Automakers have spent so much time making EVs perfect that they forgot to make them exciting. The only way to do so is to make them flawed.
The masses of EV-hating internet rioters are right about one thing: EVs are dull and will never excite in the same way combustion does. But are they really right, or have automakers just been so obsessed with making EVs so incredibly efficient and perfect that they didn't realize they were dull?
Before the ICE-loving mob comes after me, I want to preface this column with a bit of a disclaimer. I'm not an EV fan and have no intention of ever buying an EV. I love the combustion engine, which is why you'll see a great deal of coverage on CarBuzz about synthetic fuel keeping the combustion torch burning, much of it written by me.
Now that's out of the way, I can get back to my point, which is this: automakers are soon going to realize that perfect cars suck and that the only way to make EVs exciting is to make them less efficient, less perfect, and way more flawed by embracing older technology instead of focusing on perfection.
That sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out. Any logical mind will accept that using electricity instead of combustion to power the wheels of a car is vastly more efficient. Even using a combustion engine as a generator to power electric motors is more efficient. EVs are more efficient. But have you ever driven an EV in anger?
The on-off nature of EV motors supplies you with instant torque that gives family sedans hypercar-level acceleration. Still, after the initial slug of torque, they feel anesthetized. Mid-range acceleration tapers off rapidly, and because you get everything so early on, there's nothing to look forward to by wringing them out other than outright speed - which is way lower than ICE cars are capable of anyway.
If you thought getting all your torque at 2,500-4,000 rpm in a turbocharged car robbed you of the fun of revving out an engine, then an EV is automotive grand larceny.
So to counter this problem, manufacturers will have to tailor how these electric motors develop their torque.
Before the EV-hater brigade comes along to tell me that doing so would be simply faking a solution, let me remind you that Ferrari has been throttling torque on its turbocharged V8s in lower gears for years, precisely for this reason, to make it worthwhile revving out and exercising the engine to its fullest.
BMW seems to be closest to making this a reality. A recent patent discovered by CarBuzz shows how BMW will let you tailor your torque and speed curves in an EV to create driving modes that mimic combustion engines. It's genius. Inefficient, totally, but genius nonetheless.
Then there are transmissions. One of the big selling points of EVs is that due to the simplicity of their electric motors and their ability to rev extremely fast, they use single-speed direct-drive transmissions, making them more efficient and reducing the weight of their transmission systems.
But because of this, they're torque-limited at high speeds and don't accelerate well at highway speeds. Porsche fixed this by using a two-speed transmission at the rear end of the Taycan, and suddenly, we had an EV that didn't run out of puff at highway speeds.
When it reaches production, Dodge will employ a genuine multi-speed transmission in the electric Charger SRT Daytona. Hyundai has a simulated transmission in the RN22e concept that fakes gearshifts. Toyota has even patented a manual gearbox for future EVs that will appear in the production version of the Lexus Electrified Sport concept.
"More fakery!" I hear you proclaim, but lest we forget, other automakers have been programming fake shifts into CVTs for the last decade. The fact that you can change the shift programming in everything from a BMW M2 to a Lamborghini Huracan to have a more vicious kick on upshifts is itself nothing more than fake pantomime. None of it is necessary, but it makes things feel more fun.
And on the topic of CVTs, the continually variable transmission is, objectively, a far more superior, or at least more efficient, piece of technology than a traditional torque-converter or dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Why doesn't BMW put CVTs into M cars? Because sometimes, theatrics are more important than efficiency.
The biggest counter-argument to EVs I've read from car enthusiasts is noise. And it's not just us as consumers that are concerned, either. As a motoring scribe, I've rubbed shoulders with BMW M CEO Frank van Meel, former Aston Martin and AMG boss Tobias Moers, and Bentley's board member responsible for development. Each of them has admitted that sound is a big problem for EVs.
Van Meel highlighted how sound, when partnered with the knowledge of what gear you're in, lets race car drivers know whether they are traveling at an appropriate speed for a particular corner. Moers believed that combustion equals soul and said mid-engined Astons would go hybrid but never fully electric.
As for Bentley, Dr. Matthias Rabe told me over dinner at the W12-powered Continental GT Speed launch that an EV's lack of sound is a concern and that "it's something we do not have a workaround for yet."
Speakers are not the answer. I've driven hybrids and electric cars that pump fake engine noise into the cabin and play engine noises outside. Even the new Mercedes-AMG C63 S E Performance uses external speakers to augment the sound from its four-cylinder sewing machine, er, engine. I hate it. It feels unnatural, and the engine sounds never correlate with what the car is actually doing. The noise must either correlate 100% with what the powertrain is doing or simply shouldn't exist.
But Dodge and Ferrari seem to have an answer. Dodge calls it the Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust, which amplifies the sound of the electric motors spinning and lets the world hear it as loudly as a Challenger Hellcat (126 decibels), while the Ferrari-patented system - expected to arrive on the Prancing Horse's first EV in 2025 - will measure resonance frequencies from various elements of the drivetrain like the motor, transmission, and differential, and amplify them with a resonator so the sound you hear will correlate 100% with the behavior of the powertrain.
Noise goes against the ethos of a perfect EV. Yet, by embracing noise from a powertrain, EVs will be vastly more entertaining and can be driven spiritedly with complete trust in the machinery - because driving requires ALL the human senses, and sound is an integral aspect of driving.
And yes, the primary function of an exhaust in an ICE car has always been the evacuation of gases that are byproducts of the combustion process, so the argument will inevitably be made that EVs have no right to have exhausts. But we've turned these functional elements into systems that bring us aural delight before, melding function with pleasure, so why can't we have such systems purely for the latter purpose?
Will these systems ever compensate for the lack of noise created by burning combustible fuel? Absolutely not. And I'm not even vaguely suggesting they ever will. No sound will ever match the scream of the V10 engine in the Audi R8 GT or the howl of a Cosworth V12 in the GMA T.50. These will always be gold standards of aural delight, and no EV will ever be able to match them; of this I am sure.
But I'm not suggesting EVs replace these cars. No, in my ideal world, synthetic fuel production would ramp up globally to the point that this guilt-free fuel costs the same as traditional gasoline, allowing combustion-powered supercars and sports cars to carry on their existence.
In my ideal world, hydrogen combustion would also become viable, so you could choose between burning clean gasoline and pure hydrogen to get your combustion thrills.
But in that same world, EVs would still be the bread-and-butter mode of personal transportation. And if manufacturers could imbue these EVs with flaws that make them entertaining to drive, then young car enthusiasts would still be able to enjoy driving, just as kids of today do with a ratty, beat-up old Honda Civic as their first car.
So no, EVs will never be as exciting as combustion, but as long as carmakers embrace flaws for the sake of entertainment, I'll be much happier seeing more of them on the road.
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