Unplugged Tesla Model S:</br> The Future Of Car Tuning?
The Rise Of The Electric Car

I love dinosaurs. I love the idea of dinosaurs. I love any ’90s cartoons involving dinosaurs. I love how they were once the pinnacle of living organisms during their reign on this earth. I love the classic boy band favorites: the triceratops, stegosaurus, and ankylosaurus. I love dinosaurs so much that I’ve based my life on burning as much black melted dinosaur flesh as I can on a daily basis. I’ve somehow even made a career out of it. I absolutely revel in the sound of smashing through liquefied fossils piped through a well tuned ’60s English inline six. Even the screaming sound of prehistoric reptilians being burnt through any of the classic Japanese four cylinders gives me great joy.

The symphonic musical stylings of the B16, 4A-GE, and SR20, has been brought to you by the dinosaurs.

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Los Angeles, of all places, is the king of those burning of fossil fuels, and its orange, pink, and violet sunsets are that way because of the constant output of car and factory exhaust emissions.

By the time the electric car started trickling off factory floors, we had been so accustomed to being transported in vehicles that use gasoline that the sound, or lack of sound, that came from these zero-emission machines really weirded us all out. We liked the idea of having a clean future, as projected by various popular science-fiction movies (Gattaca, anyone?), novels, and video games. But in actual reality these silent cars were something us petrolheads did not like.

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Enter the new kid on the block, Tesla Motors – an automaker who arrived with a hobbyist car – the Tesla Roadster. Its direction was well thought out. It handled well and the power output was pretty substantial too. But it was plagued by too many small problems to become a successful everyday commuter. Some faults were because of the car, like its short mileage range. Others problems were the lack of electric car infrastructure throughout the world.

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With the introduction of Tesla’s Model S, everything changed. The top of the line Model S had a range of around 265 miles, and Tesla spent a quite a bit of their own money to create a supporting infrastructure of ‘Supercharger’ charging stations dotted throughout the world on most major motorways. Plug in and you can charge a car in about 20 minutes.

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The Model S and the Supercharger stations changed everything. The dream of having an electric car as a daily was now possible.

That being said, we petrolheads still stuck our noses up in the air. Where’s the harmonious straight six? The howling naturally aspirated V8? The satisfying surge of a turbocharger?

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Now enter Bulletproof Automotive’s newest initiative, Unplugged. They’re looking to be the AMG equivalent for Tesla. They’re looking to change how we see and think about electric cars by stepping the Models S upwards to a more exotic level in terms of visual impact and quality.

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The stock Model S is a great looking car, but at the same time you feel as if it can use a few things here and there to make it even better. Unplugged took care of this by starting with some basic external modifications.

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They added a carbon fiber front diffuser to the bumper and color-matched it to the factory Dolphin Gray paintwork.

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Color-matched carbon fiber side skirts a carbon fiber rear diffuser were also added.

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Along with a subtle carbon fiber trunk lip to finish it all off.

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All of the added carbon fiber parts made are made in-house at Unplugged, in Hawthorne, California, where they are literally neighbors of Tesla Motors. The Unplugged team of people includes a two seasoned Formula 1 composites engineers and another engineer who worked with Boeing on the 787 Dreamliner’s carbon fiber.

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As for Unplugged’s future, they plan on doing more aesthetic and performance upgrades than a simple lip kit. And everything they’re doing will look have the look, feel and quality of a factory option, while being functional and enjoyable for everyday use.

Into The Hills
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The guys at Unplugged were kind enough to hand me the keys to the car for a day, and I used the opportunity to romp around a few key LA areas. The first was Pasadena to snap a few photos of the car in some of those very picturesque neighborhoods. My second stop was to meet up with Rod and Elizabeth in Hollywood for a quick bite to eat.

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They offered to help me take a few moving shots of the car as it was driven around the iconic Hollywood hills.

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This also gave me a good reason to get a feel for the car outside of casually driving it around town and in LA traffic.

