Electric Vehicle. These two words are nothing short of sacrilege to some dyed-in-the-wool petrolheads. Images of soulless, cardboard cut-outs in various shades of lease-spec grey sat in motorway service stations charging is what most envisage.
But change is inevitable. Humans, by nature, evolve with each generation and their surroundings evolve at an even quicker rate. This is no more true than in the automotive space.
Electric cars have been around for far longer than you may realise. In 1828, nearly 200 years ago, the first, albeit crude, electrically-powered scale model carriage was built. During the 1900s, electric competed with both steam and gasoline as the primary power for transportation. We all know which ruled supreme for the next 100-odd years, but in the last 20 years, battery and electric motor technology has progressed in leaps and bounds to the point where performance, range and cost have resulted in them returning to the mass market with a high degree of success.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed has recognised this shift in the market by setting up Electric Avenue, a large display area solely focused on electric vehicles. Over the course of this year’s event, the space proved extremely popular, with numerous OEMs showing current and future EV models.
Lucid is not a company many will recognise as it’s relatively new. Although it was initially set up in 2007, the first customer cars were only delivered late last year. Truth be told, before FOS, I was aware of them by name, but that’s all. A few days prior to the event, however, a conversation led to the opportunity for a passenger ride up the hill in one of the Lucid Air GTs brought over for the event, driven by ex-Stig Ben Collins. When opportunity knocks, you answer.
Helmets on, seatbelts buckled, waiting at the start line I had watched hundreds upon hundreds of cars leaving. For context, the fastest car I’d been in before this was a 700hp R35 Nissan GT-R, but nothing prepared me for the Lucid’s voracious acceleration. Tunnel vision is definitely a thing, as I found out, along with the involuntary expletives which I uttered as we made our way to the first turn. The distinct lack of engine noise, which would normally be an indication of speed was devoid, but the handling made short work of the course, and we eventually hit peak speed of 134mph (221km/h) crossing the finish line.
In the Sunday Shootout, the Lucid Air GT set the 12th fastest overall time and the fastest production car time. My biggest takeaway was the car’s innate ability to provide both mind-altering performance and in the next moment, a silent, comfortable ride. How many petrol-powered vehicles can do that?
Ford brought the fourth iteration of their Supervan with Romain Dumas at the helm. While the previous three generations were equally as deranged, for the first time the Supervan is electric. Massive four wheel burnouts when launching off the line provided a visual indication of just how much power was being put to the ground.
Approximately 2,000hp and 1,328lb ft of torque to be exact. It was odd seeing a van moving this fast, but having an opportunity to view it more closely while in the pits made it clear that this was a van only in body shape.
Massive ducts down either side and underneath channelled the airflow around the awkward body shape as it powered up the hill numerous times over the weekend.
Did you know Porsche started out with an electric vehicle? In 1898, Ferdinand Porsche created his first car, the Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton which was powered by electric motors in the hubs. Fast forward to more recent times and Porsche has once again invested heavily into hybrid and more specifically full electric drivetrains for road cars.
Recently, more of an emphasis has been placed on the motorsport side, with the 718 GT4 ePerformance acting as a demonstrator of what Porsche is capable of. And demonstrate it does, with the diminutive Cayman-esque body shell hiding motors which generate up to 1,000hp in qualifying mode, or a (barely) more sedate 650hp in race trim. This recipe proved its worth with a second fastest time up the hill.
The biggest talking point at FOS 2022 was of course the McMurtry Spéirling (Irish for thunderstorm). Diminutive and slightly awkward proportions belie the absolute commitment to outright performance. Built by a small company in the rolling hills of Gloucestershire, they have well and truly laid down the gauntlet by not only taking top honours during the Shootout (over five seconds faster than second place), but in doing so claiming the overall record from the VW I.D. R.
McMurtry built what can only be described as an electric hot rod. With no series rule book to align to or restrictions to conform to, the collective knowledge has culminated in a vehicle with one sole purpose – to go as fast as possible.
Power figures have yet to be disclosed, but the target of 1hp per kg for the circa one tonne carbon monocoque is likely to not only have been achieved, but exceeded. Twin fans (on separate circuits for redundancy) that evacuate air from a sealed skirt a-la-Brabham BT46 provide 2 tonnes of downforce from 0mph, and a vortex is created from the high speed air exiting via two small flaps. If you haven’t yet watched the record setting run, the video appears to be sped up until you realise otherwise.
In a race, the primary objective is to finish first and be faster than all your competitors, something which the EVs in attendance at FOS 2022 proved extremely capable of on the Goodwood hill, taking four of the top 10 spots this year. Granted, these are very specific circumstances, but nonetheless, I came away from the weekend with a newfound appreciation for electric vehicles. It’s hard to deny the outright performance on offer.
While EVs may lack the theatre and engagement of combustion engine vehicles, they do have their obvious benefits. And there’s nothing wrong with having options, right?