I’m generally not very much into traffic-light drag races, but sometimes they’re necessary and this was one of those moments. It started when the EV pulled up on my left, in a lane that had parked cars on the other side of the intersection, and it clearly intended to zip ahead of me when the lights changed. I really hate that.
The light turned green so I floored it. And it was at this moment that the penny dropped on what I really do not like about EVs.
My little car did its thing. Its thing is pretty good – on a good run it’ll scoot up to 100kmh in well under four seconds. But the EV not only kept pace, it pulled ahead and then changed lanes in front of me.
‘I realised at that moment that the era of the petrol engine must be coming to an end, and that the realm of relatively high performance is going to be open to more and more people.’
This was no exotic EV, either. I’m not going to name the make or the model, because it’s too embarrassing. And to make matters worse, it was an SUV. I realised at that moment that the era of the petrol engine must be coming to an end, and that the realm of relatively high performance is going to be open to more and more people. And if I’m honest, I think that’s what I really hate most about the whole EV thing. Call me a performance snob if you will – I don’t care.
Until now, producing a genuinely high-performance petrol-engined car took some engineering nous and a commitment by a manufacturer. Someone inside the carmaker has to have the idea of shoehorning a heap of power into a small car, then someone has to design it and then it has to be built.
My little car, for instance, has a mad five-cylinder engine that pumps out a shade under 400hp (actually, it’s a bit more than that since the engine was remapped, but I keep that quiet in case my insurer finds out).
It’s been awarded engine of the year umpteen times. Coupled to an all-wheel-drive system and a sweet semi-automatic transmission, it gets off the line like the proverbial scalded cat and sounds absolutely mental while it’s doing it. It turns heads but the beauty of it is that no-one realises it’s my car making that noise because it just doesn’t look like it should (or could).
The EV was not only quick, but it was silent and there were no gear changes. It just pulled away. It also (at my estimate) costs quite a bit less than half of what my little car cost me (although I will concede mine might be a tad overpriced). And that doesn’t seem fair.
All this SUV has is an electric motor – or maybe four, one driving each wheel, I’m not sure – hooked up to a big old battery. It produces loads of torque, in the same way the motor in a train or a tram does, which is why those things accelerate like they do even though they literally weigh tonnes. But that’s no engineering marvel, it’s just what electric motors do.
It kind of feels like cheating, and when you can put a battery and an electric motor in a car and sell it for $45,000 you open up the availability of high-performance motoring to the hoi polloi. That’s just not right.
As I followed the taillights of the EV that had just dragged me off, I could console myself with only one thought. My little car will top out at around 240km/h and I can get as much as 650km out of a tank of petrol, if I’m cruising on the open road. For now, on these measures at least, I still have an edge. But these days are surely numbered.