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For being such a big car, the Tesla handles itself quite well. I would akin the roadholding to a big Audi, like an S5 or S7. It was just good enough to have fun. The instant torque of the electric motor was the defining character of the whole car. Even with what seems like a measly 416hp and 443lb/ft, this car will destroy almost any car from a standing start since it produces all its power and torque instantly. You don’t realize how much power you have with just a tap of your right foot until you see a small hole in traffic, put your foot down, and are somehow magically teleported to that very spot you wanted. It’s mind-blowingly amazing.

When Unplugged starts rolling out power upgrades for Teslas that’ll be the day that I just might throw in my preverbal petrolhead towel. Stop lights will never be the same. These cars are absolute monsters.

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The interior of a Tesla is normally pretty sparse. It’s clean but is completely dominated by a giant Android-based touchscreen. The user interface looks as though it is some form of downloadable Winamp skin from 1999, but it’s an absolute joy to use. 

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The fact that you can surf the internet via the glorious 17-inch screen while in your Tesla is a dangerous, yet rather amazing proposition.

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Unplugged replaced the stock plastic seat backs with, of course, some more carbon fiber. The new trim was then given a BASF clear coat finish to protect it from any kicking child’s feet.

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The weave and finish is amazing. But I don’t expect anything less from a team of ex-F1 and Boeing engineers.

Onwards To The Beach
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After spending the afternoon in the hills around Hollywood, I thought I’d finish the day by stopping at the beach in Santa Monica. You really don’t get any more LA than a beach, palm trees, and that iconic, yet infamous, Californian sunset.

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Unplugged lowered the car with a height adjustable sport suspension system, but the great thing is that you can still raise and drop the car through its control panel in the touch screen. Thumbs up!

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A set of ADV.1 22-inch wheels were temporarily put on the car to give it a more aggressive look.

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Unplugged has their own wheels being developed, but they weren’t ready in time for this photoshoot.

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I started the day with a range of 260 miles. I drove from Unplugged’s office in Hawthorn to Pasadena, then Pasadena to Hollywood, and finally from Hollywood to Santa Monica. I finished my journey with 86 miles to spare. And as an Angelino, I’d say that’s more than I’d normally drive in a day around town.

The electric car has proven that it’s up to the task of replacing our everyday gas-powered automobiles.

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What you’re getting here is the future. It’s a future where we can have a car that produces zero emissions, is still fun to drive, looks great, and – thanks to pioneering companies like Unplugged – we’re able to conjure up our inner gearhead, and modify these vehicles to be even more enjoyable. But what you’re not getting is an internal combustion engine, the mechanical connectiveness of slamming through various gears, or an exhaust note. No, there isn’t an RB26, or 2JZ, LS7,  EJ25, or M56 inside of it. What you are getting is, what could be, the saving grace of petrol-powered cars.

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One day (and who knows when), the oil wells will run dry. What we will be left with are hunks of metal and a few gallons of of precious gasoline. Then comes that one day when with warm air, a fair breeze and the sun shining brightly, we will hop into our antiques, fire our fossil-powered internal combustion engines to life, and blast around our favorite canyon road while listening to the exhaust note bounce around from mountain top to mountain top.

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When that day in the near future comes, it will only be possible because of the electric car (or any other zero emissions vehicle). Our petrol-powered cars won’t die off because of this new generation of automobiles. Instead, they’ll become even more prized and coveted.

We will remember Tesla, the Model S, and those first few pioneer companies, like Unplugged, that started tinkering with them. When that day comes, we will love dinosaurs even more. And the sweet smell of high of octane gasoline will smell even sweeter.

Linhbergh
Instagram: @linhbergh
Twitter: @linhbergh
linhbergh@speedhunters.com

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1

With electric cars, comes the idea that the police will have control of your car and can shut it down when they want and have electronically monitored roads where-by you pass a speed limit sign and the car will not go over that speed until the next sign. The inherently non-home maintainable cars of the future don't excite me at the moment even if they do have a few cool touches, which no doubt in 30 years won't work. I don't think making cars like this is sustainable yet as they are very expensive and still seen as throw away. I really don't envy the guy who has to separate all the electrical components to recycle this car, or the cost of a motor when it breaks, at the moment you can replace small relatively in-expensive parts to fix or prolong a cars life that little bit more. Hopefully with development, the prices will come down and people will become more aware of how to service and modify these cars to be faster at home.

