The Big Idea: Electric Cars Finally Arrive
While autonomous driving remains the overarching fascination of automotive future-think, today’s car headlines are dominated by another technology not long ago considered far-off, even fanciful: electric vehicles. Manufacturers across the world, from start-ups to the biggest names in the business, are showcasing EV technology in everything from SUVs to supercars. And given that battery-powered cars still account for just a flyspeck of the global market and widespread recharging infrastructure remains beyond the horizon, the speed at which EVs stole the spotlight feels abrupt. But, in fact, it’s the culmination of a story line that’s been unfolding for decades.
At the beginning of Bill Clinton’s second term, the hybrid-electric Toyota Prius was launched as a dinky, plodding, hyper-efficient commuter box for the eco-conscious. Today, an all-electric sports sedan from Porsche, the Taycan, not only sold out a year’s allocation before production began but actually lived up to the hype behind the wheel, with road-carving Porsche performance, luxury and real-world range. Even Ford, in a bid to stir greater mass appeal, is attaching its Mustang nameplate—that iconic symbol of red-blooded American muscle—to an all-electric crossover, the Mustang Mach-E, set to go on sale as a 2021 model. And while six or seven years ago high-performance hybrid-electrics like the Porsche 918, the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari were wild outliers, they paved some very exciting roads to the present day: Consider the plug-in hybrid Ferrari SF90 Stradale, with its three electric motors and V-8 engine combining to deliver nearly 1,000 hp, as well as the battle for electric-hypercar supremacy among the likes of the Pininfarina Battista, Lotus Evija, Tesla Roadster, Rimac C_Two and many more. With ludicrous immediate torque and sprints to 60 mph straining the two-second mark, it’s enough to get even petrolheads salivating.
But despite recent studies projecting that up to a third of vehicle sales will go to EVs by 2025, rumors of the internal-combustion engine’s demise are greatly exaggerated. If you find high-octane fuel and the music of a V-8—or V-12, or straight six—to be one of life’s great pleasures, you can rest assured they’ll be around for years to come. Just know there will be an increasing number of silent, emission-free competitors—and, if it comes to it, the electric car will almost certainly be faster off the line.