When it comes to the prospect of our supercar future being all electric, the opinions of my clients have always seemed to be understandably biased to the side of internal combustion as the more desirable option. This is for many reasons I've found but are limited to just a few basic points... The way that the vehicle sounds is unique to each make. You can always point out a Porsche or a Ferrari from 2 blocks away. Or maybe a half mile away if it's a Detomoso Pantera... The way the engine feels is another. The sound of that engine cranking over and firing... The change as it comes off cold start... The vibration as it goes through its moods... And then there's the vast amount of heritage under the hood that can't simply be replaced with some magnets and a battery pack. If I've learned one thing in my many years as a supercar tech, it's that the love for the heritage is why in most cases, they remain largely unchanged from their origins, less some technological developments to keep them up with the times.
I would have to agree but as a mechanic and car enthusiast myself, I wanted to dig deeper into this because I think it's not as simple as it seems.
Why don't we embrace all electric supercars? Nothing can accelerate faster than an electric motor, we all know that. This is why the Tesla Plaid is so fast. Great technology. Why don't we want to adapt to this as our supercar future?
Is there something wrong with us that doesn't allow us to see the faults in our gas engine supercars? Surely there are many faults... Lets list a few top points.
Terrible fuel economy and emissions - It takes a lot of fuel to make combustion power. You need big booms in the cylinders to make a lot of power and those big booms make a lot of really bad emissions that need to be cleaned up before they leave the tailpipe. The best methods we have for cleaning reduces engine efficiency as point 3 explains.
Cost - It's terribly expensive to design and manufacture a supercar engine. Often times they are hand built requiring countless hours of human labor to complete. Additionally, they can be very temperamental from a maintenance standpoint as they are very complex machines that have to be as close to perfect as possible to assume any shred of reliability.
Efficiency - Internal combustion engines are inherently inefficient in their operation overall. The heat loss is dramatic and unrecoverable. Exhaust heat gets used in the catalyst to clean up the air coming out but that reduces engine efficiency as back pressure on the rotating assembly inside the engine. the Electric motors are far superior in translating energy in to energy out. The losses are often so low that experts assume electric motors will be driving all cars in the future.
As terrible as ICE seems from the outside, there is this massive issue that I see though. None of these negative points have anything to do with the client buying the car. And from what I've seen about the positive points of electric cars, nothing entices these people to buy them either.
What I've been told is that nobody cares about the efficiency losses. Nobody cares about the electric acceleration or the fact you never have to visit a gas pump. Nobody seems to even care if they aren't all that reliable in comparison... Part of the charm of owning a machine that turns liquid into horsepower is that you're maintaining something that's really quite a feat of engineering. It really all seems to be negligible in a 900hp Mclaren. Who cares if a Plaid has a faster 60 foot time? It's not a Mclaren.
I think there's this disconnect that happens where a car guy just can't cross that threshold into all electric because you would then have to accept that a supercar, something we've always respected as complex and beautiful for it's intricacies can be just a simple, single cell technology. Something that can be easily adapted into anything from a $600 golf cart to a $1,000,000 Formula 1 car. Then, maybe diminishing what a supercar even is.
I think a supercar has a soul and that comes mainly from it's internal combustion engine. There's something very special that happens when a bunch of small explosions make tires melt around a racetrack while simultaneously singing these amazing notes from its tailpipes.
We seem to love our internal combustion supercars like we love our kids. They aren't perfect, but at least they have a soul, they definitely aren't robots... As many Indian cultures believe there is a certain connection to fire and the human spirit and I personally feel this when an engine runs. There's something undefinable a real car guy can feel when this happens. You'll never get this with an electric car, no if ands or buts about it.