The highest levels of performance are now going hand-in-hand with electrification. The McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder and Ferrari LaFerrari wouldn’t be the cars they are without hybrid technology, in various guises. For these three it’s a symbol of their status, of their unwavering commitment to speed.
But each of them still has a big engine that makes all the right noises, both literally and metaphorically speaking. Big power outputs, huge torque, astronomical top speeds – these are not things that electricity is wholly responsible for. If you take the hybrid systems away, these three would still be pinnacle supercars; the cream of the automotive crop. The same goes for the Koenigsegg Regera, for example.
Hybrid systems, then, add technological intrigue, extra marketing angles and a multi-dimensional driving experience, as well as better fuel efficiency and the emissions-lowering message that EU lawmakers want to hear.
Maybe you could even go as far as to say that battery and motor assistance is the key, defining aspect of the very best, fastest and most desirable cars on the planet. So far, all the biggest and best hypercar makers have gone electric, to a point, and both Mercedes and Aston Martin are looking to join the fray within the next couple of years
But if speed and drama are always going to be prerequisites for the best supercars in the world, electrification faces a couple of problems. First of all, speed on its own isn’t enough. The more electric that cars get, the more passion and raw pulse-racing excitement they lose. Take the noise away and you destroy the car’s soul, which means that hypercar makers can’t afford to go much further with electricity than they already have.
The second problem is the Huracan Performante. The argument over the authenticity of its Nurburgring lap time will rumble on and on, but if it really did mash the 918 Spyder’s record time with nothing but an old-school V10 and some clever aero, where’s the prestige in electricity?
The question we have to ask is this: we know electric cars are going to be common soon enough, but will hypercars be leading the way, or will they be the last to hang onto internal combustion? They’ve moved to hybrid power because, right now, it’s a new and mighty technology that has more benefits than drawbacks, but can a hypercar ever really maintain that tag without a big, loud engine behind the seats?
Hybrid hypercars have paved the way for smaller, lighter, cheaper hybrid sports cars, but while technology can keep advancing and everyday machines will turn electric without causing us too much lost sleep, the poster cars of the future have already reached a plateau, of sorts, before they’ve even been designed. If they go electric, we’ll lose interest. It can’t and won’t be the same, and I think McLaren, Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes, Aston Martin and Koenigsegg know that
Unless legislation forces manufacturers to abandon internal combustion at the highest level, hypercars are going to stay more or less as they are; hybridised powerhouses with big IC engines. Even if every Mercedes C-, E- and S-Class ends up running on electric power; even if the Porsche 911 goes electric, I just can’t see European hypercars doing a Rimac. The need for internal combustion runs too deep.