Electricity is So Hot Right Now
In 1996 GM created the future. And then subsequently crushed it.
The GM EV1 was a car that looked like the unfortunate offspring of a Mazda Miata and a space shuttle. It couldn’t figure out where it wanted to put its rear wheels, and the bubble-like cabin seemed to have oozed up from a pile of body and paint. But aside from the cringe-worthy design that could only have come from the two decades of its nightmarish predecessors, (see AMC Cutlass, Ford Taurus, and Nissan Cargo,) the EV1 was known for one thing – it was electric.
The EV1 certainly wasn’t the first electric car ever produced. From the middle of the 19th century to the turn of the 20th electricity was the pervasive form of energy for automobiles. But as the technology for internal combustion engines evolved, and made for faster fueling time and longer ranges, the electric vehicle began to disappear.
The EV1, however, didn’t slowly slip away from the roads. According to the 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car, the EV1 was ripped from the hands of loyal owners, and carted away right in front of GM protesters – only to be sent to mass junkyards and crushed to aluminum foil.
There are many complicated and layered reasons for why alternative vehicles have seen a steady rise in popularity since the untimely death of their earliest brethren. Not the least of which, the price of gas has pushed Americans away from the larger, heavier domestics, and towards the smaller and more fuel-efficient choices, that often include hybrid and electric.
In addition to the cost, there are elements of political and environmental changes that are large contributors to the movement towards electric cars. It is dawning on Americans from coast to coast that the nature we have for so long taken for granted may be disappearing at our hand, and quickly.
But there is a different, stronger, more passionate reason that electric and hybrid technology is now taking root.
The EV1 never had any intention of winning beauty contests. The Toyota Prius Generation 1, whose only curves were on its head, had a flat rear end and an expressionless front fascia. It more closely resembled a cartoon rendering of a spaceship than anything to have recently come from NASA – despite Toyota’s desperate need to design the future for us.
The consumer cars, like the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, have managed to stir interest with their likeness to the average road car. They’re aesthetically pleasing, if not necessarily interesting.
But now the alternative energy cars have some younger siblings in the game – and they’re hot stuff.
It all started with the new generation of environmental advocates coming in the form of the Tesla Model S and the McLaren P1. It comes in the form of 416 and 903 horsepower respectively. It comes in the form of the poster children that the alternative energy automobile movement has been desperate for.
Because, for the first time, consumers wanted the car – and not the hybrid, electric, solar or hydrogen technology it holds. For the first time, the cars are not vehicles for the power they conceal.
It only takes a quick look at a Tesla Model S or a McLaren P1 to see the appeal. The Tesla’s subtle but powerful curves beckon drivers for fast, passionate driving. Understated wheel arches juxtapose against angry, expectant grilles that demand power from their drivers and respect from every other car on the road.
The McLaren’s race history and take no prisoners attitude makes it the monster you want to befriend. With unapologetic design that imitates movement, even when the car is still, the McLaren ushers in the aesthetic of the future with a mastery and flair that Prius never managed.
Most Americans will be hard pressed to snag a seat in Tesla, let alone a ride, and the plebeians of society will never be allowed the joy of a McLaren’s touch.
But that’s okay.
Because, from teenager’s bedroom walls, between pictures of Kate Upton and Heidi Klum, to the conference rooms of the companies who can’t keep up, these cars will – and have – change the way the automotive world thinks about alternative energy cars.
Look at where the automotive world has come in the years since these cars first hit the road, and try to argue that alternative energy is showing signs of fatigue. Not only is the industry producing more cars with a greater emphasis on alternative energy, but they no longer make the splash they once did. They are becoming a mainstream staple of modern models and that is greatly in part due to the superheroes of the industry.
The McLaren and the Tesla showed that green cars can be fast, beautiful and untouchable. They showed that the future can come in fast and stylish; and, if the public wants it badly enough, it’s there to stay – crushers be damned.