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Five Things: cars that should be electric but aren’t


As we get closer to the day when everything for sale is electrified to some degree, we’ll see plenty of models put out to pasture. Some will be sad farewells, while others will be replaced with fully electrified models.

With that said, here are five that we think should already be electric. Or, at the very least, plug-in hybrid.

Hyundai Staria

How good does the Staria look? It just needs electric power to complete the package...

Supplied

How good does the Staria look? It just needs electric power to complete the package…

The Hyundai Staria is (in my view) one of the few truly cool vans on the market today. That opinion might come from a childhood of driving from Auckland to Taranaki in the back of an ancient Hiace feeling incredibly carsick, but the Staria goes a great way to making vans cool again.

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It looks like a spaceship with the huge LED strip across its nose, dotted grille with flanking cubes of DRLs, massive vertical taillights and high-tech interior. But when the diesel engine rattles into life, it’s hard not to feel like it would be so much cooler without noise at all, just an electric hum.

Plus, electric power can be tuned to deliver massive torque (like a diesel) and vans don’t really care much about weight, which means plenty of batteries/hydrogen fuel tanks can be crammed into the chassis.

Mazda MX-5

The MX-5 is one of the purest expressions of driving pleasure on the market today. It would be even better with electric power.

DAVID LINKLATER/STUFF

The MX-5 is one of the purest expressions of driving pleasure on the market today. It would be even better with electric power.

The Mazda MX-5 has long been a champion for simple driving – small engine up front driving the rear wheels with a manual transmission in the middle, two seats, a tent for a roof. And it’s a fantastic formula, even after more than thirty years on sale.

But even Mazda’s penchant for refining the efficiency of internal combustion over replacing it with electric motors can’t escape the fact that a rear-mounted motor will easily develop the same sort of power as the current MX-5. While battery weight could go against Mazda’s ethos for the lightweight MX-5, it wouldn’t need a huge range, so would tie into Mazda’s “small batteries are better for the planet” approach instead.

Electric power might not have the same aural thrill as a petrol engine, but it can still sound cool in its own way.

Bentley Continental

The Bentley EXP 100 GT is an electric concept car, but we won’t see the real thing until 2025 at the earliest. And it probably won’t look like this.

Supplied

The Bentley EXP 100 GT is an electric concept car, but we won’t see the real thing until 2025 at the earliest. And it probably won’t look like this.

Luxury cars basically tick every box for an electric powertrain right out of the gate. They want to be smooth, quiet and powerful. Electric motors do just that. Once upon a time I would put the Rolls-Royce Phantom here, but now that Rolls has confirmed the 2023 Spectre will be its first EV, the cone of no-electric shame falls to Bentley.

The only info we have of an electric Bentley is that it will develop its own version of Audi’s Project Artemis for a release around 2025. But until then, Bentley will continue with V8 and W12 power. A fully electric transformation is set to happen by 2030.

You could also blame Porsche for not sharing the Taycan’s J1 platform with more Volkswagen brands.

Honda Civic Type R

The Honda Civic Type R is about to get an update, but it will retain the petrol engine.

Richard Opie/Supplied

The Honda Civic Type R is about to get an update, but it will retain the petrol engine.

Speaking as an unashamed Type R fanboy, it’s hard not to argue that it lost at least a bit of its soul when it went turbo a few years ago. No longer did the engine rev to the sun and no longer did Vtec kick in as hard as it once did.

Make no mistake, the outgoing tenth-generation Type R is still an incredibly fast car. Looks aside, it’s probably one of the best hot hatches of its age, if not the best. But now that the engine is another turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, surely Honda could slot an electric motor or two in there and just ditch combustion altogether?

Of course, the manual transmission is another thing entirely, but if Honda’s previous engineering marvels are anything to go by (it made a 250cc inline six with dual overhead cams revving to nearly 20,000rpm in the 1960s), it can figure it out.

Every ute

Utes should be electric. Period.

Supplied

Utes should be electric. Period.

Put simply, electric power does everything a diesel can but better. That’s just a fact, with the only exception of range, and that’s quickly becoming a bygone criticism. I’m looking at you, “but what if I need to tow a boat from Auckland to Wellington and back in one day” commenters…

Diesels also don’t sound good, or even drive particularly well half the time. They can suffer from nasty turbo lag and poor throttle response. They take a thousand years to warm up and a smooth-running diesel is a relatively new thing, which is weird considering how ancient the technology is.

Meanwhile, electric motors produce huge, instant torque so can tow, run smoothly by way of having about three moving parts, don’t require maintenance beyond consumables, and can be easily configured for superior all-wheel drive.

The only major hurdle left for electric utes to clear is charging situations in rural areas. You know, where utes are actually required, not Auckland suburbs that sometimes take a mountain bike to Woodhill Forest. There are enough chargers around New Zealand now that a road trip is totally possible, it just requires more planning and foresight than before.



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