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The Age Of Combustion Is Drawing To A Close
The argument for gasoline is shrinking fast!
The EV revolution is well on its way. Over the past few years, their range has increased massively, their charging times have plummeted, and they have got far more affordable. As such, range anxiety and usability concerns are waning, making EVs some of the best-selling and most desired cars worldwide, helping to propel brands like Tesla and Rivian to astronomical heights. But there is still one significant source of pushback to these planet-friendly vehicles. Performance. Almost all red-blooded petrol heads shun electric cars. You see, despite EVs tending to have far better acceleration than their combustion cousins, their heft and lower top speed make them way slower on track. So, if you want a raw driving experience or want to win, you still need to turn to dino-juice. But this is about to change. Let me explain.
Let’s get something out of the way first. EVs already offer a better performance-to-price ratio than combustion. The BMW M3 has been the benchmark car for affordable performance for decades now. You can pick up a new one today for $74,300 that will do 0–60 mph in 3.9 seconds and demolish the Nürburgring in only 7 minutes and 35 seconds. It has been praised across the board as a significant leap forward for the M3. On the other hand, Tesla’s Model 3 Performance costs only $53,990, will do 0–60 mph in 3.1 seconds and complete the Nürburgring in 8 minutes 10 seconds. The BMW and Tesla are incredible machines, but while the BMW is quicker on track, it isn’t fast enough to compensate for the vast price difference, at least in my opinion.
However, combustion has ruled the roost at the top end for years.
Back in 2015, Tesla sent its Model S P85D onto the Nürburgring to show the world just how fast it was and posted a record time for an EV of 8 minutes 50 seconds. At the time, the Porsche 918 held the outright road car lap record with a time of 6 minutes 57 seconds, which it set back in 2013. That is a massive difference of 2 minutes and 20 seconds between the fastest combustion car and the fastest EV.
In 2022, Tesla had another go with their Model S Plaid. This 1,020-horse power monster smashed the EV record with a time of 7 minutes 35 seconds. A few months beforehand, Porsche set a new record and beat their 2013 lap time with the 911 GT2 MR, setting a time of 6 minutes 38 seconds. This meant the gap between these two technologies had shrunk to only 55 seconds.
But this gap has now shrunk even more. Recently, Rimac sent their insane Nevera around the ring. When I say insane, I mean it: this car is a 1,914-horsepower electric GT car that can do 0–60 in only 1.7 seconds and holds the record quarter mile time for production cars! Unsurprisingly, it set a new EV record of 7 minutes and 5 seconds.
Again, a few months prior to the Nevera, a new outright road car lap record was set, but this time by the Mercedes-AMG One. This track-focused hypercar has the engine and hybrid systems from a championship-winning F1 car, helping it set a time of 6 minutes 30. So now, the gap between combustion and EV times is only 35 seconds.
At this rate, it will only be a few years until EVs take the outright lap time record. That isn’t a push of the imagination, as they kind of already have.
The AMG One is not like the previous road car lap record holders. This car is basically a race car designed for high-speed circuits that happens to be road-legal. Unlike the two Porsches, journalists have said it is woeful to drive on public roads, its interior is far more uncomfortable, being silly cramped and unappointed, and the servicing schedule needed to keep that F1 powertrain working makes it impractical to drive with any regularity.
The closest EV to the AMG One is the VW IDR. This one-off track-only EV race car set a Nürburgring time of 6 minutes and 5 seconds way back in 2019! That’s 25 seconds faster than the AMG One. Now, it isn’t road-legal at all, and making a car like this road-legal (in the same way the Mercedes did with the AMG One) would make it slower around the track. But would it make it 25 seconds slower? My guess is probably not and that the IDR shows that EVs already have the potential to be faster than combustion vehicles on track, just that no one has built on for that purpose yet. I mean, the Nevera is a giant 2-tonne machine designed to cruise at high speeds around Europe, not set lap time records.
As a side note, let’s also not forget that the 918 and the AMG One rely heavily on hybrid electric drivetrains to achieve their speed. That means the fastest cars in the world are already part EV.
Okay, so at what point will genuinely road-legal EVs actually be faster than combustion road cars? Well, I reckon this monumental tipping point will happen in 2028.
You see, Porsche is currently designing their Mission X hypercar. This is a high-performance road-going EV designed with the express purpose of smashing outright lap records around tracks like the Nürburgring. It will only have 1,500 horsepower, but thanks to ultra-light next-gen solid-state batteries, it should weigh around 500 kg less than the Nevera. This lack of weight, combined with Porsche’s aerodynamic know-how, should be more than enough to knock the AMG One off the top spot.
While the Mission X is still just a concept, Porsche has admitted it is in development and is aiming for a 2027 launch date. So I reckon by at least the end of 2028, it will have attempted to set the road car lap record at the Nürburgring. If it succeeds, there will no longer be any logical argument against EVs. I mean, by 2028, most new EVs will have ranges well over 300 miles, charge times of less than 20 minutes, and prices cheaper than combustion equivalents (particularly for those using LFP or sodium-ion cells). So in a few years, the only reason you will be buying a new combustion car will be sheer stubbornness, and the combustion age will finally draw to a close.
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