And that’s an enormous problem, not for manufacturers making electric cars as mere transport – in fact, for them it’s probably a net bonus – but for those with reputations for producing genuinely fun and sporting cars to maintain. As statements of the bleedin’ obvious go, to observe that the more involving a car is, the more involved its driver will be is right up there with the best. But so too is it true.
The reason I love old cars is that they’re mostly rubbish. If they are to conduct themselves from one place to the next with any degree of decorum, you have no choice but to get involved. And that means there’s always stuff to do. Among your many other roles, you are the engine management, responsible for using the tools at your disposal – the clutch and gearbox – for ensuring the motor remains in that narrow band where it sounds and performs the best. And that’s not just fun, if you get it right it’s pretty satisfying, too.
Back in the near future you could, of course, synthesise much of what has been lost, and perhaps that will happen. The car you drive now is perhaps already synthesising more than you might imagine, from the feel of its electric steering to the sound of its engine. So why not equip your electric car with a sound selector? You could go to work sounding like an Italian V12 and come home sounding like an American V8. But there’s still no gearbox. No, but you could programme the electric motors to behave as if there were and tailor the sound to suit. You could choose your own ratios, too. All seems a bit artificial, doesn’t it? But then so is life, increasingly. I read that E-sports (which I don’t understand at all) is now a $1 billion industry with close to half a billion viewers, and they all know that what they’re doing or watching isn’t real, so maybe it doesn’t matter.
In some areas electric sports cars will be better than those we have now because they will be able to let you enjoy driving in ways that are either impossible or unwise today. People like me love to talk about sliding cars, but you can’t just oversteer anywhere on demand, even in a car like a Cayman GT4, at least not safely. Electric cars promise to bring a new level of controllability, because power can be released to the four corners of the car and controlled to the last electron in a way that’s simply not possible with the blunt instrument that is even the sharpest of internal combustion engines. And it doesn’t stop there. Remember that electric cars can put their centres of gravity at earthworm altitude and that while they seem hopelessly heavy right now, they’re already getting lighter, and that process will accelerate dramatically when someone in the near future works out how to productionise a solid-state battery.