By now most people have seen the videos of various electric (or other non-combustion) cars taking to task representative rides from the likes of Ferrari and Porsche around some deserted parking lot or drag strip. Make no mistake about it, the delivery of power via electric motors, especially in the absence of torque-sapping transmissions, comes on much quicker than with a traditionally fired gas engine.
Of course, it isn't just the electrics that are making news, Koenigsegg recently released details on their CCXR, arguably one of the most extreme super cars anywhere which, actually runs on E85...all 1,018 horsepower of it. As a matter of fact, the quest for the fastest today isn’t as much about cars as it is simply an engineering feat that happens to take place on four wheels. What chemical reaction, alternative fuel or outright foreign propulsion you use to get said wheels turning faster than the next guy is really up to.
Look at the vehicles making the rounds at the Top Gear test track, for example, and the resemblance to average road-going cars is absolutely laughable. Why manufacturers (and ultimately consumers) are so obsessed with performance gain is almost beside the point, it has been obvious since the beginning that the light bulbs that turned on in the engineers’ minds weren't always tinted green.
Either way, electric power will be a real game changer that has the ability to eventually cast obsolescence over all combustion technology. Just think of all of the futuristic movies, you don't see those non-descript bubble shapes sporting big blocks do you?
That brings up an interesting point, however. While we may have a consistent shape, it seems that there is some difference of opinion on the physical nature of personal transport in the decades to come. The movies set at some time in the future all seem to employ either floating (flying) cars, a la The Fifth Element, which in my opinion represents the absolute most liberal possible form of transportation, or the “track” vehicles a la The Minority Report that automatically follow a smart road like a cheap amusement park ride, to which I suspect I would not be the only one saying’ thanks, but I would prefer to walk.”
Because it will take several generations to finally give up the soul and personality a healthy V8 provides, the way companies approach new propulsion may make the difference in their success. Even today, appliance vehicles that you can’t even tell when they are running (even though they do like clockwork) are the ones we characterize as “soulless” and devoid of any interesting characteristics.
OEMs should not underestimate how important the aural component of driving today is, which is something our current fleet does very well, but could easily go away with a move to more modern technologies. There just isn’t much to get excited about when driving a car that performs precisely like an overgrown golf cart, I don’t care how many cup holders and acres of leather it has or how quickly it can parallel park itself.
While some say the electric car was deliberately killed in some chain of orchestrated and calculated PR stunts, which at one point it probably was, I say you are going to have an even harder time pulling the masses away from that slight rumble, no matter how puny sometimes (sorry you four cylinder guys) and that slight vibration that comes from a turning engine at idle and ultimately that growl of exhaust highlighted by the mechanical twangs of a (gasp!) manually operated transmission.
Here’s to remaining cars that let you know you’re still alive.