2

If RC cars are anything to go by, parts stores will be full of upmarket speed controllers, motors, batteries, gearing etc.

3

This looks 10x better than the Saleen monstrosity. Though Saleen claims that his kit significantly improves drag and downforce

4

That is, hoping that batteries have an international design, not per car, otherwise the car could become useless quite quickly considering at the moment cars are redesigned every few years and technology advances. Where as, petrol is petrol. It works no matter how old your car is. Its an interesting subject, hopefully manufacturers will allow you to keep your car by creating retrofit kits so you can put newer technology batteries in as/when they are developed.

5

JakWhite But modern electric motors are virtually maintenance free. And I can't imagine them being that expensive or hard to replace. The real cost and hassle lies in the batteries.

6

NYporkdept JakWhite  in theory, electric cars haven't been around long enough yet to know how long these motors will last. And I'm sure the electric motors in this car alone are definitely big bucks to replace. If they weren't the car wouldn't be anywhere near as expensive as it is. We will see, it was the same with the smart phone and touch screens, they were mega bucks when they first came out, now you can get a phone with touch screen for less than £60.

7

NYporkdept  So far I've read two long term tests of the car and at around 25,000miles they've needed their drivelines replacing and have had problems with the screen on the console (which controls opening of the charger flap) good job the cars are still under warranty to be honest.

8

I love this! Really digging the package; wheels, interior, everything.
Just please, PLEASE don't soil it with (ugh) airbags.

9

good right up, good perspective

10

JakWhite "The inherently non-home maintainable cars of the future" - People have been saying that since the first computer was put in a car. Just because you aren't familiar with it currently doesn't mean forums and interested people won't dig into it and support the DIYers the same way it has been going on for a few decades. Not saying I know how, but I AM saying I'm not afraid to learn.

11

Seriously? "Unplugged" is the best name they could come up with? Really adds to that exotic appeal! *facepalm

I enjoyed the article though. Thoughtful and well-photographed.

12

Really good article maybe just maybe i might start liking Electric powered cars

13

Nice advertorial, though I'm not sure that adding a few pieces of carbon fiber trim really constitutes the future of car tuning. And adding 22" wheels and an air suspension system does seem to go against the electric car ethos of light weight.

14

JakWhite

But electricity is electricity, no matter where you get it from? A battery is simply a modern fuel cell. They aren't exchangeable from car to car, and neither are all engines. Also, don't people already modify old car with newer factory parts? This will be exactly the same process, just using a different method. I think you're confusing two points here.

15

JakWhite

The retail price of the vehicle is more related to offsetting the cost of R+D in a relatively niche market. Economy of scale in manufacturing parts would bring the cost down. You can't compare a brand new, low volume electric car to a mass produced fossil fuel car that uses old and well-known technology.

16

JakWhite

You do realise that the control systems in modern vehicles are based on electronics? So by your logic the police could already do this? If it means that deaths and congestion on busy freeways are lessened by negating human error or irrational thinking surely it should be embraced?

17
Mattblackhatchback

...and minimum pavement contact.

18
Mattblackhatchback

Leave police management involvement to the coming driverless transport systems. Frightening concept BUT amazing freedom for those previously unable to drive legally, mentally or even physically...

19

JakWhite NYporkdept Yes, the electric motor in a Tesla is quite expensive because it is developed and produced in-house. The cost of the motor is nowhere near the price of the batteries though, trust me. The day a cheap and environmental-friendly way of producing batteries comes is the day that electric cars will truly enter the market of cheap everyday commuter cars.

20

It *does* produce emissions...they just aren't right there at the car itself.  Don't forget, electricity still comes from somewhere.

