Tesla Motors IPO was just $19 a share in 2010, and many on Wall Street thought the company was doomed for disaster. Boy, were they ever wrong. As of 5/5/2014, Tesla is trading at $216/share with specialized Tesla recharge stations starting to pop up across the country. This story of the “little electric engine that could” now looks to be one of the biggest, most daunting shadows to be cast over the car industry since the likes of Henry Ford.
Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson said on October 31st, 2004,
“[Supercars] are designed to melt ice-caps, kill the poor, poison the water table, destroy the ozone layer, decimate indigenous wildlife, recapture the Falkland Islands, and turn the entire Third World into a huge uninhabitable desert… but only after they’ve nicked all the world’s oil.”
10 years ago, this sentiment was amusing. Today, as we have become significantly greener as a species and woken up to the damage we’ve done to our planet, it’s not as funny. But what exactly is a “supercar” you ask? Let me give you a few brand names to point you in the right direction –
Bugatti. Ferrari. Lamborghini. Bentley. Aston Martin. Porsche. Mclaren. Koenigsegg. The list goes on. These are car manufacturers that produce vehicles designed for ultra high speeds. If it doesn’t have a top speed above 190 MPH, it’s not a “supercar.”
These cars are not just outrageously expensive to acquire, but to own and maintain as well. I recently had the privilege to drive a 2007 Bentley Continental GT with a W12 engine (that’s basically two V6 engines fused together to produce a monster with 610 brake horsepower.) Everything about it was kingly. Leather covering almost every square inch of the interior. Hand crafted wood panels, steering wheel, and dashboard… And my god was it comfortable. But there was one thing I noticed above all else while driving the car – it had a complete dismissal towards fuel efficiency (6 MPG, and it took premium). I suppose if you can afford a car with an original MSRB of $200,000, you aren’t exactly concerned with what you’re paying for gas. Yet curiously the car was 7 years old, and things have changed quite a bit since then.
By 2025, California emission standards will require cars to get at least 54.5 MPG. Although California is largely the instigator of higher emission standards, the rest of the country is rallying behind them. Since 2007, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and New York have all adopted stricter emission standards for vehicles. They’re not as ambitious as California’s 2025 requirement, but it is instigative change none-the-less. And it’s not just here in the United States. If anything, we’re late bloomers to this trend. The European Union, Australia, and Japan all have strict emission regulations for vehicles in their respective countries.
So what does this mean for the future of the supercar? Will you be pulled from your vehicle and beaten by an angry mob of environmentalists who think you’re an eco-terrorist? Unlikely — the supercar game is changing as well.
Enter the Porsche 918 Spyder, the game changer for the supercar industry. It’s considered to be the successor to the now decade-old Porsche Carrera GT. The predecessor had a top speed of more than 205 MPH and got roughly 13 MPG. The 918 Spyder has a top speed of 216 and gets roughly 80 MPG! It’s a gas/electric hybrid that can run 18 miles on pure electricity alone.
Only 918 are being built (thus the title, the “918″), and with a sticker price of $845,000, it certainly isn’t a car for the masses. But it is a vehicle that will no doubt change the future of supercars. Mclaren is catching on as well– their recent supercar, the P1, is also a gas/electric hybrid. It’s MPG isn’t nearly as impressive as the 918′s is, but the sheer fact that the car was produced in the first place speaks volumes to the future and importance of the technology. Oh, and now BMW has a $135,000, 95 MPG hybrid sports car as well — the i8. It’s top speed may only be 155 MPH, but its 4.5 second 0-60 is on par with many supercars today.
Porsche and Mclaren aren’t the only companies waking up to the truth that change is upon them. At this year’s Beijing Auto Show, Bentley unveiled plans to introduce a plug-in hybrid SUV by 2017, and then introducing hybrid technology into their entire lineup thereafter.
The bottom line is the game is changing in the world of supercars. Rolls Royce, Ferrari, and Lamborghini are all developing hybrids of their own. Every car company “for the masses” are already producing hybrids and are even starting to turn towards fully-electric. In fact, Porsche CEO Matthias Muller recently said he sees Tesla as a serious threat.
Engines are getting smaller, but it does not mean the death of the supercar as we know it. It means the rebirth. Smaller engines that are turbo charged are not only more efficient, but faster too. It’s a win-win for both the drivers of these cars, and for the environment. The only negative consequence of this change is what will happen to the current supercars on the road? The 2005 Ford GT has been known to literally stoop to 3 MPG. In 15 years, will it even be legal to drive something like this any more, and what will this do to the value of these cars?
Only time will tell.