In my last column, I talked about how and why I chose the Jaguar F-Type over the Tesla S. I was kind of surprised how upset a couple Tesla fans got. In my head, I thought was giving the Tesla S a compliment for putting a large sedan in the same company as a lot of thoroughbred sports cars – and above many of them. Ultimately, I believe that electric is the eventual, and better, future. But right now, there’s just not an electric sports car that does what it needs to.
This got me thinking about what the perfect electric sports car would look like. Tesla has one on the books, and numerous other companies (including Jaguar) have been hinting that they have them on the way. Let’s take a look at what they’ll need to succeed.
An electric needs a low center of gravity. Tesla did a good job working around this in the Model S, giving it an almost F-1 look. Take it a step further and you get something like the Ron RXX – a car designed in Mexico of all places. The semi-open-wheel design could let you hit the optimum lines while on the track, and you could even remove the fenders to help. I’m not sure I’d go to a tandem design like the RXX (that may be a bit too far over the top for most drivers), but if you widened the body of the car it’d still be very low, providing a great view of the track. You’d just have to get creative with the convertible top. You have to admit, the RXX is both attractive and just a bit mean looking, which would fit the requirement.
An upstart Croatian company is building a beautiful electric car called the Concept One, but at $1 million and with a design that looks a lot like other supercars (most of which you’d be a fool to take on the track unless you were Bill Gates rich) I just don’t think it is the way to go. Jaguar had a C-X75 hybrid that was even more beautiful to my eye, but it didn’t make the cut (issues with the really cool turbine generators I’m told) and was also too expensive. It did have one really unique feature: A passing button on the steering wheel that gave you an extra 100HP for a short burst. I so want that button.
It has to appeal to a broader audience be priced closer to $50,000 than $1 million. If Jaguar just created an electric Eagle Speedster I’d likely be good, but I think most buyers would rather have something that would really kick ass on the track and look pretty. Chrysler had one they were working on that looked a lot like a Lotus, and that could work.
One of the areas I really think my Jag has it over the Tesla S is the interior. (I’m not alone: The designer for the Jag did get the top award this year.) But the best high-tech dash, in my opinion, would be the one on the Nissan GT-R, but with a larger Tesla S screen. This wonder of electronic gauges would really showcase what a tech-driven car should look like. They should also consider transflective displays, so the sun doesn’t wash them out. It’d be nice to see a heads-up display that worked on this car, but since I have yet to find one I like, I’m not going to hold my breath. Seats clearly need to hold you in place more like the F-Type Jag than the Tesla S.
Power and battery
The way I’m told the performance version of the Tesla S eats through rear tires, I think this needs to be a four-wheel drive design. It’s great to have a ton of power, but you have to get that power to the road somehow. That means, like the Audi R8 and many other high-end performance cars (including the GT-R), four-wheel drive.
The bigger issue is the battery – I think this is why you really can’t track a Tesla today. You just can’t charge the car fast enough. While Tesla has a swapping solution for the battery, installing one quickly at a track could be problematic. The Tesla currently has ride-height adjustments – really important for a performance car if you don’t want to drag the belly or take out a front air dam – which could be used for this purpose. Imagine a car that could drop down and release its battery. Someone could then pull it out, roll another one under, and the car could drop back down to secure it. You’d need a couple spare batteries, but you often need to have the equivalent of a spare engine for gasoline cars at the track, and electric motors tend to be far more reliable than gas ones.
Unless someone kills off electrics again before we get the electrical ecosystem in place, I expect that by the end of 2015, we’ll have at least one great electric sports car on the market. The smart money is still on Tesla being first with it. Much like the F-Type, I think it needs to be beautiful, powerful, and designed for the track, but I also think it needs to go even farther to emphasize the electrical advantages and have a creative way to deal with the battery-charge-time problem. They could even use supercapacitors that could be flash charged during tire changes. We may be only months from someone building a car that could give me my hot convertible experience and still be green.
Oh, I do think they should put in a system that can give you engine sounds as an option for those of us that want to hear the car as well as see it. What do you think?