Tesla S is a great engineering accomplishment, but don't claim it's a perfect car.

21

Cosmetic add-ons are nice, but let's see what they do for performance upgrades.  It seems like it would be impossible to make the car faster without degrading its range.  And I wonder if they can really improve the aero on this car, the cD is already extremely low.  Beyond the drop, what can they really do?

And there are still emissions associated with electric cars.  They may not be right there at the car, but unless 100% of your power is being produced at a wind farm or something, there is still some amount of pollution associated with powering it.

22

That last page of photographs though... damn.

23

Really cool car. Good job Tesla. But "Unplugged"? For real? Epic fail

24

Big Pooky greenroadster What's with all the grief over "Unplugged"? What's a better name?

25

Great article. I wasn't sure at first where this was going with dinosaurs but it tied in great. It's awesome to see that someone is jumping into tuning the zero emission vehicles that are hitting the market. I think companies like this will better help the push for more people to by these vehicles, especially knowing they have options of performance, economy or style. Also, love the last shot.

26

paablob No se como sentirme. Se me hace que los Tesla son muy lanchon para modificar.

27

rokxx Igual lo hecho es sutil y no queda mal.

28

JakWhite 100% Agree with you. They can call us insane, say "the governement would never do that", say we're paranoid, but you just watch. This is exactly what they want. To be in control, always. No more freedom for you.

29

robzor JakWhite But you can't say todays cars are easier to work on for your average kid like they were back in the days before computers. Yes, I love fuel injection, abs, blah blah etc, but I could live without it.

30

paablob El de la última foto queda bien. En las demás me distraen esas gráficas dignas del Skyline de F&F :P leandrotx

31

Fdiazreal leandrotx Tuve que ignorar todo para apreciar el laburo que hicieron.

32

Great article, I was part of Buckeye Current's TT Zero campaign for the last two years and got to witness the potential of electric vehicles first hand. At the TT the gap is quickly closing between gasoline and electric powered motorcycles in terms of single lap performance. Even currently, with most electric vehicles (Tesla included) being rather barbaric, the potential for them is astonishing. Glad to see a aftermarket company step up and take on the challenge.

33

kphillips9936 The Model S already has air suspension.

34

JakWhite NYporkdept And now you never have to worry about replacing a drive unit, because all Model S's now come with an infinite mile warranty.

35

@jmadd exaclty what i was thinking! surely the increase in all the emissions thats created in making these batteries isnt a good thing? agreed a zero emissions car is a step forward though!


Hydrogen fuel cell cars are should be interesting!

36

Afroneck Big Pooky greenroadster ... "Amped" would be better

37

just out of curiosity...which camera did you use for these pictures?!
because these pictures look amazing!
As do the ADV:1 wheels! :p

38
Mattblackhatchback

GM have it...

39

Oh yes, we need diffusers and 20" wheels on electric cars.
Not

40

Tesla has really showed the world electric powered vehicles are a plausible way to get around. Also makes me wonder what's taking the other manufacturers so long to make a Model S competitor/killer.
It's great to see that companies are starting to customise electric cars and hybrids. It will help get to get rid of the the "tree hugger" stigma that surrounds these cars for certain groups of people. 


My money is still on fuelcell cars to be the ultimate replacement of the petrol car with electric cars as an step in between. For the electric car to be 100% suitable for year round long trips ( for representatives, sales folk etc. you know the people who are always on the road)  there will need to be some big advancements in battery tech. They need to be less effected by temperature, need to be able to recharge faster, be smaller and weigh less. That's a long road but it'll be interesting to see where that road leads.
I hope to see a feature of the Saleen FourSixteen (a more track oriented Model S) in the future.

41

Front splitter*

42

paablob Fdiazreal si le sacaban esos decals de mierda que le pegaron, era perfecto.

43

leandrotx Fdiazreal Había que promocionar la marca, supongo.

44

NouriSalden Afroneck Big Pooky greenroadster It's not bad but it might be over used in advertising and branding. To me them going with 'Unplugged' says they were shooting for two things in the name a) charging up and b) a sense of being unbridled, relating to peformance.

