Supercars, and their even more extreme hypercar successors, are the pinnacle of what internal combustion can deliver. Vehicles like the Bugatti Veyron and Chiron, as well as competitors from Swedish Koenigsegg and American SSC, have traded blows over the last couple of decades as the fastest production cars in the world. But they are being eclipsed by a new genre of supercars: electric ones.
The Lamborghini Miura is often cited as the first supercar, and it still stands up today as one of the most beautiful vehicles ever made. Perhaps the Jaguar XK120 from 1949 or the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing of 1955 deserve to be considered the first supercars instead. Either way, these are exotic vehicles, intended to combine design excellence with extreme performance. Successors in this genre include the Lamborghini Countach, Porsche 959, Ferrari F40 and McLaren F1. All held the position of “fastest production car in the world”, until the next usurper came along. All also provided major bragging rights to those who owned them.
However, these cars weren’t created just to win production top speed records. In fact, the top speed is a means to an end – giving them the desirability and exclusivity to command an astronomical price tag from multi-millionaires and billionaires. These cars are intended to give their owners a symbol of their lifetime wealth achievements to show the world. Top speed isn’t everything, however, and in fact is harder to experience than another feature of a fast car – acceleration. This is where electric supercars, and indeed electric cars in general, are now surpassing their fossil fuel-guzzling competitors.
At the time of writing, the two fastest accelerating production cars in the world were fully electric – the Rimac Nevera and Tesla Model S Plaid. The next two on the list are hybrids too (Ferrari SF90 Stradale and Porsche 918 Spyder). The ninth on the list is also fully electric – the Porsche Taycan Turbo S. Of course, acceleration isn’t everything either. Fossil fuel vehicles still dominate lap time challenges such as the infamous Nurburgring. The Tesla Model S Plaid is quite far down this list. But it’s also worth bearing in mind that none of the new batch of EV supercars have been pitted against the Nurburgring yet in production form.
If you include non-road-legal electric cars as well, the Volkswagen ID.R (aimed at Pikes Peak) recorded the second fastest Nurburgring lap time ever across all vehicle classes. The NIO EP9, which is definitely in the electric supercar class, would have been fourth fastest if it had been road legal, less than a second behind a Lamborghini Aventador SVJ LP770-4 that is currently holding the third spot.
Over the next few years, as more electric supercars arrive, it’s likely that these will start to dominate all the performance ranking types, even top speed. New vehicles are coming thick and fast now. The aforementioned NIO EP9 was an early contender in 2016, but Rimac is the poster child of electric hypercar manufacturers. The C_One is infamous for TV presenter Richard Hammond’s crash while driving it, but the C_Two that subsequently changed its name to Nevera is the current holder of fastest accelerating production car. Using the same drivetrain is the Pininfarina Battista, and Rimac is now in partnership with Bugatti and Porsche to create an electric hypercar superbrand.
Lotus has been developing the 1,972hp Evija, then there is the amusingly named Japanese Aspark Owl, which the company claims can hit 60mph in just 1.69 seconds and will have a top speed of 249mph. Another characterfully named contender will be the Drako GTE, based on the Karma Revero GT but with 1,200hp. Continuing the odd naming tradition will be the Dendrobium D-1, which is actually British and promises 1,800hp.
Tesla’s Roadster aims to deliver similar performance for a lot less money if it ever arrives. The company claims a 60mph sprint in 1.9 seconds, a top speed over 250mph, and despite these performance figures a 620-mile range. The promised price of $200,000 for the base model and $250,000 for the Founder’s Edition – which is “only” going to have a run of 1,000 models – may not give it the exclusivity required for a supercar, even its capabilities will match or exceed other contenders.
One electric hypercar that is likely to deliver this is the Deus Vayanne, developed in partnership with Italdesign and Williams Advanced Engineering. This car saw its debut at the New York motor show and boasts 2,200 bhp, with only 99 units to be made. Automobili Estrema is another car manufacturer focusing on electric supercars. Its Fulminea will have over 2,000 bhp and use a combination of solid-state lithium batteries and ultracapacitors. The company is targeting a 200mph sprint of under 10 seconds and will be producing just 61 examples. The Hispano Suiza Carmen “only” offers 1,099bhp, and its looks divide opinion (with most on the side marked “ugly”), but it’s sure to have a small and exclusive owner list. Then there’s the GFG Style Kangaroo, which claims to be a “Hyper SUV”, because alongside roadgoing hypercar characteristics, uniquely it can rise and become an offroad vehicle as well.
Long-time driving enthusiasts are going to counter this enthusiasm for electric supercars by talking about engine noise and how much they enjoy changing gears. That might be more valid for a “high days and holidays” sportscar that you buy for driving pleasure when the journey is more important than the destination. But even there, supremely fast, dependably immediate acceleration has its own thrills, so this is a matter of taste.
Supercars aren’t quite the same, though. They are as much about the concept they embody as the driving experience they provide. Quite a few in history have been quite bad in that department, with the Miura famously likely to take off near its top speed, and the Countach providing such poor visibility that it’s a threat to other road users. But, of course, as any car lover who grew up in the 1980s will tell you, the Countach was still the poster on their bedroom wall.
The supercar is a desirable dream, with theoretical performance merely the material expression of that. Those who buy a Bugatti Chiron do so because it CAN go at one of the fastest top speeds of any production vehicle, not because you’re going to (unless you’re a Czech businessman on a German Autobahn, but that’s another story). Electric supercars are already the fastest-accelerating production vehicles in the world, and it’s likely that they will dominate both top speeds and track lap times in the future. They will be packed with gadgetry and tech that adds to their bragging rights, too. The age of the internal combustion supercar is drawing to a close, and the electric supercar era is now emerging.