acts as a generator to give you a better range. It's the same thing that BMW did with the i3 and the i8, and it's called a Range Extender or an REX. I've never driven a Karma, but I'd love to. I just think it's a great thing and it needs to be revisited because it's sort of been forgotten about.”
Tesla Model S (2012 - present)
Jonny says: “The Model S is the first mass-produced Tesla, which is why it deserves a mention on this list and like the Tesla Roadster, I think the Model S will get more and more collectable with time. I like to think of them a bit like a Subaru Impreza WRX STi from the mid-1990s or early 2000s, which is an all-time great. The Model S has an epic drivetrain, and this is a similar reason to why you'd buy a WRX STi - you bought it because you loved that five-cylinder turbocharged engine and its excellent four-wheel-drive system. You didn't buy it for its superb build quality or pioneering looks. I think another parallel between the two cars crops up here, because I've had a feel around in a Tesla and the materials aren't great. It's not 1970s British Leyland standards of cack, but it's definitely not up to £50k car levels, which is exactly what a Tesla Model S is. The dashboard is a bit scratchy and the door handles are a bit flimsy, and for this sort of money, you'd expect Mercedes-Benz levels of quality, not the sort of thing you'd find in a sub-£20k hatchback.”
To watch Jonny’s videos on the Honda e, Volkswagen e-Golf, Kia Soul EV and a tonne of other cars on this list, head to his YouTube channel, which you can find here.
If you are interested in buying any of the future classics from this list, please visit Dyler.com to take a look through our listings.