Here is a look into the future of enthusiast-friendly EVs
In order to unpack the concept of an EV that enthusiasts can enjoy, we have to merge tradition with innovation, and that is not an easy feat.
Out of all of the controversial topics that get discussed on DriveTribe, none of them have been as enjoyable for me to partake in than the idea of making an EV that traditional car enthusiasts can be excited about. These petrol-blooded worshippers believe that there is no way for EVs to be enjoyed by enthusiasts, despite automakers pushing the limits of speed, power, and practicality. With the industry shifting to an electrified future at a relatively steady pace, these enthusiasts believe that EVs will simply lack the type of entertainment and involvement that ICE-powered vehicles have provided for the last century. To that I say, to brush up on your literature, because there are a handful of concepts, prototypes, and shed-built projects that are leading the way for enthusiasts to upgrade their vehicles of yesteryear into the EVs of tomorrow.
Soon, anything can become an EV
When I wrote this piece about the 1977 Blazer-E concept that Chevrolet unveiled last year, there was plenty of traditionalists who proclaimed this to be the death of hot-rodding, despite the Blazer-E having more horsepower thanks to its new EV heart. This Connect and Cruise system that is in this '77 K5 is essentially the powertrain out of the Bolt EV, but instead of sending its power to the wheels directly, as most EVs do, this uses a four-speed automatic, which leads to my next point about why traditionalists should be a little more welcoming to the idea of an EV hot rod.
Who said EVs couldn't have manuals?
Minseong Kim - Wikimedia Commons
While there are plenty of other sporty EV concepts I could have looked at like the Mustang Lithium, or the Dodge EV, I opted to bring up the Detroit Electric SP:01 concept from 2013, and 2015 respectively. Although the concepts were largely based on the Lotus Elise, which also means that it shares a lot with the original Tesla Roadster, there was one crucial aspect of the SP:01 that automakers are only now realizing that they need in order to attract enthusiasts, a manual transmission. The SP:01 featured a four-speed manual in 2013, and a six-speed manual in the 2015 concept. Interestingly, a new SP:01 concept is slated for a launch sometime in 2022 according to their website.
Hot-Rodding an EV is only limited by your imagination
1979 Studebaker Avanti with Nissan Leaf running gear / Photo Sourced from eBay
Then we get to the classics. While there are plenty of factory-backed upgrades for EVs, nothing will quite match the innovation of the tinkerers and a month of Sundays. This 1979 Studebaker Avanti with the drivetrain from a wrecked Nissan Leaf is the perfect marriage of the timeless styling of the Avanti, and the zero-emissions, instant torque tech from a modern EV. Another brilliant example of this sort of garage engineering is the Firebrid (yes, you read that right) created by Bill The Engineer. I mean, what else would you do with a wrecked 2010 Prius and an engineless '67 Firebird?
I would be remiss if I didn't bring up the project that seeded this thought in my mind, the Teslonda, a 1981 Honda Accord with the powertrain from a Tesla Model S, the batter pack from a Chevy Volt and a zero to 60 time of 2.43 seconds, which is almost as fast as the Porsche Taycan Turbo S. While Tesla drivetrains are hard to come by, companies like Electric GT step in with aftermarket batteries and motors that can connect to anything your heart desires.
Minseong Kim - Wikimedia Commons
In short, the idea that EVs are going to be some sort of appliance for the common folk to be shuttled around in is not far off from the truth for some people, but manual transmissions were not outlawed because people didn't understand them. The same can be said for driver involvement, since most of the autonomous features in vehicles are not permanently involved in the operation of a modern vehicle. There is still plenty of room for automakers to create vehicles that are designed for enthusiasts, and are capable of being driven like any of enthusiast vehicles of the past.
What do you think about the future of enthusiast EVs? What would be your ideal EV setup? Comment Below!