Production of three very important cars has begun, which will turn the car world on its head. Less than 1800 units will be built in total, but the fact that they are being built at all marks a breakthrough in the development of the motor car.
McLaren, Ferrari and Porsche are each in the process of launching their latest “halo” product – the ultra-exotic, million dollar dream machines that will be seen more often on computer screens and bedroom posters than on the road. All three models can claim to be among the world’s fastest production cars, yet all three can also claim to be the most environmentally responsible models in each company’s repertoire.
For example, Porsche’s 918 claims lower CO2 emissions than the average family car. Emitting just 72g/km, it can be owned tax-free in the UK, yet it is, to date, the fastest production car ever to lap Germany’s notorious Nurburgring race-track, where all the best performance cars are tested and honed.
Closer to home, the McLaren P1, constructed in Surrey, sets out to offer the best possible driving experience without compromising either comfort or performance. Borrowing from their Formula 1 stable-mates, McLaren Automotive have used hybrid technology to make the driving experience more exhilarating than ever.
Using a high density battery pack, powering a single electric motor, the P1 has over 170bhp on tap, before the engine has even started (that’s about the same power as a sporty Audi A3 Hatchback). This means that one of the world’s most extreme super cars can dawdle around town almost silently, and with absolutely no emissions coming from its enormous exhaust pipe.
But Formula 1’s most successful racing team hasn’t built an £866,000 super car for grocery shopping. Once the 3.8 Litre V8 engine has been sparked into life, it uses the electric motor to fill in the gaps in performance that are inherent in turbocharged engines. This means the full 903bhp can be accessed more quickly, giving the car unprecedented responses. Like the rival offering from Ferrari (called simply “La Ferrari”), these “eco-friendly” super cars are designed for the race-track, but with real-world usability in mind.
But why is this relevant to the average motorist?
Currently, many of the pure electric cars that are designed for the average motorist are far too expensive to be an attractive proposition. Only the most enthusiastic early adopters will spend £25,000 on a car that should really only cost £15,000. With relatively low sales, the car makers simply can’t make the profit required to re-invest in the research & development to improve the battery technology and make it more affordable. If this trend was allowed to continue, the electric vehicle as a concept would once again peter out and disappear.
However, if around 1800 people are prepared to spend around £1 million to buy the fastest cars in the world, some of that money will go back into the development of the technologies to find ways of improving it. This is how Sat-Nav, air-conditioning, electric windows and all kinds of new technology eventually made it into Joe Average’s car. They were all introduced in high-end cars.
The fact that McLaren, Ferrari and Porsche are all producing rival high-end products, incorporating electric vehicle technology, means that these companies will soon have the resources to develop and improve that technology. In just a few years we will begin to see the fruits of these ventures trickle down to small city runabouts and family cars that will be affordable, and preferable, alternatives to the petrol and diesel powered cars we all drive today.