Love it or hate it, electric vehicles are the future. As much as I hate to admit it, it’s the truth, at least for commuter vehicles. For a long time I was totally against the electric car movement but I really do think they make a lot of sense for those who want to buy a boring car. That might sound bad but it’s true! If you are going to buy a boring car to get from point A to point B and that’s it, an electric car is really your best bet. The only thing holding them back in my opinion is price. They are more expensive than similarly sized gas powered cars but you also never have to put gas in them so there is an instant savings right there. Electricity is much cheaper by the KW than gas is by the gallon. I have never driven one but from what I hear they are actually pretty fun to drive around town. Electric motors offer instant torque and torque is fun! I imagine many of the new electric cars that aren’t all-wheel-drive are pretty traction limited in their low end performance. It might seem like electric cars are a fairly new thing but that’s not the case as electric cars were best sellers well over 100 years ago!
Modes of transportation powered by electric batteries actually date back to the 1830s but this was before rechargeable batteries which showed up in the late 1850s. Therefore once the batteries were depleted they needed to be replaced. After 4 decades of trial and error amongst many inventors electric vehicles started to become the norm. By 1900 the Electric Vehicle Company (EVC) had produced more than 600 electric cabs in just New York alone with smaller fleets in other cities. As you can imagine it took a long time to recharge the batteries in that day so the cab companies had a central location where the cabs would drive in and just swap their depleted batteries with a fully charged unit and off they went again. Most had about a 50 mile range. Due to issues between investors the electric cab business fell through by 1907. In the spring of 1899 a Belgian inventor, Camille Jenatzy, broke the 60 mph barrier in his torpedo shaped, aluminum bodied car that was built to show off his electric carriage builder companies engineering prowess. It was powered by two 25 kW motors good for about 67 hp.
Some big names in the automotive industry cut their teeth on electric vehicles. Companies like Oldsmobile, Studebaker, and Porsche built electric cars at the turn of the century. As countries and cities were expanding the gasoline engine started to make more sense. Electricity was not yet widely available outside of the city and for longer trips, the battery range just wouldn’t do. Due to the batteries weight it was much easier to carry extra gas cans than it was to lug big heavy batteries around on extended trips. We all know that the gasoline engine persevered during and after WW2 and countries came together during war time to build these engines to power the vehicles their soldiers needed. Although the internal combustion engine has been the choice for years the electric dreams of many never died. By the 1960’s GM had built a Corvair with a 800 lb silver-zinc battery pack in the front that made 115hp to show what they could do with electric power. They only ever built one though as the cost of the battery pack was $160,000 dollars alone in 1964. The technology just wasn’t there to produce them at an affordable cost. It would be another 40-50 years before company’s could.
Today we see electric cars on a daily basis, from Nissan Leafs to Teslas. They have become mainstream and they are here to stay. For some that’s a hard pill to swallow and will go to their grave burning fossil fuels. While I wasn’t a huge fan of them at first there are some pretty cool advancements in todays electric cars. The new ones can now go hundreds of miles on a single charge and offer a nice quiet cabin and low NVH due to to combustion engine rattling around. As cool as some of the new technology is they still need to do some work on the exterior design, more so on the ones most many people can afford to buy. Take the Chevy Bolt for example. It’s on the more affordable end of the electric cars, makes 200 hp and 266 ft lbs of torque from its electric power plant and will zip to 60 mph from a standstill in under 7 seconds. While it looks way better than the Volt its still no looker. I don’t think people looking for electric cars in this genre really care that much but still, can we get some better looking options? Some of the more expensive offerings from Tesla and Audi, such as the beautiful new Audi E-tron GT, look pretty good in my opinion.
Most people associate electric performance cars with the Tesla and for a good reason, they are downright quick! When the Model S debuted with its all-wheel-drive system and ballistic acceleration it changed many people’s minds on the performance potential of electric cars. Today the model S is a good size luxury sedan with performance to back up it’s “ludicrous” mode. It will cost you 20k over a base model S but a 0-60 time of 2.4 seconds is down right moving out. The newest model 3 is a smaller version of the model S, and it offers pretty incredible performance as well especially in dual motor all-wheel-drive form. It will bust off sub 3.5 second 0-60 times and run to 155 mph. Not that 0-60 times are all that important but they make people realize that electric cars can be pretty serious performers. I love the simple interior as well, just one large screen in the middle of the dash and that’s it. Tesla models also offer semi-autonomous driving as well which can be handy….or kill you. Need more room? No problem as Tesla offers a 7 passenger SUV that will also beat the pants off every other SUV on the planet from stop light to stop light and it has gullwing doors and that is cool. The new Tesla roadster is slated to be out next year and they are boasting some pretty impressive numbers making it a serious supercar contender. Over 620 miles of range, 0-60 in 1.9 seconds, quarter mile in 8.8 seconds, 250 plus mph top speed. It will be interesting to see it compared to some of the other fastest cars in the world. I bet the others will sound better!
