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Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 20:01
Fully Charged
By Simon Webster
Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 20:01 By Simon Webster

Discover the hypercars of the future

The hyper-fast Tesla Roadster

They may not emit the blood-curdling sound of traditional muscle cars, but this new generation of electric-powered supercars is promising to be just as fast – and stylish. With governments around the world introducing legislation to outlaw the internal combustion engine in the coming decades, the auto industry is undergoing its biggest revolution since Henry Ford ushered in assembly-line mass production with the Model T in 1913.

Thanks to hybrid or all-electric engines and online connectivity, cars will be environmentally cleaner, more energy-efficient, smarter and safer in the years ahead. The days of the gas-guzzling, high-powered V12 engine may be numbered, but huge strides in technology are allowing designers and engineers to produce cars that are equally fast yet tick all the environmental boxes.

Tesla, a pioneer in mass production of electric cars, has announced the Roadster, which the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, says will deliver a “hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars” when it’s launched in 2020. He says that it will reach 60mph in less than two seconds and have a top speed of 250mph, making it one of the fastest road cars ever built. Almost more importantly, it will boast a range of 620 miles on a single charge, showing that tech engineers are overcoming one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of electric cars – the distance they can travel before being plugged in for a top-up.

An aerial view of the NIO EP9

Hot on Tesla’s heels comes NIO, the Chinese tech start-up that has competed in Formula E since the series was launched in 2014; this year, the brand has 30-year-old British driver Oliver Turvey and Italian veteran Luca Filippi racing for it. NIO’s EP9, whose power train boasts 1360hp, has a top speed of 194mph and 265 miles of range. Proving that electric cars can compete with their traditional rivals, it set track records at the Nürburgring in Germany and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where it also broke the record for a car in autonomous driving mode – in other words, with nobody at the wheel. The Shanghai-based company has already sold six EP9s at a price tag of more than US$1 million each and is putting another ten up for sale.

With equally shattering performance, but using one of the classic American muscle cars as a starting point, is the Maryland-based company Genovation, which calls itself the “Green Car Company”. It has taken the current-generation Chevrolet Corvette, stripped out its V8 engine and replaced it with two electric power units at 750hp, giving it a top speed in excess of 220mph. The Genovation GXE is scheduled to go into production at the end of 2019.

With these and other innovative newcomers targeting the supercar market, what are the traditional brands doing about it? After dismissing the idea just a few years ago, Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit that the Italian automaker would indeed build an electric supercar. While vague on details, he vowed to have it in production before Tesla’s Roadster hits the roads in 2020.

The Genovation GXE

Meanwhile, McLaren says it has been testing an electric prototype, but has no plans to put it into production in the foreseeable future. Lamborghini recently unveiled a futuristic electric concept car – the Terzo Millennio (or Third Millennium) – but given its outlandish specifications, including bodywork that repairs itself, it’s more likely to feature in a future edition of Star Wars than it is to ever find its way onto public roads.

Porsche is taking a pragmatic approach, saying it will produce hybrids and all-electric cars while also keeping its classic combustion engines for its traditionalist customers. The marque’s first electric car, the Mission E, is scheduled to be unveiled in 2019. And British luxury sports-car maker Aston Martin has announced it will launch its first all-electric model, the RapidE, next year – news that might just scare the living daylights out of Tesla and all the other new kids on the block.

Images: Tesla, NIO; Josh Scott (Genovation)

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