45

AdamBezzegh The laws of physics and aerodynamics do not change just because the car uses an electric motor, and not an ICE.

46

In the future there will be 3 types of cars - 
1. Fully electric car - low usage vehicle - city trips - drive to the office - you only need 150 miles in a day.
2. Hybrid - gasoline and electric - everything in 1 + another 150 miles
3. Gasoline - highly efficient engine with turbocharger - 300+miles

This is just the beginning to the inevitable future...
Embrace it...

47

OK, so 416 hp is "measly" now? Come on...

48
Mattblackhatchback

Ah, but it does in this case. A basic requirement for any electric car to be truly viable is to extend the mileage between recharging. As the BMW i3 shows, a thinner taller rim/tyre combo will have less rolling road resistance than fatter and wider rim/tyre combos. Consider a fat treaded mountain bike trying to outride any racing bike over a disatnce on the Tour de France... there's a reason for those skinny tyres. They may bruise your perineum but you'll go much further, faster.

49

@Jake Laird kphillips9936 My mistake, let me clarify...Don't "stance" it!

50

Nikhil_P You could probably take a lot of the same photos with a current P&S or smart phone. It's what's behind the camera that counts. Just saying...

51

Love the last photo. Never noticed that hood line before for some reason, but it is very pronounced in that color in that light setting with the sun going down. Very nice! I really like the render of their new bumper kit, it looks more aggressive but tasteful. Is the chrome front bumper trim slightly reshaped as well?

52

You guys go do that. When gasoline ends I'll be over here with my alcohol powered cars.

53

skawars JakWhite  For sure, but what I mean is as the batteries get older, they won't hold charge as well, especially in cold climates. This is like having a hole in your petrol tank rather than lower mpg. No doubt people do modify their cars with newer parts from revised models, but my reference is that at the moment almost any joe blogs can "modify" his/her car on their drive way without the need for expensive diagnostic computers to make sure it runs right. With electric motor swap outs, the number of people likely to electrocute themselves or not earth properly will go up if not done correctly. The Haynes manuals words of "disconnect the battery" really will come back to haunt us haha!

54

@Jake Laird JakWhite NYporkdept  only for 8 years.

55

skawars JakWhite  I sure am aware of it. I just hope they never do it, so those mountain roads will always have the same appeal.

56

w3rrd robzor JakWhite  exactly. Home remapping is a sure fire way to bust your car for those who don't know what their doing. Whereas before you could just adjust a screw on the carb and the cars back to normal. I don't doubt cars of the future are amazing at what they do. But they sure will cost us an arm and a leg to not be part of the cookie cutter society.

57

greenroadster  I don't mind it, its a play on the words of unhinged I guess.

58

guReMcO  Other companies still want to pull in hundreds of millions from the tech they already have before they spend it on R&D. That's why you see a t5 turbo motor in the new focus st, an engine that's been around for nearly 20 years already in volvos. Because R&D costs a bomb.

59

skawars  also at the moment you can go to scrap yards to pick up parts and fit them to your car, would you trust an electric motor or battery (probably the reason its in the scrap yard in the first place) without testing it? Granted there is risk in all parts from merchants but I'm sure you can sort of see were I'm coming from.

60

Electric cars surely don't have zero emissions. The batteries for example aren't eco-friendly at all. You have to get the things they are made of, which leaves footprint. And one day you will need to get rid of them which also isn't that easy. I'm not saying that electric cars are worse or better than combustion cars. They just shouldn't be presented as the ultimate way to go. If you want an electric car, there should be manufacturers which would provide you the best one for you needs, which Tesla definitely does. But if you rather drive naturally aspirated V6 or V8, you should have the choice as well without anyone calling you an air polluter, glacier melter, etc. And if the oil disappears (which is not going to be anywhere soon because there is a lot of it), there are other alternatives such as natural gas, alcohol, hydrogen and i believe that others are here to be found. And what's more, if the oil disappears, it won't be because of cars. Personal transportation is a minor air polluter and oil consumer compared freight transport, industry, heating etc.