I am a pickup truck guy. My first car was a truck and i’ve owned multiple others since. They are the best selling vehicles in the United States and it only makes sense for someone to build an electric one. Some may scoff at this but I think it’s a good idea. A lot of these truck buyers don’t really use all of the capability there rigs offer on a daily basis. They use them to commute, haul kids and gear to sporting events, and run to the local Trader Joes to pick up a few bags of groceries. Although modern trucks get better mileage than ever before they still aren’t as good as most cars on the road. I think it makes perfect sense to offer similar or even better truck performance without burning littlefoot’s remains. Enter Rivian, an up and coming electric car manufacturer entering the industry with a larger SUV and pretty capable pickup truck. The Rivian R1T is the pickup they will produce and while I think it could benefit from some better visual design like most electric vehicles, the numbers released so far are very impressive.
I think most electric vehicles look foreign to us because of their lack of a big gaping front grill we have become accustomed to with new cars. Electric cars don’t need the cooling that their internal combustion competitors do. Anyways, the R1T is sized in between the compact and full size, light duty pickups. Rivian is talking up this truck’s off road capabilities and while that may come in handy for those who have a legal place to play with the features, some people have to travel a ways to get to their favorite wheeling spot. The R1T has a 400 mile range which is impressive but I wouldn’t want to get too far down in the boonies with it, not knowing if there’s enough juice to get back out. Either way the truck has a an electric motor at each wheel effectively making it full time four-wheel-drive and these motors provide a combined 750 hp and wait for it…..10,325 lb-ft or torque! This allows the R1T to yank around up to 11,000 lbs and an almost 1800 lb payload capacity which makes it very competitive with the popular half-ton trucks available now. The truck was also designed with generous approach and departure angles and wade in up to 3 ft of water as the battery, which is mounted low and flat, is completely sealed. Theoretically the truck can go deeper but it becomes a buoyancy issue. With good towing, off road capabilities, and zero to sixty times in the 3 seconds flat range, Rivian will sell a boatload of these if they can build them to be reliable and affordable. I’ve heard low to mid 60k range which is really a bargain considering you can pull a good size boat or camper yet blow the doors off of pretty much anything you will come across at a stoplight. It sounds like a winner to me.
There are a few manufacturers who are developing electrified two-wheeled modes of transportation if you are one of those who trusts other drivers to not run you over while they are scanning their newsfeed and drinking their Starbucks. One of these companies might surprise you and that company is Harley Davidson. The new Livewire will be available August of this year and it actually looks pretty sweet. I don’t ride bikes and really don’t know a ton about them but i’ve seen enough funniest home videos to know that if you give some people instant torque at the twist of the throttle and they start to go off the back, there is no stopping them. It could be convenient that there is no clutch to manipulate for new riders though. Manufacturers of these electric vehicle really like to tout their 0-60 times though, which is 3.5 seconds for the Livewire. It has 110 mile range and can fully charge overnight when plugged into a 110V home outlet. Im sure Harley purists could care less but the times are a changin. There are multiple notable companies developing these electric bikes but another one that caught my eye was the RMK E2. RMK is a Finnish electric motorcycle manufacturer and what stood out to me was their integrated rim motor. The motor i actually in the rear wheel and there is no inner rim, check them out and see for yourself, they look pretty badass.
Whether or not you are on the electric train there is no denying that more and more manufacturers are heading that direction. I’m a little torn myself as I can see the “around town” performance and environmental benefits but I know that I would have range anxiety and for me, half the fun of a performance car is the sound! Now like I said earlier if you are just looking for a commuter car to get you from point A to point B they really do make a lot of sense and while there are more affordable gas alternatives that still provide great mileage im sure the costs of the electric cars will come down over time. From all of us here at Gearbox have fun, be safe, and keep the shiny side up!