PH Footnote: Enthused about electric

The most amazing thing about the Rimac Automobili Concept One isn't its unrelenting straight line performance - although with 1,217hp, the Croatian electric hypercar is rampantly accelerative - but its freakishly positive handling. And positive is the best word for it. Open the throttle... wait, that doesn't work. Stand on the accelerator pedal mid-corner and the car's trick all-wheel torque vectoring system claws at the ground and hauls you through to the exit with a neatness and precision that you just don't get in conventional cars. No wheel spin, no waste, no under or oversteer. Just perfect, positive drive.

The Rimac can do that, of course, because it has one electric motor for each wheel. The car's super-brain can minutely apportion torque precisely where it's needed, sending drive where it can be put to best use. It's remarkable.

A few months after driving the Concept One I was lucky enough to have a go in Rimac's Pikes Peak hillclimb car too, which also uses one electric motor on each wheel. This time I had the space and safety of a race track, rather than a twisty mountain road with a massive, rocky drop to one side, to feel the effects of all-wheel torque vectoring. And I could turn the system off, so the car behaved more conventionally, then turn it on again, so it behaved once more like a ground-borne fighter jet.

This sort of drivetrain is so flexible that when you've had enough of the whole neat and tidy thing, you can press a button and make the car respond in a different way entirely - like an overpowered, rear-driven BMW M-car, perhaps - something the foreheads at Rimac are working on right now.

I didn't once crave a combustion engine while driving the hypercar or the hillclimb monster. The staggering performance you get from a very powerful electric drivetrain is one thing, but the dynamic possibilities conferred by a stack of batteries and some motors - especially when you have one for each wheel - are something else entirely. A gamer changer, in fact.

And yet somehow, knowing all of this, I still feel petulantly sniffy about electric cars. I feel attacked, actually, like there's a whole new movement these days that's trying to steal something I hold dear away from me. As a hopeless petrolhead, I take the vilification of combustion engines personally. Screw you for trying to take naturally-aspirated V8s away from me. When a friend or family member tells me they're considering an electric car next time around I want to tell them to go crash their brakeless fixie bicycle straight through the pane glass frontage of an overpriced, plant-based food shop. Hippy.

But that's just the boyish side of me. Intellectually, I know EVs are well on their way and it's important we make the switch and stop burning a finite, damaging resource. But try as I might I just cannot feel any emotional connection to that rational understanding. I know very well how mind-bendingly brilliant electric cars can be, but I don't seem to be able to get excited about them. I'm still so suspicious of their intent.

That's why I was really excited when Honda unveiled its Urban EV and Sports EV concept cars in recent weeks, both of which will go into production in one form or another. Both concepts, I thought, looked stunning. Between them, the Urban EV and Sports EV could be the turning point for zero emissions cars and I.

Until now electric cars have been split into one of two camps. Hideously expensive, well out-of-reach premium cars on one side - the £1m Rimac or £120,000 Tesla Model S for example- or affordable and, to my mind, joyless, pious, charmless, unattractive and utterly undesirable urban runarounds, like the Nissan Leaf, on the other. There's been nothing in between.

If Honda's brace of super-cool, retro-styled electric cars can be fun to drive - and there's no reason why they couldn't if Honda wants them to be, especially if it adopts the one motor per wheel layout - you can count me as a convert. The fact they have motors in place of an engine would be reduced to a detail.

I haven't cared about EVs to this point because there hasn't been one that I - just a normal guy on a normal income, but a car enthusiast - could truly get excited about. I hope the Urban EV and Sports EV can change that, and I hope a whole heap of affordable, great-looking, fun-to-drive electric cars follow soon after.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (69) Join the discussion on the forum

  • jcl 02 Nov 2017

    The combustion engine is dead. All the new R&D money is going into EV's.

    In a couple of years, driving around in something that spurts out toxic gases will be as about as popular as smoking.

  • Evilex 02 Nov 2017

    I'd love an EV. I'd have one tomorrow.
    Unfortunately, they're simply too expensive and inaccessible to the majority of motorists in one way or another. Until that begins to change, I've only one alternative to an ICE-powered car; a bicycle. And please don't start me on how the government have stifled the development of E bikes / Pedelecs etc.

  • hammo19 02 Nov 2017

    jcl said:
    The combustion engine is dead. All the new R&D money is going into EV's.

    In a couple of years, driving around in something that spurts out toxic gases will be as about as popular as smoking.
    Really? A couple of years?

    I don’t see any electric cars on any of the drives on my street. Maybe in Cheshire or London. Hybrids are more plentiful.

  • Mr2Mike 02 Nov 2017

    jcl said:
    The combustion engine is dead. All the new R&D money is going into EV's.

    In a couple of years, driving around in something that spurts out toxic gases will be as about as popular as smoking.
    You are living in a fantasy world if you think that's going to happen in two years.

  • T1berious 02 Nov 2017

    I think that once they crack solid state batteries (cheaper to produce with greater density but currently too unstable for many applications) we'll see the big change. So a Tesla with double the capacity for the same weight (600 miles range) would see the range anxiety issue gone at a stroke and on the flip side, sporty numbers weighing around the same as current ICE coupes with 300 mile ranges (say sub 1400 Kg)

    My only worry is that with the push for electric we'll also see a push for autonomous driving on major roads in the name of safety.

    Well, once they sort the legislation out.

    The future is definitely electric, just look at the R & D most of the manufacturers are currently embarking on.

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