61

JakWhite NYporkdept An early model S owner holds the record at 99,639 miles driven so far (how do you drive that much in less than two years?)  No drive replacement and screen works fine.

62

XTad do some research. Common Myth and is not true at all.

63

I love my Volt.

64

@johntanner XTad And what exactly are you talking about?

65

I would like every automotive "journalist" to research the word "diffuser" and stop using it incorrectly.

66

Pity the vast majority of the electricity used to charge the thing is from fossil fuels. Seems like only a half victory!

67

@Albert The rear bumper product on this car actually extends all the way under as an actual diffuser. Full Carbon fiber as well.

68

The Governator Well when you're surrounded by AMGs and //M cars, it sure is.

69

Afroneck Thanks!!

70

Benjamin Meyer <3

71

modell3000 Far from being an advertorial. Just wanted to highlight the first of many companies that are modifying these cars. :)

72

hollywood syd Thanks!

73

milkplus You be over there with your alcohol powered cars, and I'll be here with my nitromethane one :D

74

NouriSalden Afroneck Big Pooky greenroadster  Flying pigs would be better than that. Just kidding. But what about Lightning? Or Eagle? Or FutureAmerica Edition? Whatever. Anything but Unplugged. Would you buy a Mercedes Dinosaurus Edition? Or BMW HeavySmoke? No. You wouldn't.

75

linhbergh milkplus I thought about that, but nitromethane is a byproduct of petroleum/natural gas refining :(  plus turbo/alcohol is like a match made in heaven >:]

76
Tyrone Von Wong

I would throw some TE37s on there

77

linhbergh Sir, Please.

78

I remember the documentary "who killed the electric car?" And one of the many things in those interviews by common citizens were "how are you supposed to modify it and make it your own?" And thanks to Unplugged they have just started that moment. And judging by the visuals and products they have made for the model S, I think its a great step in the right direction.

79

looks like a KIA

80

JakWhite But that doesn't stop the media from continuing to shame us into buying these contraptions.

82

@Tyrone Von Wong When in doubt, you TE37 all the things.

83

Very nice to see more modified Teslas! The car is sensational.

84

Im so excited for this movement. When it all comes down to it purely electric cars are stone simple. Batteries, controller, motor.... that's about it. Not much to break and easy to swap. When the market starts to open up its going to be damn tuner friendly (once it gets cheap).

85

You aren't burning Dinosaur flesh, Hydrocarbons consist of buried phytoplankton and bacterial matter . The connection to Dinosaurs is from the Geologic age of deposition ( a large amount was deposited during the Jurassic and Cretaceous  periods)

86

They should do a Tesla Roadster.

87

That is one fine looking machine. Would love to see one with an LS3 under the hood....that would be kickass.

88

Linbergh, do you think that the Tesla will become commonplace technology soon? I get that it's definitely a step forward in transportation technology. That being said, wouldn't reliance on the power grid to power your vehicle also require large amounts of electricity? I wonder if that will cause more or less pollution over time. It's hard to say.
http://www.coopersautorepairspecialists.com/tune-up-service.asp

89

JamesSimon1, electric cars will for sure trump combustion engines.   Open your hood and look at all the sub and auxiliary systems just to turn a fly wheel.  You have a fuel deliver system, and air induction system, and exhaust system all to support a chemical reaction inside the short block.  You have a head with moving valves and cams to control the air and exhaust gas flow.  In addition, you have an oil lubrication system that flows throughout th whole thing so friction doesn't destroy the engine.    Its all completely convoluted just to move a flywheel.    An electric motor is just that, a motor that turns the driveline.

90

I agree with that combustion spirit behind the torque. I've done that and been there for real.
However, the spirit will change with change of the concept itself about the tunning. (I know I would change once have my butt on EV tuned machine) It just like seeing mp3 players lifted by ipod. It will also changed by the adoption of EV at major car racing separating the generations torque behind EV and GV.

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