I am a complete and utter gear head. Perhaps a better description is the British term “petrol head”. I love cars, a passion I inherited from my dad. When I was a kid it was American cars, especially the excesses of the late twenties and the mid to late sixties. As I got older my passion shifted to British cars, in particular Jaguars.
I’ve always been a bit of an engine snob, especially when it comes to the sound an engine makes. I love the sharp-edged burble of a highly strung V8, and the quiet confidence and seemingly effortless power of a V12.
I’ve owned fire breathing monsters and innocuous sleepers. My current car, a Jaguar F-Type S, thrills me in part because its engine has a bit of the best of both worlds. It belches a throaty snarl when it wakes up, purrs with an almost V8-like rumble at idle, is quiet and powerful when cruising, and sings the most outrageous heavy metal blues when wielded in anger.
Putting the car in “Dynamic” mode opens up a valve in the exhaust system, making the car even louder. High-tailing it through the twisty bits with the devil’s own trombones at full blast is still a lot of fun, but it’s not quite the same anymore. Why is that, I hear you ask?
Because my wife bought a Tesla.
My F-Type is an all-aluminum, 2-seater roadster with a supercharged, 380 horsepower, 3.0 liter V6 engine. It’s gorgeous, it handles like it’s on rails, and it does 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds, albeit with a fair amount of auditory drama (see above).
I used to think that was pretty impressive. Then I got behind the wheel of the Model X. Quick reminder: This is a fairly large SUV with floorboards made up of batteries and enough gadgets to keep your average millennial busy for hours. The thing has fully automatic gull wing, excuse me, falcon wing doors, for crying out loud. I’m not sure how much those doors weigh, but the whole car weighs in at roughly one metric aircraft carrier.
But man, does it move! In fact, it does 0–60 mph in 4.4 seconds. Sound familiar? It should, because that’s the same as my F-Type.
The big difference is that the all-steel battleship does it without any drama, and absolutely no hesitation. That’s not even the best part. If you’re cruising at say, 65 mph, and you floor it, the car surges forward in exactly the way battleships don’t. There is no downshifting, because there’s no transmission. There is zero lag and virtually no sound. Just pure, unadulterated, 100 proof, brain scrambling acceleration.
And that’s the base model. Upgrade to the Performance model and it does the same 0–60 mph sprint in 2.7 seconds. Fluidly, silently.
Reality check: how many production cars can you name, through all of car-making history, that can do 0–60 in less than 2.8 seconds? Go on, I’ll wait.
I like being helpful, so if you came up empty, here’s a list of sub-3 second cars that Road & Track compiled in 2018. You’ll notice that not all of the cars on the list can do the sprint in under 2.8 seconds, and that all of them are very, very expensive.
Of course, there’s more to life than acceleration, there’s also the aforementioned twisty bits. The Tesla does surprisingly well for itself, but you do feel the heft of those carrier decks. There’s simply no keeping up with the F-Type once the going gets groovy.
This is also where things get tricky for me. Driving the F-Type, I catch myself wishing it had the drivetrain of the Model X. I’m trying to imagine what it would feel like to toss the Jaguar around those corners with absolutely no lag no matter what, gobs of torque from standstill, regenerative braking allowing for single pedal driving, nearly all the weight just inches above the ground, and the sound of birds jabbering the loudest thing for miles.
Lest you think that’s just a silly dream, Jaguar has actually hinted at a future all-electric successor to the F-Type. They’re not doing this to be politically correct, they’re doing it because electric drivetrains are the future.
Rant time: There are some people in the car hobby who see EVs (Electric Vehicles) as some form of left-wing conspiracy set in motion to steal their inalienable rights. I’m not sure which rights exactly, but those same people tend to insist that if you like EVs for any reason, then that automatically means that you’re some kind of tree hugging liberal in serious need of an intervention. Nothing pisses me off more than those cantankerous YOPs (Ye Olde Pharts).
I’ve heard all of their arguments, but I don’t care if there’s no infrastructure yet to charge hundreds of millions of electric cars. Nor do I care that batteries take hours to charge and that they can’t power a car for more than a few hundred miles. Those are logistical and technical issues, and they will be resolved. The more EVs that hit the streets, the more money there will be in figuring out solutions to those problems. It’ll happen, and sooner than you think, because that’s how capitalism works.
I’m not even saying that EVs are the future because of global warming and the need to reduce carbon emissions. That’s a very important consideration, but it’s not what I’m talking about here.
EVs are the future because they’re gobs of fun. Not just that, but they have the potential for so much more fun, it’s crazy.
And that’s why driving my F-Type isn’t quite the same anymore. It’s still fast, it’s still fun, and it’s still beautiful. But honestly, it seems a little old-fashioned now. It’s like I’ve seen the future, and the F-Type isn’t it.
