*Guest Post by Giles Kirkland, Mechanic*
When it comes to greener driving, electric vehicles (EVs) are certainly the current way forward. They’re not perfect, but they represent the biggest development in eco-friendly driving in automotive history. That said, there seems to be a distinct lack of variety when it comes to EVs you find on the road.
Just a quick look at some of the most common or recognizable EV models, such as the Nissan Leaf and the infamous Tesla 3, will show the same concept time and time again – hatchbacks, compacts and sedans. From their general outlook and specifications, there really isn’t anything too exciting. So where are the performance EVs?
The Popularity Of Formula E and EVs In Car Culture
Whether it’s EVs or regular combustion engine vehicles, the very best engineering is often seen in the motorsport world first. This is often a great testing ground for improving technology, which is why the likes of Formula One, World Rally Championships and other motorsports are important assets for the world’s leading manufacturers. As for EV racing, there is only Formula E.
So which manufacturers are making big developments with Formula E? Well, tire companies like Michelin are making big efforts to improve performance. As for actual car producers, there’s quite a limited list of big names. Here are all the competitors from the 2015-2016 season:
- Abt Sportsline
Of these, only Renault, Citroen and McLaren actively design and produce EVs (though Abt Sportsline specialize in tuning and improving). Given that McLaren and Renault were involved with Spark Racing Technology from the start, Citroen is the only other big name showing an active interest in EV racing. Perhaps the sport needs to be more open to manufacturers to encourage the development of the sport? Right now it is certainly low stakes, compared to the variety of teams competing in Formula One.
Perhaps, then, this is an issue with car culture as a whole? There is certainly some debate as to whether or not car culture ignores green technology. Car magazines and shows often focus on the biggest performance vehicles in the world – which are typically combustion powered. EV cars can certainly reach some impressive speeds, but unless you’re the best, being green isn’t seen as a desirable trait.
Other Performance Areas
Of course, there are other areas of performance that EVs are significantly lacking in. 4×4 cars and off-road vehicles are the biggest examples. EV rallies are often small in scale, both in terms of sale, money and the competing companies. This is less to do with the dynamics of off-road 4×4 in relation to EV power output, and more to do with the fact there are very few charging stations in the middle of the Welsh forest – it simply isn’t practical or viable to develop 4×4 EVs right now.
Hyper Cars Are In Production – Just Not By Who You Think
Another possible problem is, similar to the issue with Formula E, some big companies just aren’t that interested. There are actually a number of EV hypercars in production but it’s typically by small-scale developers that do not get the exposure these vehicles deserve.
Let’s take the Toroidon 1MW – just one of the many electric hypercars in active production or design – as a prime example of what’s on offer. The 1MW is still undergoing development, but it promises over 1,300 brake horsepower.
How about more examples? The Renovo Coupe is boasting a top speed of 120 mph and the Rimac Concept One is offering as much as 200 mph. Considering the Spark Renault SRT-01 E is capped at roughly 140 mph, it’s clear electric vehicles can do much more than this. (Speaking of the SRT-01, it’s worth noting they can do 0-62 mph in an estimated 3 seconds, which is twice as fast as the upcoming Tesla’s 0-60 mph in 6 seconds).
The catch? Few people have heard of the likes of Renovo and Rimac. Toroidon, for instance, has a team of just 15 people and with a $1 Million price tag, few people are going to put their faith in an unknown brand. Tesla and Nissan have a great deal of success and visibility behind them, but their cars are designed for a specific, practical niche.
There Is Still A Great Deal of Performance Overlap
Finally, it’s also worth looking at the overlap between EVs and regular cars, as there is so much that influences car performance outside of the engine design. For a start, only the tires ever make contact with the ground, so the right rolling resistance is crucial for getting the best speed. This, at least, might be a hopeful area. Michelin is taking great care of Formula E and recent activity in Formula One has seen Pirelli tires make big changes to tyre testing requirements in the sport. The message here is simple. The supporting companies, such as tire firms and other manufacturers, are just as vital in encouraging and refining the automotive industry.
It’s certainly clear that high performance EVs are viable, with a number of models in production. However, with a lack of involvement from the biggest car producers, as well as a smaller focus in motorsport, they’re certainly taking the long way around.