Is it wrong for me to take pleasure in watching some “car enthusiasts” go completely mental over the advancement of technology in the auto industry? I mean, we now officially have cars that drive themselves. That shouldn’t be something for petrolheads to complain about. It just means we’re one step closer to having our own freaking Knight Rider! Seriously, I’m just counting the days until I can buy a car that drives itself and talks back to me with a sassy attitude.
Of course, doing that means prolific computer control throughout the car, and that’s another hot button for enthusiasts. Drivers want to drive, they don’t want a computer doing the work for them. Whatever. You think F-16 or Eurofighter pilots care that their jets can’t fly without computer control? And don’t get me started on the whole flappy paddle gearbox thing. I love the good old manual lever to swap cogs as much as anyone, but people railing on Ferrari for dropping the stick in favor of paddle shifters haven’t driven a paddle-shift Ferrari. There will always be the older models to give you that hands-on experience while the new cars redefine high performance, so don’t get all cranked over the advent of technology.
What does any of this have to do with electric cars? Simple - they’re another link in the chain of automotive evolution that enthusiasts generally don’t want to accept. Never mind that electric cars have been around since before the first petrol-powered cars, technology is finally progressing to the point where they make sense. By that I mean they have all the features and amenities we look for in a car, with good performance and acceptable range. And Tesla is showing the world they can literally be ludicrous when it comes to serious speed and acceleration.
And folks, it’s only going to get better from here. So for the purists out there who’ll have their petrol engines and manual gearboxes pried from their cold, dead hands, here are six reasons why you needn’t die for the cause.
Remember the article I shared with everyone a few weeks ago about torque? Electric motors don’t need to achieve certain revs to create gobs of power. It hits as soon as you press the go pedal, and in case you haven’t yet seen Tesla’s P90D sprint from 0-60mph in the same time as million-dollar hypercars, that’s a very good thing for performance. And electric motors are far more efficient with the power they produce - specifically 90 per cent efficient as opposed to an average of around 35 per cent for petrol engines.
This is a huge deal for anyone living in or near mountains, because petrol engines lose performance at higher altitudes due to thinner air. Taking a spin on the twisty mountain roads near my home in western South Dakota generally means I give up as much as 15 percent of my Mazda’s 220bhp, and it sucks. Temperature also plays a role in horsepower, which is why petrolheads spend their hard-earned money on cold air induction kits or upgraded intercoolers for boosted systems. Electric motors are completely unaffected by such issues, though cold weather does affect battery life. Then again, race cars aren’t exactly known for their stellar fuel economy either.
Speaking of fuel economy, is there anyone who actually likes to dump liquid money into their cars on a daily basis? Spending money to make your car go faster is fun. Spending money to just make it go is rage inducing. Yes, recharge times can be hours rather than minutes to refuel, but hey, this is all still a work in progress. There are already companies testing new battery technologies to triple and quadruple their capacities, and as both batteries and recharge times improve, I think most people will forget about petrol power pretty quickly.
I could type a fabulously detailed paragraph about how a petrol engine works, but I think most people get the point. Very many moving parts versus very few, and oh yeah, no more oil changes. No more radiator leaks. No more transmission flushes. No more complicated timing belt replacements. No more oxygen sensors, or EGR valves, or valve adjustments. I’m not saying electric cars are trouble free, but there’s certainly much less to go wrong.
How can this be a plus? Enthusiasts crave feedback from the car. They want to feel what the engine is doing, the tyres, the suspension, and how it’s all interfacing with the road. What if I told you that a smooth engine would actually give you more feedback? Just ask anyone who’s driven a proper race car how that big lumpy engine feels when it’s bolted directly to the frame. Eliminate that vibration and noise, and you can concentrate on the actual act of driving. And for those who love cars that just keep pulling, trust me when I say you’ll love going all electric.
Even if you disagree with every single point on this list, here’s one to make you happy. Petrol powered cars aren’t going away any time soon, so don’t worry. Here’s a completely true story: Car Throttle’s ancestor publication Bike Pedal received a strongly worded letter-to-the-editor in 1904, condemning the “atrocious driverless carriages” as terrible inventions compared to bicycles because they took the manpower out of the machine. And yet here we are in 2015 where bicycles are better than ever.
I think that’s what electric cars can do for their petrol counterparts. There are all kinds of benefits to electric power, and as the technology progresses I think we’re going to be positively amazed and properly entertained by what electric performance machines can do. But they will also improve the petrol performance we all still love, despite their inefficiency, high maintenance and nasty emissions. Any way you cut it, the future for all us CTzens looks pretty damn good.