It’s hard to explain, because it’s not etirely rational, it’s also emotional. First world problem? Absolutely. Moving on:
If the only EV you’ve ever driven is a golf cart, then I can understand if you think I’m a few spark plugs short of an even flame front. But please, go test drive a performance EV like a Tesla or a Jaguar before you attempt to speak with authority on the future of electric cars. You have to try it for yourself. It’s the completely linear and effortless acceleration that gets you. Not even a smooth V12 comes anywhere near it.
Also, I’m not done. Once the weight and bulk of batteries come down, even just a little, EVs will become even more fun to drive. They’ll accelerate faster, they’ll corner better, and they’ll stop shorter. They’ll smoke any ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car you’d care to put them up against. Heck, they might do that already. Have you seen the specs on the new Tesla Roadster? And do you for a second believe that the electric Jaguar F-Type-replacement will be any less insane?
We haven’t even talked about cost of ownership yet. EVs are cheaper to fuel than ICE powered cars, by a wide margin. They also have much fewer moving parts, allowing for less maintenance costs. Again though, that’s just a bonus and not really what I’m talking about.
What I’m talking about is Bottom Line Fun, and what this all adds up to is more performance and more fun for less money. What else could you want?
Speaking of fun, some people seem to worry about the future of the car hobby because they think modern cars in general, and EVs in particular, are harder to modify and hot-rod, an important part of car culture.
While some YOPs fret, other people are busy building. EVs and EV conversions are the hottest thing out there right now. But it does take a new set of skills, skills that are alien to the carburetor-tweakers of yesteryear. This is where I have faith where the naysayers have none: Performance addicts have adapted to new technologies before, and are adapting again right now.
Like i said, I like to be helpful, so I looked up some math and some stats, so you don’t have to. The thing is, even in Ludicrous Mode, Tesla is effectively detuning their Model S and Model X cars, presumably to preserve the batteries. They’re “only” drawing around 425 kW from the batteries at maximum fun, which works out to around 532 hp.
That’s a discharge rate of 4.7 C, for you battery aficionados out there, you know who you are. That’s pushing it, but you can allow yourself to discharge at that rate every now and then, without reducing the life of the batteries too much. But, what if you were a speed freak and you didn’t care that much about battery longevity?
Thing is, the twin motors in the Performance models are rated at a combined 762 hp (259 hp up front, 503 hp in the rear).
Granted, things aren’t quite that simple, the total power output of the car under acceleration isn’t a straight-up arithmetic addition of the two motors. They’re geared differently, to provide power at different speeds. But that doesn’t mean that a hot-rodder would have to do it that way.
If you can wrap your head around how to program a computer and how to regulate the flow of current, sounds to me like there’s some interesting potential there.
I can picture some future go fast artist hacking the drive unit controller to feed both motors as much current as they can possibly stand without spontaneously combusting. On second thought, massive flames from under the car would make for a nice touch as it crosses the finish line, so who knows?
Or perhaps someone will try modifying a 503 hp rear motor to fit up front, for a combined 1,006 hp. Add some supercapacitors to increase the burst discharge rate and to spare the batteries the worst of the abuse, and you have yourself a serious rocket-ship.
Now, would this be as much fun as strapping a blower and a NOS kit to a good ol’ fashioned V8? That’s a matter of personal preference, of course. My point is that EVs can and will be restored, tuned, modified, nosed, decked, shaved, chopped, and slammed to within an inch of their lives, just as ICE powered cars have been and are. What’s more, car enthusiasts will have fun doing it.
As if to prove my point, GM just unveiled their new Chevy eCrate engine at SEMA. It’s a 450 hp all-electric crate engine that bolts straight to your existing transmission. They even built their own proof-of-concept hot rod, based on a 1962 C-10 pickup truck. Fed by two 60 kWh batteries housed in the truck’s bed, Chevy says this hot number will haul the mail from 0–60 mph in 5 seconds flat, and do the quarter mile in 13 seconds.
Looking for something a little more custom? How about a ’49 Mercury that looks almost original, but is powered by electric AMR motors and Tesla batteries, and has all the electromazappin’ fixins and trimmings, including a monster stereo?
Make sure you catch the YOP interrupting the interview at around 10:20, to tell Jonathan Ward, the CEO of Icon and the engineer who built the damn car, that he doesn’t know $@#% about anything. I love how Jonathan and the interviewer stay calm, collected, and polite through the entire ordeal. If you’d like to see more of the Icon Derelict Mercury, here’s another great video, which also includes some other goodies.
None of this means that gas stations are facing an uncertain future, of course. EVs still need to come down in price, batteries need to improve, the electric grid needs to evolve alongside the adoption of EVs, and there are still lots of places on this big ball o’ dirt where an ICE is the only thing that’ll do. That last bit is probably always going to be true. Driving a Toyota pickup truck to the North Pole comes to mind as a good example.
EVs aren’t the end of anything, they’re the beginning of a new era of a lot more creativity and fun. Better get ready for it!