This past weekend was the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and Volkswagen shattered the overall record by some 15 seconds. The German marque built a bespoke all-electric race-car just for the event, utilizing the power advantage in high-altitude to great effect in beating Sebastien Loeb’s time that had stood since 2013.
You can color me thoroughly unimpressed.
For sure I think VW has done a tremendous achievement of engineering. Pikes Peak's immense elevation meant it was only a matter of time before electric power would come to dominate the hill climb event. Suffering none of the symptoms that ail combustion engines in super thin air, electric motors gives full, consistent power, limited only by the size and store of the battery.
So kudos, Volkswagen, but it hardly moves my needle.
Electric cars are wonderful and will supposedly save the planet from climate ruin but for me it’s a type of vehicle I would not own personally. I’ve felt the searing acceleration of a Tesla before and while it’s an amazing party trick, the novelty of a Model S ends there.
I fell in love with cars because of their sheer mechanicalness: the miracle of formed metal and coupled gears harnessing thousands of mini-explosions per minute into motivative drive. The cars that stir the soul are those that reveal its mechanicalness to the driver: the constant shake of a connected gear-lever, the whine of a supercharger, the hiss of a turbo waste-gate purging, and the pops and bangs during an off-throttle lift.
An electric car have none of those qualities. A plush Mercedes S-Class sedan doesn’t have them either. I’d never purchase the latter so why would I entertain buying former? Indeed electric vehicles can handle and turn a proper corner just as well as an internal-combustion car - VW now owns the Pikes Peak record after all, but more than astonishing numbers and stats it’s how a car makes me feel behind the wheel that ultimately determines its value. A Tesla Model S and a Porsche 911 GT3 occupies stark opposite ends of that spectrum.
I predict as electric vehicles proliferate in the coming decades, purely internal-combustion cars will be relegated to the expensive segments like super sports-cars - akin to fine handmade mechanical watches and their cheaper quartz-movement counterparts. The discerning few of us will seek those out and keep the analog spirit alive for as long as possible.