Electric cars: 10 of the best from the Frankfurt Motor Show

And there's even a Trabant!

Mercedes

The world's greenest ever car show is happening right now in Frankfurt, Germany - and we've been over there to check out the best new vehicles.

But you can forget the usual parade of crazy concepts and wild supercars, because the spotlight this year is on the latest breed of electric cars to hit the stands.

Most manufacturers, with the exception of the die-hard supercar brands and those too skint to build new cars, have at least one electric vehicle on display.

Some are full-on electric motors that are about as harmful to the environment as a celery and a carrot salad, while others use a combination of electric with petrol or diesel engines for low-speed cleanliness and long-distance usability.

The message all these cars send to us is that electric is most certainly the fuel of the future. Some of them might be concepts for now, others close to production, but each of them represents a significant step in the future of the motor car.

1. Audi e-Tron
Audi's e-Tron is one of the show's biggest surprises. A concept for now, it is an electric version of the R8 supercar with four motors – one at each wheel - churning out 313bhp and a colossal 3,319 lb/ft of torque. That's about 20 times the overtaking muscle of a Ford Focus.

Electric cars from the frankfurt motor show

2. BMW VisionED
BMW's concept is fast and frugal. It has a 1.5-litre plug-in electric/diesel motor that emits only 99g/km of carbon emissions and can hit 60mph in 4.8 seconds. It also has two electric motors, one powering the front wheels, the other the rears. The intelligent suspension even knows the type of road you're driving on and will adjust the dampers accordingly.

Electric cars from the frankfurt motor show

3. Citroen REVOLTe
Remember the Citroen 2CV, the zany French city car that's now a collector's item? Well Citroen has previewed its new 2CV. Called the REVOLTe, it is likely to be offered as both a hybrid (petrol and electric) and electric only making it perfect for clean, urban fun. It's certainly funky, with rear-hinged doors, three seats and a foldable solar-powered roof.

Electric cars from the frankfurt motor show

4. Hyundai Blue
2012 is the year of the London Olympics but we'll also see this new track star making an appearance. It's called the Hyundai Blue, a new sports car with a 1.6-litre petrol engine mated to a 100kw electric motor for instantaneous acceleration. The roof even features solar panels for recharging on the move.

Electric cars from the frankfurt motor show

5. Lexus LF-CH
Lexus is taking on the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series with its new LF-CH hatch - except it will be offered with just a hybrid engine. This will be a sector first and bring fume-free motoring to the masses. It's also clever inside; to keep distracting buttons in the cabin to a minimum the LF-CH features "remote touch controls", which enable the driver to scroll through the in-car systems with a mouse-style controller.

Electric cars from the frankfurt motor show

6. Mercedes F-Cell
Finally, an electric car that can escape the city. Range, as in distance, is the Achilles heel of electric cars – you can only travel short distances before they need to be recharged. But this new Mercedes F-Cell has an electric engine that can travel 250 miles between top-ups.

Electric cars from the frankfurt motor show

7. Peugeot BB1
The wacky BB1 from Peugeot seats four people in tandem. Two electric motors power the rear wheels, and the driver uses bike-like handlebars rather than pedals and a steering wheel to control it. The downside is it'll only go 75 miles before you'll need to recharge.

Electric cars from the frankfurt motor show

8. Renault Zoe Z.E. Concept
Renault showed four new electric cars this year, but it's Zoe that caught our eye. The front doors open like scissors, and the rear is like a butterfly's wings, while its 100kw motor will provide power for 100 miles before a refill. The spoiler also pops out at speed to provide greater aerodynamic but efficiency but the bit that we like most is the climate control system that can "hydrate" and "detox".

Electric cars from the frankfurt motor show

9. Trabant
The Trabant name is synonymous with the former Soviet Block. It was the communist 'people car' and as such was as basic as a flea-ridden mule. However, Trabant is back, and very much westernised. This new electric car has a snazzy design incorporating a solar panel on the roof for battery replenishment on the go.

Electric cars from the frankfurt motor show

10. VW L1
VW's L1 is an electric car with a back-up diesel engine for when you've long distances to cover. Weighing a meagre 380kg and seating just two passengers in tandem like a motorbike, this little diesel-electric hybrid should be a flier when – not if – it goes on sale. Who said green cars can't be fun?

Electric cars

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Like this article? Then check out 10 green projects that just might save the world

Sign up for TechRadar's free Weird Week in Tech newsletter
Get the oddest tech stories of the week, plus the most popular news and reviews delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up at http://www.techradar.com/register

Follow TechRadar on Twitter