Contrary to popular belief, gasoline powered car were not a dominant force in the market right from the start of the automobile age. In the late 19th and early 20th century, there were many car manufacturers that used electric and even steam powered engines. However, the technology was primitive, and very soon those companies hit the dead end of further development because technology needed to produce bigger and more powerful batteries wasn’t ready. In an era when function was far more important than form, people cared more about how well their automobiles ran that they did about car accessories and aesthetic touches.
Some of them were left on the margins of automobile history, and some turned to more convenient gasoline engines, simply because they can make them faster, more reliable and more powerful with less effort than to deal with batteries and complicated recharging. Fast forward a 100 years, and manufacturers of today are still facing similar problems but the advanced construction of electric cars and batteries allows us to have fully functioning and perfectly usable cars and a whole network of charging stations all over the world. But, how exactly do electric cars drive differently than the gasoline ones? They have the same shape, dimensions, and form, and they can carry the same number of passengers.
People that have never driven an electric car before think that the only difference is fuel and location of the gas stations, or charging stations. But, they may be mistaken! Electric cars introduced some driving characteristics which gasoline cars never had before, and are revolutionizing automotive industry not only with zero emissions but with unparalleled driving dynamics. Here is a few of the most interesting features of modern electric cars:
Electric cars make no engine noises or exhaust sounds, and this is the first thing everybody notices when they set behind the wheel. Of course, electric cars aren’t totally silent, and you still can hear the wind noises or rolling noise produced by the wheels, but the whole experience is strangely quiet and it sometimes spooky, especially at high speeds.
This is why electric cars are more suited for residential areas as they are reducing sound pollution levels is major cities. However, there is a serious downside to this, and it is pedestrian safety. Simply put, you can put yourself in a dangerous situation because people can’t hear you coming!
In the mind of an average person, the sound of a moving vehicle is equally important as the sight of it. Pedestrians may not hear the sound of your car and thus may not realize the presence or closeness of your car relative to their position! Similarly, you could sneak up (unknowingly) on cyclists and they wouldn’t even know you are behind them. This is why, one of the first things you have to be aware of, when you start an electric car is to be very cautious of pedestrians and cyclists who are likely unaware that you are behind them.
A couple years ago, there was a clip of a drag race between the Tesla Model S P85D and Dodge Challenger Hellcat which went viral very soon and caused many controversies. In that video, Hellcat loses drag battle and Tesla comes as a winner. Up to that moment, nobody believed that electric cars had formidable performance, and after one of the most common and typical electric cars has beaten a pure muscle car with 707 bhp, the automotive world started paying attention.
But, what causes electric cars to have explosive performance in a straight line? The answer is simple: torque. For those who don’t know, engine’s torque rating is very important and it shows the true pulling power of the unit at revs per minute. Gasoline powered cars achieve peak torque at upwards of 1500-2000 rpm, but electric cars have maximum torque instantaneously and they can accelerate very quickly from a standing start.
In real life, this means that you have to rev your gasoline engine in order to maximize its potential and then shift at a right moment not to lose the torque curve. In an electric car, you just have to push the accelerator pedal, and the car just launches itself. One of the biggest surprises of modern electric cars is that torque, and insane acceleration figures it produces.
The power delivery is silky smooth and since every electric car has an automatic transmission, you don’t have to worry about shifting. And the most interesting thing is, if you drive Tesla Model S P85D, you can beat almost any sports car in a stoplight race in total silence and without burning rubber or the sound of a screaming engine.
The most common misconception about electric cars is that they are slow, heavy and boring to drive. The only true thing is that electric cars are heavy (because of the batteries), but Tesla vs Hellcat battle proved that they can be very quick. However, what about the handling and driving dynamics?
Electric cars and some hypercar hybrids like McLaren P1, Porsche 918 and Ferrari La Ferrari use innovative and game-changing torque vectoring technology which gives unprecedented road holding. Torque vectoring is the ability of a car’s differential to vary power delivery to each wheel. For example, if the car is turning right, the left outer wheel will receive more power while the right inner wheel will receive less power, dynamically turning the car better, faster and more efficiently.
The classic mechanical differentials found in gasoline powered cars didn’t have this feature and power delivery was always the same for each wheel. However, in electric cars which have a different drivetrain layout and can have two engines (one for front and one for rear wheels) or even four engines (one for each wheel), torque vectoring is easy to achieve and can produce some amazing results. In fact, some of the newest electric or hybrid cars use torque vectoring system on all four wheels and as a result, lateral acceleration figures and handling characteristics are out of this world.