Rant: my 2 cents on the imminent future of motoring
A long time coming but it's not what you think
Ten years ago, in London, I drove an electric car for the first time. It was the Tesla Roadster S, which looked and felt nothing like a 2020 Tesla because it essentially consisted of 6,000+ batteries slammed under the chassis of a Lotus Elise. The interior was hastily put together with a low-res screen but it was a fun car. And it was very, very quick off the line. The Tesla PR person I spoke with told me the brand wanted to "accelerate the transition toward electric mobility". Now, it's important to stress that this is exactly the same thing that every other Tesla rep or PR person has always told me or everyone else for ten years and that's because this is what Elon Musk believed. Ten years later, the current state of the motoring industry prove that, so far at least, the attempt was successful.
As things stand, electric cars face a thousand and one issues that need solving and I feel some of the issues aren't being taken seriously. This is because electric cars didn't enter the market by popular demand, they're being made as a consequence of a political decision aimed at creating demand. This is one of the things that always bothered me about this discussion. I write and read about cars every day, I have done it for ten years, and for a very long time talking about electric cars was very difficult because the overwhelming majority of petrolheads would simply say "electric cars are s**t". Now, you can say you don't like them and that's perfectly fine but we have to understand that's exactly like saying "I prefer keyboards instead of touchscreen" when it comes to smartphone.
I've noticed that trend is stopping and I like to believe it is stopping not because people have necessarily changed their mind about EVs - some have, some haven't - but because maybe they're finally understanding that it's a false choice. There is no choice. What you and I think about electric mobility means nothing. Electric cars are here and they're here to stay. Petrol cars are also going to stay here for a very long time but the the face of the industry is already changing.
First of all, the supply chain isn't working as well as it should, several brands still struggle with battery technology and they're churning out billions in an attempt to develop EVs much faster than it should be feasible or possible. I keep seeing a lot of alerts. When Volkswagen and Ford team up to share costs of developing batteries, that's a red alert. When Tesla, by far and away the most successful electric car manufacturer, takes ten years to turn a profit, that's a red alert.
Then there's the question of battery disposal. I once spoke with a Porsche engineer about the Taycan and when I asked him the question he said "that's true. It's something worth considering but do remember that batteries can serve a purpose even when they're not efficient enough to keep powering things that have to keep working when they're not plugged into a source of energy like your mobile phone or a car".
Then there's the question of good old cash. Some people blame it on Covid but that's only a fraction of the truth. The global pandemic has simply accelerated things that were already happening. This year's Geneva Motor Show was cancelled because of it but next year's edition is not gonna happen because car companies won't spend money unless they're reasonably sure it's worth it. And maybe they think car shows aren't worth it. Some brands like Volvo and Tesla and even JLR certainly think so. They've been saying it for quite some time. JLR is particular active with things like the JLR Golf Challenge, which essentially invites anyone to show up and play golf, if they can, and drive one of their cars. And it's working for them, costing a lot less than a car show. So why should they bother?
And then you've got Honda. They're leaving F1 maybe because they don't think it's worth it. VW is thinking about offloading Ducati, Bugatti and Lambo because maybe they don't think it's worth it. The list goes on.
I'm not saying this is right or wrong, I can't know that for sure, but I am saying that priorities shifted. Number 1 is sustainability, both financial and ethical, and car manufacturers are less inclined to throw money around unless they believe, based on facts and not feelings, it's gonna work.
The good news is there's nothing we, people who like cars, can do. Which means there's no point fretting about it. We just have to keep going, keep doing the things we like, and when some of the things we like aren't there anymore, we move on to something else. Geneva Motor Show is cancelled? Whatever, the British Motor Show and the Mille Miglia are still on. McLaren retires the 570S? Whatever, there's always the GT and the 720S. And so and so forth.
And when all else fails, we can always talk about booze on Foodtribe. No bloody EU emission rules on that.