Here’s some great news for all revheads – electric cars are coming! Before you choke on your breakfast toast, swear at me and throw this newspaper into the bin, hear me out.
I’ve driven a number of the new generation electric cars in the last couple years, in Australia, Europe and Japan.
The most recent test drive was in a Nissan Leaf. Nissan Australia has just dropped its price to a semi-affordable $39,990 driveway, from now until the end of October 2013. That’s down $7000 on the previous driveaway deal.
Electric cars are kind to the environment, although just how kind they are depends on where their electricity comes from. Australia’s coal is pretty dirty stuff and any electric car running on power generated from it suffers as a result. Thankfully, cleaner electricity is becoming more common by the day and quite a few consumers are putting their money where there mouths are by paying extra for it.
However, while the typical petrol and diesel engine is about 25 to 30 per cent efficient at best, electric motors have efficiency in the range of 90 per cent. This gives them a huge leg up in the clean-air stakes.
The really good news is that these upcoming electric cars are a lot better to drive than the older ones we have driven over the last three decades.
Because the new generation cars have grunt – lots of grunt! Not the sort of deep-down, gut-tingling, smile-inducing grunt you find in a Holden Monaro 350 or Falcon GT, but they have a lot more punch off the line than you might have expect when you get that pedal to thump the metal. Particularly if it’s a sports electric like the Tesla Roadster, it can do the zero to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds – pure supercar acceleration of the type only a handful of petrol engines can achieve.
This grunt is due to the torque characteristics of electric motors, which put out their very best in the way of Newton metres at ridiculously low revs. Hit the pedal on the right in any electric car and you get instant action. You think you’ve driven responsive petrol engines in the past? Wait till you feel electric action.
All this occurred to me as I put together a news story on the next generation Porsche Panamera. While it’s a plug-in hybrid, not a full electric, it’s capable of running on electricity alone for reasonably long distances. And has heaps of the aforementioned torque.
But the best is still to come. As more and more people switch to electric cars there will be more and more petrol left for all of us guys who just love to drive big cars with large petrol engines creating lots of noise and action. And that have plenty of personality with a capital P.
On the subject of noise, electric cars are the most boring method of transport on the face of the planet when it comes to aural output. They have this quiet little humming sound and not much else. There has been talk of fitting them with special audio systems that could put out your favourite exhaust note, perhaps even some tyre-squealing noises to really confuse people.
Change the CD or chip and you could have a range of sounds – your ’57 Chevy one day, a screaming F1 V8 the next, or how about a Harley on full throttle? The possibilities are endless!
Let’s face it, the hottest of our old-style V8s don’t really make good daily drivers, so we need something else to use as a grocery getter and kid transporter.
And if you’re out for a cruise in your hot petrol-powered beast and some clown criticises it, you can tell them about the neat little electric machine parked on the street outside your garage.
But don’t mention the electric car’s grunt, they just wouldn’t understand…