Media day for the 2019 Geneva Motor Show was yesterday, and there’s plenty of exciting stuff to see. I’ll leave you to peruse the major media outlets for an outline on each and every new model; rather I’m going to touch on the major theme I see at this year’s Geneva show: electrification.
Dread it, run from it, destiny arrives all the same (thanks, Thanos); the automotive industry is rapidly shifting from internal-combustion to the electric motor, and it’s all readily apparently when looking at what’s being displayed and talked about in Geneva. Super cars have a need for electric power in order to achieve ever lofty performance numbers: both Ferrari and Aston Martin will be turning to turbo V6 engines with hybridization for their next generation products. Normal city cars are converting to full electric to satisfy increasingly stringent emission standards: German manufacturers are promising massive electrification of their portfolio in a very short timeframe.
I don’t suppose in any of our lifetimes we’ve seen such a paradigm shift on the motive power of vehicles. The combustion engine has been de rigueur for the longest time, and it’s only rather recently the industry have changed from natural aspiration to small displacement turbocharged motors – for the sake of efficiency and lower carbon outflow. It appears this ‘turbo era’ will super short-lived: full and partial electrification is quickly arriving.
Let’s look at the brilliant Honda Civic Type R. The latest generation have only just made the switch to turbocharging after a long history of fantastic atmospheric engines, and now Honda is already announcing the next Type R will be an electric hybrid. We can thank tight emission requirements for this one: Honda could easily squeeze more power out of the turbo engine, but adding an extra electric motor instead makes it far easier to achieve that extra power, but with zero penalty at the tailpipe.
The automotive landscape is transforming right before our eyes, and the rate of change is something I did not anticipate to be so swift. My 911 GT3 is 2015 model year car, yet it’s already feeling like a relic of the past: a gas-guzzling sports car with a non-turbo engine.
To be clear, I am not against electrification: I think fully electric vehicles are fantastic for dense urban commutes. Once the powers at be figure out the technology to deliver “refueling” technology for electric at the same speed as the ubiquitous petrol station, electric cars will be a good fit for suburban and rural communities, too. For the sake of cleaner air and a healthy populist, the switch to electrification is a worthy process.
However, for the weekend sports car type of vehicle, electric motivation just doesn’t stir the soul. Once you get pass the accelerative prowess of an electric car, what’s leftover is, to me, immensely dull. I want an engine that speaks to me: a thundering howl as the revs climb, pops out of the exhaust on a throttle ease, and the clattering of the mechanicals. This is the sort of motoring joy I grew up with, and I’m going to cling to that ethos for as long as possible.
I intend the GT3 to be my ‘forever car’, and the electrification of the automotive industry isn’t helping to convince me otherwise.